A MUM’S stomach is covered in scars after clutching a hot water bottle every day for 16 years to ease the pain of endometriosis.
Michaela Abenson, 28, says the burning sensation is easier to deal with than what she describes as “labour pains” caused by her condition.
Michaela Abenson’s stomach is covered in brown marks from where she used a hot water bottle for 16 years to ease endometriosis painCredit: Kennedy News
When Michaela had her two kids, she realised her endometriosis pain was the same as labour pain, she said. She is pictured in hospital in October for surgery to remove endometriosis tissueCredit: Kennedy News
Doctors worry the habit is a form of self-harm. But Michaela argues no-one understands the sheer agony she goes through.
Pictures show her scars from the bottle, as well as three open surgeries, which “leave a lump in her throat” each time she glances at them.
The disease has “’taken over” Michaela’s life, needing 11 surgeries – including a £25,000 private hysterectomy this January to relieve her pain.
Michaela, of Prestwich, Greater Manchester, said: “I started using [the hot water bottle] from my first period when I was 12 and have pretty much been using it every day since.
“It’s like the only thing that helps but it’s burnt my stomach and sides.
“I think the best way of explaining it is that it gives comfort through the pain.
“When doctors say ‘don’t use it’ it makes me quite angry. I feel that a lot of the things they advise is very easy for them to say, but what would they do in our situation?
“I’ve read stories from women about doctors telling them it’s a ‘form of self-harm’ and that’s not fair because we’re not self-harming.”
Michaela’s stomach after having a hysterectomy in January, meaning she cannot get pregnant againCredit: Kennedy News
The 28-year-old was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 18Credit: Kennedy News
The mum-of-two cooking with her hot water bottleCredit: Kennedy News
Micahelea said her husband, Reuven Abenson, 29, “spends his day” filling up her hot water bottle because she is in too much pain to do it herself.
“I’ll wake up crying at night, poke him and he’ll go downstairs half asleep to make me one because I can’t actually do it on my own, the pain is so bad”, she said.
Michaela, who has two kids with Reuven, started getting very heavy and painful periods at the age of 12, which would leave her bedridden and often passing out.
She said: “The pain is very much like labour-type pains which I didn’t realise until I later had a baby.
“When I went into labour I was like ‘this is the pain I’ve been going through since I was 12’. The contractions, that’s really the only way I can explain it to people.”
Michaela, a former wig maker, claims her symptoms were dismissed as “just what women go through” on the periods.
But was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis aged 18, an illness that typically takes seven years to get a diagnosis for.
The pain is very much like labour-type pains which I didn’t realise until I later had a baby
Endometriosis is when tissue similar to the womb lining grows elsewhere in the pelvic area. It behaves in the same way, so it thickens and then bleeds during a period.
Michaela said: “It was bittersweet because you finally have the diagnosis and there’s a reason for all these symptoms that you feel like you’re going crazy about.
“The more I realised what endometriosis was, the more I felt less relieved by that diagnosis.”
When Michaela was diagnosed she was told she may never have children, as one of the most devastating complications of endometriosis is difficulty getting pregnant.
She had two laparoscopies and excision surgeries to remove endometriosis tissue, just six months before marrying Reuven.
Four months after their wedding day, she was back on the operating table to remove tissue that had grown on her ovaries and fallopian tube.
The pair discovered they were expecting their first child, seven-year-old Dalia Abenson, near their first wedding anniversary.
They had Saul, now 22 months, after more than five years of trying again using fertility treatment.
Micahelea was always aware she may need a hysterectomy, which leaves a woman unable to get pregnant.
She said: “I’m only 28 and that’s really difficult. I was devastated to be honest [about hysterectomy].
“I always knew I wanted my daughters to have sisters and my sons to have brothers.
“I went through so many surgeries and infertility treatments and I have two children, and I’m so lucky and grateful.”
Michaela said her “constant labour-type” pain has now gone, but has been traded for other issues.
She says during this surgery it was discovered that deep infiltrating endometriosis had been left, which has “taken over” her bowel and bladder.
“For the past ten years it’s [endometriosis] kind of taken over our lives,” Michaela said.
“It causes me a lot of pain. I’m under pain clinics and have been under all different pain management from medical cannabis, medical ketamine to morphine, and then those also make you tired.
“It kind of put my life away. I was kind of bed ridden and it was also very difficult.”
Miacheael said she was “depressed” and “hit rock bottom” – but has been turning things around since her hysterectomy.
“It’s like learning to be human again and learning to get dressed every day because I just had no quality of life for so long.
“There’s a lot of scars on my stomach… When I do I’m reminded of everything that I’ve gone through.
“Twice a day when I’m changing I glance at it and I get this lump in my throat because it’s a constant reminder, but now I try to look at it as ‘let’s try and make me stronger, let’s try and not break me’.”
Michaela set up a blog called Pretty in Pain to reveal ‘the truth’ about endometriosis and tackle its misconceptions, which has amassed more than 7,500 likes and followers.
She said: “For the first time in my life I said to my husband that I can see a future. It sounds a bit silly, but it’s kind of given my pain some purpose.”
Michaela has had 11 surgeries – including a £25,000 private hysterectomy this January to relieve her painCredit: Kennedy News