“For 10 years I’ve struggled with insurmountable fatigue, pain and nausea,” Irwin, 24, wrote. “A doctor told me it was simply something you deal with as a woman and I gave up entirely, trying to function through the pain.”
A number of studies support the claim that women in pain often are not taken as seriously as men, The Washington Post reported in December. Studies show that the dismissal of women’s pain can affect treatment for a wide range of health issues, including heart problems, stroke, chronic illnesses and endometriosis, the report noted.
Irwin said she had debated whether to speak publicly about her experience but felt she owed it to other women who are struggling to get help.
“I’m sharing my story for anyone who reads this and is quietly dealing with pain and no answers. Let this be your validation that your pain is real and you deserve help,” she added.
Irwin said with support of her friends and family, she finally found a diagnosis and underwent surgery. She said doctors found 37 lesions, some of which were “very deep & difficult to remove,” but that now she is recovering.
Irwin’s post coincides with Endometriosis Awareness Month. The disease affects roughly 10 percent of reproductive-age women and girls globally, or 190 million people, according to the World Health Organization.
“Validation for years of pain is indescribable,” Irwin wrote.
Endometriosis develops when tissue resembling the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, usually around the reproductive organs, bowel and bladder. The tissue triggers a chronic inflammatory reaction that may cause scar tissue and lesions, according to the WHO.
Symptoms can include severe pelvic pain, fatigue, painful periods and urination, bloating, nausea and depression, the WHO says. The disease can also cause infertility.
“The variable and broad symptoms of endometriosis mean that health-care workers do not easily diagnose it,” the WHO says, describing the disease as “complex” and calling for further awareness.
There is not one specific cause of the disease, and experts usually treat symptoms with medication or surgery.
In her Twitter post, Irwin also urged people not to ask women about their plans regarding children. “Please be gentle and pause before asking me (or any woman) when we’ll be having more children,” she wrote. “After all that my body has gone through, I feel tremendously grateful that we have our gorgeous daughter.”
Irwin gave birth to Grace Warrior in March 2021. She is married to Chandler Powell, a professional wakeboarder and conservationist — who paid tribute Tuesday to Irwin on Instagram, calling her his “inspiration.”
“Seeing how you pushed through the pain to take care of our family and continue our conservation work while being absolutely riddled with endometriosis is something that will inspire me forever,” Powell wrote.
While Irwin sometimes appeared on television as a young girl alongside her father during documentaries, public interest in Irwin skyrocketed after her father was killed by a stingray while filming on the Great Barrier Reef in 2006.