The lowest point for Stacey was a night in the Emergency Room in excruciating pelvic pain. Her symptoms had steadily been getting worse for more than a year, and she had seen more than 15 doctors without improvement. She began searching for help and found PelvicSanity online - she began feeling some relief in her first treatment session, and within three months was feeling like herself again after years of pelvic pain.
Stacey wanted to share her story to let others know there's hope. You need to be your own advocate and get a great team in place around you, but lasting healing is possible.
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PelvicSanity: Thanks so much for sharing your story – it means a lot to others out there who may be dealing with similar issues. Can you give us a brief overview of what you were dealing with? How long had it been going on?
Stacey: It’s definitely a long story! In retrospect, it started years ago – I experienced discomfort and pain during intercourse ever since I was sexually active. I always assumed it was normal, and something I just had to live with. At the beginning, I was still able to enjoy intercourse without the pain interfering too much. I also had a history of recurring UTIs, which I never thought much about (though later learned was likely related to my pelvic floor issues).
Gradually, my pain with intercourse became worse, and for the first time I experienced symptoms that weren’t related to sexual activity. A feeling of vaginal discomfort started to be constant. I (and my doctors) assumed I was dealing with a yeast infection, and I was treated for more than five months without relief. I became a frequent guest of Urgent Care – that was more than a year and a half ago.
I was given a lot of different diagnoses – none of which really helped guide my care. At different times I was told I had various infections, fibromyalgia, vaginismus, low back or hip pain. Sometimes I was just told they couldn’t find anything wrong and it must be all in my head. Even when they didn’t say that out loud, I felt many of my doctors had that attitude towards my pain.
Eventually my pain become excruciating – it felt like my vagina was being burned with acid. It was so gruesome; I’d never wish that kind of pain on anyone. When it became so debilitating I couldn’t stand it anymore, I went to the Emergency Room; they just pumped me full of painkillers and sent me home.
Returning a few days later with the same symptoms, they actually gave me anti-psychotics because the pain must be all in my head. Not only did it not help the pain, but I had an adverse reaction to the medication and spent the worst night of my life in the hospital with my mother helplessly crying beside my hospital bed.
PS: I'm so sorry you had to go through that - so many of our patients feel dismissed or ignored by the medical system. So how did you find out about PelvicSanity, and what prompted you to call us for help?
Stacey: After that night in the hospital, I took five days off work (and I had never taken more than a day off before in my entire career). The pain was so bad I couldn’t walk, talk, or eat. I couldn’t sit or fall asleep; it felt like I could barely breathe.
I started searching online and came across PelvicSanity. I had tried everything else, and at that point I was so desperate that I reached out.
PS: I actually remember our first conversation on the phone - it felt like you were pretty skeptical (and understandably so!). Was that the case?
Stacey: Absolutely. At that point I had seen over 15 doctors and specialists for my pain, and many of them hadn’t even listened to me. It was difficult to call yet another office, and I was skeptical that physical therapy could be the answer if all these doctors hadn’t been able to help me. I was able to get some great information on the phone and ended up coming in for an appointment with Dr. Bonnie – I’m so glad I did!
PS: How did you feel going into that first appointment, and once it was over?
Stacey: At that point, I was frankly suicidal with what had been going on. From the moment I walked in the door and met Dr. Bonnie, I knew I was in the right place.
She was so patient and kind. I had been to so many doctors who were impersonal and sterile; this was the first time I really felt that someone was listening to me. I was in tears at that first appointment – I spent half an hour just crying as I told my story and she actually listened.
Even at that first visit, I began to feel relief once we started treatment. It was relatively short-lived that first day, but it gave me certainty we were on the right track and hope to continue. She confirmed it wasn’t just in my head; there was a physical cause of my pain, and that we would work together to heal. That was such a relief after so many doctors had told me that they couldn’t find something wrong or that it must be all in my head.
PS: When did you start noticing a big difference in your symptoms?
Stacey: I felt relief even after my initial visit. We started slow, doing both internal and external release. Every week I felt a little better, and the relief lasted a little longer. Dr. Bonnie gave me breathing exercises and a home program I could do when I wasn’t in the office. Within three months I was finally feeling like myself again.
There were definitely ups and downs during the process, but I saw steady improvement. I could always email Dr. Bonnie, and she was amazing in how caring and responsive she was to my questions.
Now I’m at the point where I don’t need constant care, but I do come back in about once a month for a maintenance visit. Little flares or spikes in my symptoms no longer make me afraid; I know it’s something I can handle, either at home by myself or by coming in for PT session.
Dr. Bonnie also helped me find the right kind of medical care and team around me. She recommended acupuncture with Coastal Acupuncture, which has been so helpful in reducing my stress. I always felt there was a hormonal component to my symptoms as well, and she encouraged me to continue pursuing that as well, even after several doctors dismissed that as a contributing factor. We were right about the hormonal component and getting that addressed helped me improve even more. Dr. Bonnie was able to see the big picture and put together a complete plan for my care and recovery.
Now I’m back to work, I have an intimate relationship with my partner, and my pelvic pain no longer defines my life. I’ve come so far from that night in the Emergency Room – I’m so grateful to Dr. Bonnie and my team.
PS: Do you have any advice for others who were in your same position?
Stacey: Don’t ever stop asking questions! If I had just accepted what the doctors told me at first, I would still be in pain. You can find the answers, just stick with it. Don’t be afraid to change doctors to find someone who really listens and understands your condition.
PS: Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’d like to thank you so much for sharing your story – we know that can often be difficult!
Stacey: Just that Dr. Bonnie helped save my life in those early days of treatment. I was so scared the pain would never end and would often cry during my sessions as she talked me through it. I just needed someone to have confidence that I would be ok, and that I knew would help me get there. She was with me every step of the way and helped me get my life back.
PelvicSanity is Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. The team here have won awards, written books, taught other physical therapists, conducted new research in the field, and - most importantly - helped hundreds of patients from all over the world meet their goals. The Finding Pelvic Sanity online group provides support and practical, positive information for patients with pelvic health issues.