Endometriosis surgery in Romania a validating and valuable experience for Calgary woman
Validated. That’s how a Calgary woman feels after travelling 8,700 kilometres for a life-altering medical procedure.
Erin Hayzelden has experienced chronic pain due to endometriosis for the past several years.
It’s had a devastating impact on Hayzelden, who loves outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and marathons.
Endometriosis can cause painful lesions and growths outside of the uterus, and it’s estimated that one in 10 women will develop the condition in their lifetime.
Over the years, Hayzelden tried numerous treatments and medications, but her pain only worsened.
A big decision
While there is no cure for endometriosis, surgery to excise the lesions is considered the gold standard for treatment, Hayzelden says.
Due to long wait times for the procedure in Alberta, Hayzelden decided to travel to the Bucharest Endometriosis Center in Romania this past August.
She says the experience was streamlined and well-organized—unlike anything she has encountered at home.
Within a day or two of arriving, Hayzelden had an MRI. Ten minutes later, she was sitting down with a radiologist who went over the results and pointed out where the endometriosis was growing.
“Just for that experience alone, it was worthwhile going to Bucharest,” Hayzelden says, adding it was validating after many years of advocating for her health care in Canada and being told time and time again by doctors to just take pain medication and use a heat pad.
How it went
On her third day in Romania, Hayzelden had excision surgery.
Afterward, despite being in excruciating pain, she walked as much as possible each day on the advice of the doctor.
In total, Hayzelden and her husband spent just over two weeks in Bucharest, doing some exploring when she was feeling up for it to make the most of their time there.
While she healed from surgery, she stayed in touch with the doctor, who was available to answer any questions via WhatsApp.
Hayzelden received a post-surgery package that included instructions on medications to take and copies of her MRI and surgical report, which she has provided to her family doctor to continue her care at home.
Recovery a challenge
Since returning to Calgary, Hayzelden says her recovery has been challenging. Now five months post-op, she has experienced a lot of ups and downs.
While her pelvic pain has subsided substantially, she continues to suffer pain, including migraines and functional neurological disorder flares.
“Like anyone, when you have surgery, you just kind of assume that afterward it’s going to be a lot better. And I think that’s something that I’m kind of having to come to terms with,” Hayzelden says.
“Healing takes time, healing is not linear. It’s a work in progress every single day, and there’s going to be good days and there will be bad days.”
Hayzelden says she is focused on self-care and listening to her body to understand her limits.
“I’m not going to be able to, six months post-op, go run a marathon… But, I can still do other things like, I was out skiing this past weekend and I haven’t done that in a long time. So that was a huge win for me.”
Not only will Hayzelden continue to live with endometriosis, but while in Romania she was also diagnosed with adenomyosis, which is when endometrial tissue grows within the walls of the uterus.
It was a difficult diagnosis for Hayzelden and her husband. They’ve been trying to have a baby for more than a year.
“The only treatment for [adenomyosis] is a full hysterectomy, which I didn’t really want to do because I still am very hopeful to have a family,” she says.
“On one hand, it’s great that now we have this information so we can best prepare ourselves with our fertility team. But on the other hand… this is just another obstacle we have to navigate.”
Hayzelden says their next step will likely be looking into intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization options.
A worthwhile experience
Despite her continued struggles since having surgery in Romania, Hayzelden is glad she did it.
“I’m very grateful to have been able to go… And for the generosity of friends and even absolute strangers for the financial contribution, because it is very expensive,” she says.
Hayzelden created a GoFundMe before her trip to Bucharest to help with the $14,000 price tag, and is thankful to those who contributed more than $4,000.
If anyone is considering a similar trip to avail of the services offered at the Bucharest Endometriosis Center, Hayzelden recommends doing plenty of research first.
“It can be very overwhelming and daunting to try to navigate everything in Romanian,” she says, adding she met several Canadians who were there by themselves.
Hoping for change
While what Hayzelden has been through is very personal, she believes it is valuable to share her experience.
She documented more details on her Instagram account and she says many people have reached out to her.
“I’m not alone and there’s a lot of people that are having similar experiences,” Hayzelden says, adding she hopes that sharing her story will help people take endometriosis more seriously.
“This is a very complicated medical condition that, unfortunately, is very common that not many people know of.”
Hayzelden advises anyone who suspects they may have endometriosis to research and read as much as possible to gain the empowerment to advocate for themselves.
“Romania was just a piece… a stepping stone for myself, and I think there’s still much more that needs to be done here in Canada… reducing the gaslighting that happens to so many women.”