Imagine being in pain almost every minute of the day and being repeatedly told that there’s nothing wrong with you.
That’s how Julianna Ozorio lived most of her life until finally being diagnosed with Endometriosis. The disease with no cure, affects one in 10 people assigned female at birth and can lead to a lifetime of serious health complications. Today, on Endometriosis Awareness Day, Julianna celebrates the progress made, but believes there’s more work to be done.
Because Endometriosis presents in a variety of ways medically, a comprehensive diagnosis often takes years. It took Julianna more than 15 years of relentless research and appointments with specialists to confirm what she had long suspected. Now, as a self-described “Endo Warrior”, she’s helping others who suffer from the disease as well through her Instagram account @endo.days.ontario.
While her symptoms began when Julianna got her first menstrual period at 13, it was not until she was 28, experiencing sweats, nausea, extreme pain and multiple doctors’ visits before the Endometriosis diagnosis came via laparoscopy. Julianna was given an ablation, put on birth control, then lesions formed on several of her organs. She was then put on hormone therapy which brought on early menopause.
At NYGH, Julianna won the ‘doctor lottery’.
A turning point came when Julianna was referred to Dr. Abheha Satkunaratnam at North York General Hospital, (NYGH), who performed her second excision procedure and treated her in a kind and compassionate manner. He moved his practice to NYGH to help build training and understanding for physicians of the chronic disease.
In 2021, Julianna began to experience blinding pain, far more than she could handle with pain medication. She came to the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency Room and was immediately put at ease. Dr. Nik Mamalias walked in and introduced himself with a disarming “Hi, I’m Nik”. Relieved, Julianna describes this meeting as “winning the ER doctor lottery”.
Dr. Mamalias assured Julianna that she was in charge as she knows her body best, and that if she felt something was wrong, then they’d find out why. A CT scan revealed a lesion on her left ovary and swelling in her abdomen. For a second time at NYGH, Julianna felt heard and cared for and she knew she had finally come to the right place to deal with her Endometriosis with professionalism and compassion.
The long-term effects of Endometriosis include infertility, organ damage or loss, gastrointestinal issues, pain medication dependency and even death. The longer someone has it, the more damage it causes. Endometriosis can affect you, your friends, sisters, neighbours and co-workers. Since there’s never a moment when the disease is far from the mind of those who suffer from it, living a so-called normal life is a struggle. It can impact your personal life, causing obstacles in finding partners willing to share in the Endometriosis journey.
Endo Warrior Helps Others with the Disease.
A high school teacher in North York, Julianna believes that since little is known about the disease, raising awareness is the only weapon against Endometriosis. She has become a strong advocate for others dealing with it by sharing her own experiences and most importantly, correct information.
While more is being discovered about this disease every day, Julianna says there’s more to be done, including research, more training in medical school and increasing funding. In the meantime, she finds meaning through helping others. She advises anyone living with the disease to find support within the Endometriosis community, to be your own advocate and stay vocal about it.