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‘I looked six months pregnant’

It took visits to more than 10 doctors over six years for Tasha Ross to finally get a diagnosis. The 23-year-old swimwear model had battled intense pain, bloating and hormonal acne from the age of 15, only to be told by one specialist that it was ‘all in her head’.

“I started to experience severe pain in my stomach,” recalls Tasha. “This is also when my stomach began bloating. I believed that I was intolerant to certain foods or had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), however it soon became clear to me that this was more than just a food allergy.”

Tasha says that her bloating became unbearable in her late teens, which started to affect her modelling career so she decided to quit the industry.

“The bloating wouldn’t allow me to work on particular photoshoots and I began to feel completely hopeless. The bloating could become so severe that I would look six months’ pregnant and there was no way to relieve it,” she says. “I would reject any modelling opportunity that came my way as I was terrified of getting in a bikini.”

It wasn’t until Tasha spoke to her boyfriend’s mother about her symptoms, that she realised it could be endometriosis.

“I was feeling alone and depressed that no one could help me until I spoke to my partner’s mother who informed me that she had endometriosis,” explains Tasha. “She recommended her gynaecologist who eventually diagnosed me with the disease.”

Although Tasha says she was relieved to finally have been given an answer, she was aware that managing endometriosis would be an on-going struggle.

“I was incredibly concerned for what my future would hold. Endometriosis is a disease that has no cure, yet one in 10 women face. It has caused me years of severe pain, bloating, acne, anxiety and depression. This disease will be with me forever.”

Since then, Tasha has undergone two laparoscopy surgeries to alleviate her symptoms.

“My first surgery was performed by a general gynaecologist who burnt the endometriosis. This relieved my pain for three months but the pain soon came back,” explains Tasha. “I then visited an endometriosis specialist who performed an excision surgery through a laparoscopy. My surgeon discovered that my bowels and stomach were practically glued together by my endometriosis which he separated during surgery. I still get pain, however it is much better than before having surgery.”

Last year, Tasha returned to modelling, becoming a Miss Universe Australia national finalist. However, she says getting her life back on track has been a challenge. “Dealing with the symptoms that come with this disease is not easy but I am doing my best to not let a disease define me and my happiness,” she says.

Tasha, who is now an ambassador for Endometriosis Australia, is determined to help other women who may be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, but haven’t yet been diagnosed. “If you feel as though something is wrong with your health and a doctor is telling you that you are fine, please don’t give up,” she says. “You know your body, you know when something is not okay.”

The facts: Endometriosis

  • Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of endometrium, which normally lines the uterus, is found in abnormal sites around the body.
  • More than 740,000 of Australian women suffer with endometriosis at some point in their life.
  • The only way to diagnose endometriosis is to undergo a laparoscopy and have a biopsy (tissue sample) taken.
  • Symptoms include fatigue; pain on or around your period; pain during or after sex; pain with bowel movements or in the pelvic region, lower back or legs; heavy or irregular bleeding.

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