By Tash Hammond
My name’s Tash Hammond. I live in Port Lincoln, South Australia. A country town on the West Coast. I went to boarding school in Adelaide at Saint Peters Girls. I am now studying a double degree in human nutrition and exercise science at Flinders University.
This may seem detailed to some however this is only a small proportion of what I have been through before my diagnosis, during treatment, and my acceptance of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a cruel disease without the appropriate treatment. I urge all who think that may have this disease to seek diagnosis and never ever give up. I have had endoscopies, colonoscopies, ultrasounds, iron transfusions, numerous blood tests, and visits to GP’s, specialists and natural therapists in the quest to find a reason for my pain. At 14 most gynaecologists would not even see me until I was 18, I persevered and found the most incredible gynaecologist. Over the next couple of years, and two operations later and much trial and error with contraceptives I now have a combination that works.
After all that has happened throughout my journey of this illness, not one of my close friends or anyone apart from my family knew what I have been through. I was bullied every day of my schooling from year 8 to year 9 at my co-ed school in port Lincoln by my class mates, even teachers. The number of sighs, eye rolls, talk behind my back and even in front of me was on a regular basis. Teachers who would send me to walk all the way to the office doubled up in pain not realising I was so weak and almost passing out from a lack of iron and pain. These teachers could have easily called the office for mum to come and collect me. However, they didn’t. People would look at me and think there was nothing wrong, I looked fine. However, if they turned me inside out they would be shocked. I would cover my pale face with make-up, I would cover my stomach to hide the scars from everyone. I did everything possible to hide my pain. I began to become sad, lonely and just not myself.
I then accepted an all-rounder scholarship at Saint Peters Girls in Adelaide from year 10-12. This was possibly one of the best decisions of my life. I was surrounded by kind girls, caring nurses, and understanding teachers. I felt the need not to hide as much anymore. I was also close to my doctor which made me feel safe. Although I was a seven-hour drive away from my family I knew if I needed them they would drop everything to be there with me.
Last year in March I went to the EndoMarch High Tea with my mother, cousins and family friends. This was a huge step for me to go meet others that were experiencing the same as me. I was so nervous, but when I stepped foot into the room full of people I felt a sigh of relief. I shared my location of Facebook, a photo of my mother and myself at the high tea. All of my 1,000+ Facebook friends were going to see this. I was worried with what people may think, but then I was proud to be standing there as I am today and show the whole world what I’ve been through, and how others can get through this. I am now confident to walk outside onto the beach in a bikini and show off not scars but battle wounds.
I don’t care what people think about my restricted diet, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I continued to train hard and push myself to make the South Australian Country Women’s Hockey State team, and then get selected for the third time in the Australian under 23 Hockey Development Squad travelling overseas. I was the youngest selected at age 14 during all the turmoil of this diagnosis. I completed year 12 last year with outstanding results and was awarded Saint Peters Girls Sports Person of the Year. My life goal is to help people be healthy and love themselves. Just as I do now.
I was a high-level hockey player and swimmer for both regional, state and Australian level. I was constantly training every day for both sports. I would play four grade club games a Saturday in the winter, up to 10 swimming races a Saturday in the summer and train 5 times a week both swimming and hockey all year around. I would sleep in-between games, races and training sessions.
I was also trying to maintain a job whilst playing sport and going to school. I worked as an active after school teacher, teaching at 4 different schools in Port Lincoln, and a swimming instructor and coach. Which I continue to do today at Immanuel College, Saint Peters Girls and Scotch College.
I was in constant pain every minute of the day. However, I continued to push through and not let the pain beat my everyday activities.
Unfortunately, there is not a cure yet for endometriosis. However, you can put up a fight and take responsibility for your own health. Don’t hide behind your bedroom door, don’t stop the things you love, don’t push people away, don’t be depressed, and most of all don’t think the pain will just go away one day. Take charge change your diet to be healthy. The diet that has worked best for me is gluten free, dairy free, no red meat or chicken but I eat all the seafood I can with lots of fruit and veggies. I don’t consume any alcohol, fast food or packaged supermarket food. I’ve learnt to balance this diet well to ensure I get an adequate balanced diet. I exercise daily and ensure I get enough sleep every night. You too can push through the pain, school, work, study, and sport. Be positive and happy everyday no matter how you feel on the inside, and most of all accept what you have and absolutely preach it!
For me being healthy is a jigsaw puzzle, you just have to fit all those pieces together in order to create the healthy you. You aren’t the only one, and together we can make a greater awareness.