Halifax woman with painful illness seeks to start support group

Ashley Laffin is looking to start a support group for women with endometriosis.

By Hayley Machat

Ashley Laffin posted an ad on Kijiji searching for other women with endometriosis. Laffin says she posted the ad because “it’s a very isolating illness and I felt that if I could talk to somebody who knew what I was going through, it could help me.”

Laffin, 26, is a pretty woman with brown hair and a lovely smile. At first glance you wouldn’t be able to tell that she’s constantly in agony. In July 2012, Laffin was diagnosed with endometriosis and suffers chronic pain as a result.

Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, grows in lesions in other areas of the pelvic cavity where it’s not supposed to. 176 million women worldwide suffer from endometriosis and 60 per cent of women with painful periods are among them.

“When you’re face to face with someone it’s a lot more real, you can really share your feelings and connect on a deeper level than when talking to someone online,” says Laffin.

When Laffin asked her doctor if there were any support groups, she was told that there used to be. Unsatisfied, she posted the advertisement hoping she’d find others out there. Only one woman Laffin’s age has responded and Laffin already says it helps. They both agree that they should start a support group in Halifax.

“It’s such an invisible illness, nobody really knows how much pain I’m in,” Laffin says.

Laffin describes the pain as a constant ache in her right side, concentrated in her abdomen. Sometimes it moves up to her rib cage and down her thigh. Usually it’s a dull ache. If she’s unlucky, it’s a burning sensation. At other times, a throbbing. The kind of pain changes, but it’s always there.

“I can still go to work and do things, but I have to be careful about what I do because it’ll use up all my energy.”

Laffin describes herself as a homebody and introvert, but she says she makes herself go out once a week to keep her spirits up. She’ll go out with good friends or spend time with her family. Laffin’s brother and sister are in Ontario, but her parents live in Halifax and she has a large extended family.

“It affects every area of your life in some way. It’s really hard to separate it from certain things. It affects relationships, my job, my self image.”

Laffin said before her laparoscopy in July 2012 her pain was sometimes a up to a seven.

Her advice to others is to be proactive about their treatment and health. “Don’t be passive about it. Try different things. That’s what keeps me going.”

CORRECTION: March 22, 2016: This story has been edited to remove some personal details.