My journey with vulvodynia started over four years ago when I was 28 years old. Prior to that, my life was completely care-free. I was traveling the world, single, and moving up the corporate ladder as a human resources professional. Life was good…until I was prescribed the wrong birth control pill. I had a very adverse reaction that caused me to get my first-ever bacterial vaginal infection. That is when my journey began. I went to several doctors who continued to prescribe antibiotics that didn’t help and actually just made me sicker. I was diagnosed with chronic vaginal infections, took many rounds of antibiotics, and had intense pain for over a year. Sitting was almost impossible. Finally, I found an ob/gyn who knew about vulvodynia and diagnosed me with the cotton swab test.
After being diagnosed with vulvodynia, I saw countless doctors looking for help. I had to explain the condition to most of my doctors. Unfortunately, no treatment has helped. It has been a very frustrating, isolating, and painful four years. Thank goodness for my mom who helped me research doctors and different treatments. That is how we found the NVA and I am forever grateful. What I found interesting about vulvodynia is that what works for one person may not work for another. I tried everything — bladder instillations, acupuncture, physical therapy, antidepressants, topical ointments, vitamin supplements, diets, chiropractic manipulation, and counseling (because I was told it was in my head). I sought help from countless doctors, spending $10,000+ of my savings searching for relief.
Living with vulvodynia has affected every aspect of my life. I used to be an avid cyclist and had to store my bikes, hoping one day to be able to ride again. It affected my career because I couldn’t fulfill the demands of my work and have the necessary time off to manage my pain. The pain has taken a toll on my relationships, concentration and problem-solving abilities, and everything is based on how I am feeling at the time.
On a positive note, I have a terrific husband and sweet baby boy (born in February 2017). When I was single, I never thought I’d find someone because I have this condition. Boy, was I wrong! My husband has been so understanding from day one and loves me for who I am. My baby boy has given me new found purpose and I am more inspired than ever to take my life back. Through the NVA support group in San Diego, a woman told me about a local physician, Dr. Irwin Goldstein. I owe a lot to that woman who came forward to share her experience. In April 2017, I went to see Dr. Goldstein. I am currently under his care and extremely hopeful for the future. He is kind, caring, and passionate about his work. He has given me so much hope.
As a final word, having vulvodynia has taught me a lot about empathy and humility. After years of suffering from severe chronic pain, which completely dictated my life, at times I felt like less of a woman. I understand now that I am the same person I was before having vulvodynia. I know I’m not alone in having this condition and am learning to feel good about myself again. Having supportive friends and family lessens the burden. I am also grateful to the NVA for providing support and resources for women like me.