Having vulvodynia has taught me patience, courage and assertiveness, and helped to shape the person I am today. In 2000, I had just graduated from high school and was excited about going to college. I envisioned having a career, traveling, and getting married and starting a family. What I didn’t expect was the struggle that was to come—the struggle to cope and function with chronic vulvar pain. I started having burning pain that, like many women with vulvodynia, I assumed was a yeast infection. Sitting, wearing jeans and riding a bike caused severe pain. For three long years, I saw gynecologists, dermatologists and a urologist, all of whom said, “There is nothing wrong.” Finally, with NVA’s help and resources, I was diagnosed with vulvodynia. By 2006, I had exhausted my treatment options in Canada and had a vestibulectomy in the U.S. Although surgery didn’t completely eliminate my pain, I started to turn the corner. My experience with vulvodynia encouraged me to Iearn about the benefits of healthy living. Getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy foods and managing stress has helped me to such an extent that I no longer experience daily vulvar pain.
Like many women with vulvodynia, I also have chronic pain in other areas of my body and struggle with depression and anxiety. When these feelings overwhelm me, I reach out for help. Through the NVA and my community, I have learned there are mental health resources for women with chronic pain. The relationships I formed through the NVA, many of which are long distance, have become some of the most encouraging and uplifting friendships of my life. Women who have pain in such an intimate area know how to be there for one another. The NVA has also given me the opportunity to be part of a community of strong women who lift each other up and give hope and support to recently diagnosed women.
My husband has been my rock throughout my diagnosis and treatment. I kept putting things on hold, but he believes in making the best of the present. This ordeal taught us what really matters in a marriage and we don’t worry about the small stuff. My husband and I dreamed of having children. Although I was nervous that my vulvar pain might return during pregnancy, it did not. Because I had scar tissue from the vestibulectomy, we decided on a C-section instead of a vaginal birth. Now we are the parents of a smart and sensitive 5-year-old boy who makes us smile every day.