Animal welfare activist Bindi Irwin, the daughter of famed wildlife expert Steve Irwin, opened up this week about her decadelong battle with endometriosis and the surgery she’s undergone to treat the condition.
In a social media post Tuesday, the younger Irwin said she endured many “tests, doctors visits, [and] scans” over the past 10 years to diagnose her “insurmountable fatigue, pain & nausea.” She wrote that a health professional initially dismissed her symptoms, calling them “simply something you deal with as a woman.”
But after a validating conversation with a friend who encouraged her to keep seeking answers, Irwin underwent surgery for endometriosis. The chronic disease causes tissue similar to uterine lining to grow outside the uterus, leading to severe pain, potential infertility and other symptoms, according to the World Health Organization.
The procedure led to the discovery of 37 lesions, some of which were deep and difficult to remove, as well as a “chocolate cyst,” which can indicate a more severe stage of endometriosis.
“Going in for surgery was scary but I knew I couldn’t live like I was. Every part of my life was getting torn apart because of the pain,” she wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of herself in a hospital bed.
“My family & friends who have been on this journey with me for 10+ yrs – THANK YOU, for encouraging me to find answers when I thought I’d never climb out. Thank you to the doctors & nurses who believed my pain. I’m on the road to recovery & the gratitude I feel is overwhelming.”
Irwin said she “battled for a long time” about whether to publicly discuss her journey with endometriosis, but ultimately felt a responsibility to speak out to help others going through the same thing.
Globally, endometriosis affects 10% of women and girls of reproductive age, according to WHO. But the disease is not easily diagnosed due to its broad and variable symptoms, as well as limited awareness of the condition.
There is currently no cure for endometriosis. Treatment, which focuses on symptom management, is limited and not readily accessible in many places, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
Many women, girls and others assigned female at birth don’t receive a diagnosis since they are asymptomatic. According to one survey, 90% of people with endometriosis-related symptoms said their pain is regularly dismissed or disbelieved by family, friends, employers and health care providers.
“Things may look fine on the outside looking in through the window of someone’s life, however, that is not always the case,” Irwin said in her post.
Many social media users expressed gratitude for her post, emphasizing the importance of taking symptoms seriously.
“There’s stigma around this awful disease,” Irwin wrote. “I’m sharing my story for anyone who reads this & is quietly dealing with pain & no answers. Let this be your validation that your pain is real & you deserve help.”