Living With Endometriosis: My Interview With One of Australia's Top Designer Models Natalie Archer
After living with endometriosis for nearly a decade, Natalie has devoted her life to increasing awareness about endometriosis. She’s dedicated herself to creating a safe place for women to connect and share knowledge about endometriosis. Natalie has combined the information provided from some of the top specialists, latest scientific research, as well as her own personal experience to provide accurate information for those seeking the best care for endometriosis.
Despite suffering with daily pain, nausea, and fatigue, Natalie has managed to complete her honours research and thesis on the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on inflammation and the brain. Her goal is to spread the word about this natural anti-inflammatory in hopes to help many chronic pain conditions, including endometriosis.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Despite the fact that I'm currently living in between California and New York, I'm a very proud Australian. I'll be the first to tell you to visit our sparkling beaches and bustling cities. I grew up at Bondi Beach doing surf life saving training and jumping off the rocks into that gorgeous blue ocean. I finished school not knowing what I wanted to do, other than help people in some way so I enrolled in a psychology degree.
While I studied, I was also incredibly lucky to model for many top Australian designers, which put me through my entire university degree. I also greatly enjoyed working in marketing for a boutique consulting firm where I learned a lot about strategy and managed an entire company re-brand.
After the death of a loved one to cancer, I spent a lot of my second year at university managing a charity to raise money for cancer research. To this day, the fashion show is the accomplishment I'm most proud of. We had a beautiful venue on the harbour, top designers and models, amazing food, prizes and entertainment. The show completely sold out! I hope to one day organize a similar event to raise funding and awareness for endometriosis.
Last year I finished my degree in Psychology and Honours in Nutritional Neuroscience. In a nut shell, my research found that a high fat diet causes inflammation that affects the brain and memory. This inflammation can be stopped in its tracks by taking daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements. As my pain and fatigue increased greatly last year, this was one of the hardest years of my life.
The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and The Cyclooxygenase Pathway in Cognitive Deficits Caused by a High Fat Diet
Recent research has elucidated a link to the cognitive deficits and inflammation from a high fat diet (HFD). With increasing incidence of obesity causing significant negative impact to individual health and economic outcomes, we aimed to determine whether the cognitive deficits could be ameliorated by the anti-inflammatories omega-3 fatty acids and naproxen (NAP). Results indicated that mice that received a HFD showed significant impairments in spatial memory on the Y-maze and Morris water maze (MWM). Mice that received a HFD in addition to NAP demonstrated an amelioration of cognitive deficits in the Y-maze and mice that received omega-3 fatty acids in addition to a HFD showed intact spatial memory in the MWM. These findings suggest that the mechanism causing cognitive deficits in obese individuals or individuals consuming a HFD may be due to inflammation. Additionally, findings suggest that cognitive deficits can be ameliorated by anti-inflammatories such as omega-3 fatty acids and NAP. Finally, it is likely that omega-3 fatty acids and NAP operate on the same mechanism to repair memory deficits and reduce inflammation. Further research to assess the level of inflammatory cytokines in mice that received a HFD alone or in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, NAP or both would provide further information on this.
Now I live in America, supporting my partner as he chances his career dreams at YouTube Music. I have faith that one day in the future my illness will no longer hold me back from making a positive change to the world.
2. What was your life before developing pelvic pain?
Before pelvic pain I was a DOER. My friends laughed at me because instead of having hobbies I had projects I liked to work on. I was studying psychology and neuroscience, working in marketing, running my own charity, modeling for Australia’s top designers, part of a local touch football team and loved to go out with friends. Now I'm so overwhelmed by chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog, nausea, and gut troubles that I can’t do any of the things I used to love. What has been the hardest thing is that I used to define myself by a lot of my activities, so I've had to re-discover myself as a less active person (turns out I have a great passion for Netflix hehe).
3. What were your symptoms when they first began and how are they now?
I started developing horrific period pain when I was 14 that got progressively worse. About 8 or so years later my pain started to become chronic. I've also suffered from unexplained GI symptoms such as food intolerances, stomach upset and nausea for many years that went undiagnosed. Today I wake up in pain, suffer through any chores in pain, and often go to bed in pain as well.
