Alicia Vitarelli's battle with endometriosis

November 19, 2013

On Tuesday, Alicia shared the following story on Action News:

Five years ago my husband, Matthew, and I set out to start our own family. Today, I feel great.

But that wasn't always the case.

For decades, I suffered from sharp, intense pain, nausea and migraines every month.

After months of invasive testing, early this year I was finally diagnosed with Stage 4 endometriosis.

But the severity of that pain often paled in comparison to the heartache of not being able to conceive. In fact, there are varying degrees of infertility problems with endometriosis

My OB/GYN, Dr. Renee Anderson at Penn Medicine explains that I am among the 7% to 10% of women who suffer from endometriosis.

"In the infertility population, it's about a third of those women. You have a good chunk of women who can't get pregnant because you (they) have endometriosis," Dr. Anderson said.

But we never imagined we would be this close to meeting our little miracle. Because of the delicate, but aggressive, nature of the disease, the options for women like me are tricky.

"All hope is not lost," Dr. Anderson says. "It may be a struggle and you may have to undergo treatments."

Dr. Anderson says because of the delicate, but aggressive nature of the disease, the options are tricky.

A top reproductive endocrinologist in Philadelphia recommended a 6-month course of an injectable drug called Lupron.

"It's a synthetic menopausal state so women will have hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings. It's not a pleasant medication," said Dr. Anderson.

And while it has been a successful treatment for many women, a more holistic path seemed right for me.

Dr. Jingduan Yang at Jefferson University Hospital's Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine explains that endometriosis reflects energy that's out of balance.

"We call them chi stagnations which cause the blockage of blood flows and cause the pain," said Dr. Yang.

Two to three times a week we opened those energy channels with acupuncture and Chinese herbs and drastically changed my diet to suppress estrogen and reduce inflammation. Sugar, gluten, dairy hormonally-treated meat – all gone.

I worked on limiting stress, increased exercise and finally started feeling better.

On March 28th, I headed to New York to undergo a three hour laparoscopic surgery to remove the endometrial cysts that were too stubborn to budge.

"You had a high stage of endometriosis and that's why you had such success because you had a good surgeon go in, remove the implants and free up things," Dr. Anderson explained.

Then, on May 12th, Mother's day, just 6 weeks after surgery, we finally got the news we'd been praying for.

And we've been busy too... setting up a home for the little person we've waited years to meet.

It was a long, often stressful and sometimes seemingly hopeless road. It took a lot of incredible doctors, personal sacrifice and trust to get here.

With less than two months to go, we are grateful for this journey, it has been long and rocky, but blessed.

It has brought us the greatest joy we've known.

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