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raising awareness Irish model's 'extremely difficult' battle for endometriosis diagnosis after years of suffering

"There’s so many women that are highly functioning through so much pain – we shouldn’t have to suck it up."

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Hannah in an online exhibition alongside portraits of 17 other women to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month.

Hannah in an online exhibition alongside portraits of 17 other women to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month.

Hannah had to battle for years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis

Hannah had to battle for years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis

Hannah shares her post-op pictures

Hannah shares her post-op pictures

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Hannah in an online exhibition alongside portraits of 17 other women to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month.

Searing pain, sciatica, vomiting, fatigue and blackouts - just some of the symptoms dismissed by doctors who accused model Hannah Devane of 'starving herself' when she sought help for debilitating periods.

The Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model finalist first began experiencing life-altering symptoms when she was in her twenties.

It would take dozens of appointments with doctors and endless self-advocacy for the top model to be diagnosed with endometriosis.

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Hannah in an online exhibition alongside portraits of 17 other women to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month. Ester Keate’s series explores the illness through a images which include close-up photos of the women’s faint surgical scars

Hannah in an online exhibition alongside portraits of 17 other women to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month. Ester Keate’s series explores the illness through a images which include close-up photos of the women’s faint surgical scars

Hannah in an online exhibition alongside portraits of 17 other women to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month. Ester Keate’s series explores the illness through a images which include close-up photos of the women’s faint surgical scars

The debilitating condition affects one in ten women and occurs when tissue grows outside of the uterus, and can cause chronic pain and infertility in some cases.

Shockingly, in Ireland the waiting time for diagnosis is up to nine years.

Clinic

Last week a dedicated treatment clinic for women with endometriosis was launched in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital.

Hannah says it's one small step for women who have been forced to suffer in silence.

"Unless you are living with endometriosis you will have no idea about how much it can impact someone's life. I feel quite passionate about speaking out about it so women, at the very minimum, will know they're not alone."

Speaking of the condition which ravaged her life, Hannah, who now lives in London with her husband who she wed in an idyllic ceremony in 2018, said: "I get this really deep, aching pain right through my abdomen to my back and down my legs, it's a stabbing all-consuming searing pain.

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Hannah had to battle for years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis

Hannah had to battle for years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis

Hannah had to battle for years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis

"I have fainted on trains and have had to remove myself from public transport to vomit. I experienced swelling in my lower abdomen, pain when urinating and extreme fatigue.

"In my twenties I had to take painkillers just to get through the day. I used all my energy to get through my working days. When I came home I had to go to bed with a hot water bottle. I wasn't doing what normal twentysomethings do, I missed out on a lot.

"For a long time, I didn't know what was going on and why this was happening. I thought it was part of being a woman, at least that's what I was told."

When Hannah could no longer function, she sought counsel from doctors and was unanimously dismissed.

"I had quite a hard time being listened to and taken seriously. I am naturally very tall and thin, I always have been.

"Doctors told me, 'you must be putting your body under strain, are you starving yourself? Are you over exercising?'

"Neither of which was the case. I've had doctors tell me I was in pain because I had a stressful job and that it was all in my head. It was always put back on me.

"I do think if a man went in with a level of pain and symptoms that it would be taken more seriously.

"There is this kind of issue in society that we're seen as overly sensitive or overly dramatic and that's not the case. There's so many women that are highly functioning through so much pain and that should not be the case, we shouldn't have to suck it up.

"Not being believed and being patronised by a lot of doctors was extremely difficult."

The social media influencer, who hopes to spread awareness of the condition and is looking to schools to educate about periods, also felt betrayed be her own body.

"I did feel a lot of almost resentment towards my own body because I thought 'why am I struggling? Why is my body not cooperating?' Now I see it in a different way, my body is resilient, it carried me through.

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Hannah shares her post-op pictures

Hannah shares her post-op pictures

Hannah shares her post-op pictures

Urging women to seek help, Hannah pleads: "If you don't get the proper care from somebody, get a second opinion, get a third opinion, get a fourth opinion until you find somebody who's going to give you the treatment you deserve.

"I knew there was something going on. I was told to go to a pain clinic and even at one stage referred to a pain psychologist.

"I would constantly have the same tests, antibiotics and painkillers. I felt like it was just like putting a band-aid on a broken neck - nobody wanted to get to the root of what was actually going on."

When the newlywed finally found a doctor in London who took her symptoms seriously she received a diagnosis of endometriosis.

"I underwent laparoscopy, a surgical procedure used to examine the organs inside the abdomen, that's the only way to confirm diagnosis.

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Hannah shares her post-op pictures

Hannah shares her post-op pictures

Hannah shares her post-op pictures

"I was treated with ablation which destroys the lining of the uterus but it is a very superficial treatment.

"It burned off superficial lesions but they just grow back. After surgery my pain came back and I wasn't taken seriously again."

Determined to find a resolution, Hannah found a specialist in excision surgery where the scar tissue and the roots of adhesions are removed.

"I underwent the treatment nine months before I got married, that was a real driving factor for me.

"I just wanted to be able to dance on my wedding day and be pain free, that was so foreign to me, and I got my wish, my wedding day was a dream come true. I've had really, really brilliant results from that it has truly changed my quality of life."

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Hannah on her wedding day

Hannah on her wedding day

Hannah on her wedding day

The surgery may have been a success but Hannah adds: "It doesn't have a definitive cure. These are all treatments to improve your quality of life. They can't guarantee that it's not going to come back.

"I'm glad to see a shift in Ireland with the opening of this endometriosis clinic but I still think we have a long way to go.

"I just hope that we can get to a point where we value women's health enough to give us the treatment that we deserve, which is proper excision surgery and earlier diagnosis so women don't have to suffer. It's time that the medical world listens to women."


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