An endometriosis sufferer says strangers often congratulate her because the condition makes her stomach swell so much – she looks nine months pregnant.
Emily Mulet, 38, was officially diagnosed with endometriosis – a painful disorder in which tissues from the womb grow outside the uterus – in 2013.
She experienced an ectopic pregnancy with her former partner and doctors found evidence which suggested endometriosis during surgery.
The mum-of-one said she has battled the “debilitating” symptoms of the disorder for over 18 years, including periods that are so painful she has to miss work each month.
Emily, a personal cruise consultant, said the pain in her back and abdomen can be so intense her doctor has prescribed codeine, an opiate, to help her cope on particularly tough days.
The condition also causes Emily’s stomach to swell so much that strangers regularly ask her if she is PREGNANT.
Emily, of Davie, Florida, said: “I am not a skinny woman by any means.
“I have curves but when I have a flare up, I get so big and bloated and huge it can look like I’m pregnant.
“People often ask me when I’m due, or if I’m expecting.
“One day I was in the baby aisle buying something for my niece and a lady asked me how long I had left.
“I don’t take offense because I know people mean well, but it’s not fun.
“This condition really impacts women’s lives.
“I’ve been single for a long time now and I have no interest in being in a relationship right now because of this.
“When I’m in so much pain and so bloated and uncomfortable, I don’t feel pretty, I don’t feel sexy, I don’t feel desirable. It’s so lonely.
“I haven’t had any experience with men treating me badly but it’s my own fear.
“I was in a relationship for a very long time and my partner was nothing but supportive, but right now I have no desire to be intimate with anyone.
“The pain is debilitating.
“When I have my period it is constant.
“It’s horrific abdominal pain, it’s back pain.
“It literally feels like someone is hitting my back with a hammer.
“It makes me so fatigued.
“It affects my intestines so I live with irritable bowel syndrome.
“This condition doesn’t just affect me when I’m on my period. I can have flare-ups at any time during the month.
“My body is in and out of whack all the time.
“During my periods I am in so much pain that I have to miss work.
“I try to power through but sometimes I just can’t get out of bed.
“I take codeine which helps relieve the pain but it knocks me out.
“I’m lucky to have very understanding employers but I work in sales and any day you can’t come in, that’s commission you are missing out on.
“It definitely has an impact financially.”
After almost two decades battling the condition, Emily has decided to undergo a hysterectomy this autumn, an operation to remove her womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Emily hopes that the procedure will help her have a pain-free life, excel at her job, and perhaps even find love after years of turmoil.
Emily said: “My doctors suggested I have a hysterectomy three months ago and I’ve taken a little time to think about it.
“Making the decision to have a hysterectomy is very difficult.
“It feels like by taking away your womb, you might be taking away what makes you a woman.
“But I thought about it. I have been battling this intense pain every month since I was 18 years old.
“It’s become unbearable.
“It’s holding me back in every way. I’m so tired of it. I’m at my wit’s end.
“I have an appointment to begin the process next month.”
Endometriosis can make it more difficult for women to have children, depending on the severity of the condition.
Although Emily said it was tough to come to terms with the fact she will never have more children, she feels very lucky to have son Reggie Rivera, 19, a student.
Emily said: “Even though I’ll never be a mom again, I have a niece who I love and I’ve made peace with it.
“Hopefully someday I’ll be a grandma.
“When I had my son at 18, I wasn’t ready.
“I was a lot younger than I planned to be when I became a mom. But I am very spiritual and I believe God knew what was coming for me.
“I always wanted to be a mom so I feel very lucky that I am one because a lot of women with this condition don’t have that chance.
“I feel blessed.”