4. How long did it take for healthcare providers to accurately diagnose endometriosis? What was that experience like for you?
I sought help for the terrible period pain from local general practitioners but they never considered that endometriosis could be the cause for my pain and instead prescribed hormonal contraception and NSAIDs. When my pain became chronic 2 years ago, I sought help from an endometriosis specialist. Even though he couldn’t see anything on the scans, he felt confident my symptoms pointed to endometriosis.
I think a deep fear for every woman is being cut open and finding there is nothing wrong. But there is always a reason for your pain. It turned out that I had very deep and very rare stage 5 endometriosis in my abdomen and bowels, as well as adenomyosis – a condition similar to endometriosis where the endometrium has penetrated the uterus muscle. Each month it bleeds into the muscle causing internal bruising and massive pain for me despite the fact I have had the endometriosis cut out successfully.
5. How did you learn more about endometriosis?
Lots and lots of research on the medical databases. There's a lot of misinformation out there, so a site like http://endopaedia.info/ was a welcome refresh. I also joined groups such as Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis and Discussion Facebook group.
6. What treatments have you tried or are currently trying? What helped? What didn't help?
Excision surgery is the gold standard for endometriosis treatment. Many women who receive this surgery will be pain free for many years if the endo is removed by a specialist. The problem is that many doctors these days don’t have the skills to successfully remove the endo, in which case it will continue to grow. Or worse they'll “burn” the endometriosis, only taking the top layer and leaving the woman wondering why she is still in pain.
Excision surgery made a big difference for my period pain. However, due to the adenomyosis, I still suffer from chronic pelvic pain. I've tried every hormonal therapy out there and can't tolerate the side effects (exhaustion, nausea or depression/anxiety). Now I'm seeing a doctor for pain management and developing a rehabilitation program with a physiotherapist.
The hormonal treatments are a band-aid solution. Although they may stop you from ovulating or having a period and therefore suppressing the pain, endo can continue to grow, wreaking havoc when you want to come off the pill. Some women are even left infertile or with permanent damage because the endometriosis conditioned to grow so prolifically.
7. Have you ever received pelvic floor physical therapy for your pelvic pain?
I received pelvic PT back in Australia and it was fantastic. She really reduced my pain. Many of my pelvic muscles were extremely tense and would randomly spasm due to the chronic pain I was in. My therapist helped get rid of that completely. I saw her every second week for a few months and since moving to the U.S.A I greatly miss her!
8. What inspired you to start a blog?
Two reasons. Firstly, not enough people know about endometriosis. I wanted to spread awareness so that women in pain can get early treatment and hopefully prevent the pain from becoming chronic like me. Secondly, there are so many doctors out there performing ineffective surgeries. Every single woman suffering deserves the best care and the best chance at a healthy life. If I can help just one woman get her life back on track then all the blogging is worth it.
9. Who or what has been your greatest inspiration throughout your journey with endometriosis?
All the amazing women battling this disease on the endometriosis and adenomyosis forums. Their strength, courage, and resourcefulness inspire me every day.
10. Are there any resources, materials, products that you would recommend worth trying for those with pelvic pain?
Definitely! An electric heat blanket (you can regulate the temperature so it doesn’t burn like a hot water bottle), omega-3 fatty acid supplements to reduce inflammation, and a dairy/gluten and refined sugar free diet if you are suffering from bloat – otherwise termed ‘endo belly.’
11. What would you like to say to someone who's just started experiencing pelvic pain?
See a specialist, not a regular gynaecologist, but someone who performs endometriosis surgeries all the time. Also make sure they perform “excision” surgery and not “laser” or “burning.” They may believe the pain is caused by another condition, but in case they suspect endometriosis you can receive early care preserving your health and fertility down the line. If they suggest the surgery it can seem extreme and scary, but it's actually the best treatment we currently have available. Following the surgery you may continue to suffer from associated pain as your body adjusts back to normal. Having a healthy lifestyle, seeing a pelvic PT, and giving yourself time to heal are all things I would recommend.
The blog content on this website is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding treatment, medications/supplements, or any medical diagnoses. This information is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way to substitute the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.