'No woman should live in pain': Tara Lipinski undergoes endometriosis surgery

The Olympic gold medalist says her recovery has been mostly pain-free but she knows that many other women don't have the same experience.
/ Source: TODAY

After years of “intermittent pain” that intensified over the past five years, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Tara Lipinski underwent laparoscopic surgery to have her endometriosis removed and shared her story on Instagram to help raise awareness of the condition.

“The irony of my endometriosis diagnosis is that I knew almost nothing about a disorder that affects one in ten women. That’s 176 million people. I’d never heard another woman mention ‘endo’ or the complications and pain that accompany it,” she wrote in an Instagram post that showed her before and after surgery. “That definitely shows the lack of information that’s out there and the comfort level that affected women have discussing their endometriosis.”

According to the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it can take anywhere from four to 11 years for endometriosis to be diagnosed. The condition occurs when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. This endometrial tissue can continue to grow and bleed, and lead to scarring called adhesions. Women with the condition often experience pain, nausea, infertility and heavy and uncomfortable periods.

Lipiniski noted that she did not have adhesions on her ovaries so she didn't have agonizing menstrual cycles often associated with the condition.

“I still had other symptoms,” she said.

Lipinski noted there was a delay from when she first had signs until she underwent the surgery. For a while she thought her symptoms weren't severe enough so she tried to ignore them.

“I still had intermittent pain that I overlooked. And I probably didn’t describe my symptoms accurately or forcefully enough to my doctors for them to suspect endometriosis. Over the last five years the pain progressed, but because it wasn’t constant or startling intense I just chose to ignore it,” she wrote. “I figured that since I didn’t have crippling pain and it wasn’t significantly impacting my life, I could block out my concern.”

But she found a doctor who understood what was going on and explained the methods of diagnosing and removing the adhesions. Lipinski had excision surgery, where doctors remove all the diseased tissue as if it were cancerous.

Dr. Noah Rindos, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the University of Pittsburgh, told TODAY in 2019 that his survey data shows that women with endometriosis are less likely to need repeat surgeries if they have excision and are happier with the results.

“My surgery was a success. I had ‘moderate amounts of endo’ and pretty much 100 percent of it was removed. I feel lucky that my recovery has been mainly pain free. This certainly isn’t the case with all women,” Lipinski shared.

Lipinski credits Julianne Hough with increasing awareness of endometriosis, which encouraged Lipinski to start investigating her pain. She hopes her story helps others experiencing endometriosis.

“The more we talk about endometriosis, the more proactive we can be about treatment. To me, it feels like a hush hush topic that women feel they just need to tough out. No woman should live in pain or think ‘this is just something I have to deal with,’” she said. “Most women wait eight to ten years to get a proper diagnosis for endo. This includes multiple trips to different doctors, various pain medications that don’t address the issue, and crippling pain that doesn’t subside. That is not OK.”