Atrium Health Patient Story

Primary Care, Women's Health | one year ago

Growing Up, She Was Told Her Severe Pelvic Pain Was Normal

Mandy Gallagher lived with intense pelvic pain and infertility until an endometriosis diagnosis changed everything. 

Mandy Gallagher recalls the painful menstrual cycles she experienced as a teenager. “I had horrible periods,” she says. “Heavy bleeding and a lot of pain. The pelvic pain was debilitating.

Mandy says her mother took her to numerous doctor appointments but was assured her symptoms were normal. The discomfort subsided a bit with pain relievers and eventually with use of birth control pills. “But when I turned 28 or 29 and stopped taking birth control in order to try to get pregnant, my symptoms were 10 times worse,” Mandy recalls. 

For years, Mandy and her husband, Tom, tried to have a child without success. They endured numerous unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures. Then one day, Mandy, a nurse at Atrium Health, confided in Dr. Kevin Stepp, OB-GYN and endometriosis specialist, at Atrium Health Women’s Care Urogynecology & Pelvic Surgery. He suspected endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue similar to the inner lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. Laparoscopic surgery confirmed his suspicions Mandy had stage 4 endometriosis, the stage that most affects fertility. 

“One of the most common things I ask patients is how high school was in regard to their period pain,” Stepp says. Patients who have endometriosis remember missing school and staying home with a heating pad. Endometriosis can hurt with menstrual cycles, it can hurt with day-to-day activity, and it can hurt during sexual relations. It can really affect a person’s quality of life. Endometriosis is not cancer, but I treat it like cancer. Meaning, I want to take a wide excision during surgery, I want to get all of it.

Stepp worked closely with fertility specialists at Atrium Health CMC Women’s Institute to prepare Mandy for the surgery he would perform to remove the endometriosis and for another IVF treatment after she healed. Seven months after Mandy’s surgery to remove the endometriosis, she learned she was pregnant. 

Meet Mandy and Tom’s daughter and learn more about her symptoms and treatment here.