When I got ill and my life seemed to be falling apart, one very good thing happened: I stumbled into a community of warm, intelligent and understanding women who could completely empathise with what I was going through.
One of these people was Liv, a gorgeous fellow Francophile blogger who I’ve just loved getting to know. She’s inspired me so much, from her honesty about endometriosis to the way she’s giving back and supporting others. Let’s chat to her:
Let’s start with some health chat, as I think that might be how we first got talking. You’re very upfront about your endometriosis – when were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed in May 2019, by a gynaecologist.
Was getting the diagnosis easy? How long did you have symptoms before getting tested?
Oh girl, the diagnosis was not easy! I had symptoms from November 2016 and then got diagnosed in May of 2019.
On average, it takes a woman 8 years to get diagnosed with endometriosis – so I think of myself as very lucky to get diagnosed as quickly as I did. But the process is not nice. I went to the doctors about 24 times and every single doctor told me pretty much the same thing, that I had anxiety and it was in my head, or I had IBS (even though the IBS medication never worked). One doctor said: “I just have no idea”, even though no tests had been done.
Then I finally went to see a female doctor who was new at my surgery and she was like ‘yeeeeaaaaah this isn’t right,’ and sent me for scans, found some fluid on my ovary (which can mean anything) and referred me to a gyno.
How do they test for endometriosis?
There isn’t actually a ‘test’ as such. The only way to properly tell if you have endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery and they basically find it on your organs. Depending on the gyno/surgeon you get, there are two different types of surgeries: ablation [a procedure that surgically destroys the lining of your uterus] and excision [the endometriotic tissue is meticulously cut out without damaging surrounding structures].
Excision is the one you want but very few surgeons in the UK do it because it’s so complex.
You’ve since been really active in the endometriosis community. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I try my hardest to be as active as possible but, as you’re probably aware, talking about your chronic illness can be draining. I’ve found writing blog posts and being as open as possible on my socials can help others to talk about their experiences. I get a lot of messages from girls who have symptoms but their doctors won’t listen. That makes me sad but I’m glad they’re seeking help and asking for advice when they need it.
I first started writing my blog when I got diagnosed with endometriosis because I remember searching it myself and there being NOTHING apart from a few NHS videos and Endometriosis UK. I wanted people to see me as a normal young girl who is struggling with it, someone they could talk to and relate to.
I feel like women aren’t really encouraged to talk about this kind of thing. There’s a lot of shame there. And when I started to be vocal about my butt/Crohn’s, I could feel some people recoil! What inspired you to talk about it?
Oooh, I think I touched on this a little bit with the last question. What inspired me to write was being diagnosed myself and feeling like I had nothing to look at and read about it apart from the facts.
I wanted women of all ages to be able to search “what do I do if I’ve got endometriosis” or “I think I’ve got endometriosis” and find someone who was a real person with those same issues and being vocal about it.
In my experience, a lot of people forget that when you’re diagnosed with a chronic condition, it affects your everyday life as well as having the more dramatic flare-ups. How does endometriosis affect yours?
Ugh man, it’s not the best. I think it mostly affects my mental health because you’re constantly thinking about it. And you have to come up with a backup plan in your head for everything, so if you’re going out you have to think: “what am I going to do if my tummy flares up?”
I think it’s accepting that it is part of your life and not letting it take over. I’d say I’m still relatively new to it all, so I still sometimes find this hard.
Oh, and being bloated 24/7 makes you feel like a bag of poop – so I’d say my self-esteem and self-worth has massively decreased.
Can I tell people about the funniest thing we bonded over? You sent me a message saying: ‘I farted and cried, and I thought of you’. I was weirdly touched by that! That was after you’d had an operation, right?
Hahaha! Yes you can, how funny. I remember we hadn’t even spoken that many times but I just knew you’d relate to it and needed to vent how I was feeling to someone who’d understand.
That was my second operation, where I’d had adhesions on my bowel. The recovery from that was worse than my Endo surgery. I just remember for about 2 weeks after, every time I went to the toilet I would shed tears. But I’m so glad you understood.
I can ! I’m always here to chat and offer sympathy. I also want to acknowledge that your health is just one small fragment of who you are. Can you tell me about about your other interests?
Bless you, I do like to talk about my vagina so sometimes people are like: “anything else…?”
I’m big into France, like obsessively into France. The Parisian lifestyle is everything I love, I think you feel the same way right, Nikki? I have an obsession with Jeanne Damas and the film Amelie makes me happier than anything in the world. I also love baking, but don’t get as much time as I’d like to do it.
I also just genuinely love writing – I do a lot of writing that doesn’t get posted onto my blog and I’d love to one day share that.
I also see you as a fashion queen. Where do you get your style inspiration and where are your favourite places to shop?
Got slightly teary reading that you see me as a fashion queen. My style inspiration is from Pinterest, does anyone even use that anymore? I still have the classic ‘style’ pin board that I look at probably everyday. Again, I just love French ladies. I’ve always been inspired by the minimal and elegant look. But I also do love some quirky clothes. Some of my main style icons are Jeanne Damas, Alexa Chung and Arden Rose.
Ah, favourite places to shop. I’m trying to be good and tackle sustainable fashion but it’s difficult. My fave places are Rouje (although I am yet to afford a piece from there), Depop (always find some secondhand and vintage steals), Arket and M&S (lol I’m a gran).
What are you most looking forward to after the pandemic ends?
You know what, I don’t really know. I’m kind of just used to it now. I miss going for a coffee with a friend and browsing little shops. I really do enjoy a pint in the pub, but I’m also kind of enjoying zooming my pals and having a glass of wine on my sofa. I miss Pret, I love their pastries.
Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I was going to just write “France.”
I’ll be 25, ew. I’d like to have a house with a fit kitchen and be in a job I really enjoy. I want to be writing or creating content, something where I can use all my skills. I hope I’m happy and I hope I’ve been to France at least 3 times in the next 5 years.
It’s like talking to my younger self except you’re much, much cooler. Finally, tell me one interesting fact about yourself.
I have a matching tattoo with my best friend for Tom Hanks, because we are absolutely obsessed with him.
Now I’m off to cry because I’m not her best friend and we don’t have matching tattoos. A girl can dream!