Robotic-assisted surgery cured Antonia’s endometriosis

Antonia was diagnosed with endometriosis in 1994, at the age of 24, after she had been experiencing chronic pelvic pain and heavy periods.
Endometriosis Antonias story.jpg
Antonia and her endometriosis story.jpg

Antonia's crippling and chronic endometriosis

Antonia Boyton has suffered with endometriosis for most of her adult life. What began as ‘problem periods’ led to 23 years of chronic pain, difficulties with intimacy and the inability to work.

After twelve laparoscopies, a hysterectomy,and lots of medication, Antonia’s symptoms never subsided.<.

Thankfully, she never gave up hope of finding a cure – and came across the 

robotic endometriosis surgery offering at The Princess Grace Hospital,part of HCA Healthcare UK. Now she is living pain free, and trying to raise awareness of endometriosis, so that other women can one day live their lives, free from pain.

Antonia's story

Antonia, from Salisbury, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 1994, at the age of 24, after she had been experiencing chronic pelvic pain and heavy periods. Her condition worsened quickly, and within two years, the pain was so severe that she had to give up working full-time. Between 1994 and 2006, Antonia underwent eleven laparoscopy procedures to detect and remove the endometriosis tissue and adhesions which were causing her pain. Antonia was also prescribed Zoladex – a hormonal medication which prevents oestrogen production in the ovaries. The laparoscopies and Zoladex would help to numb Antonia’s pain to a certain degree, but it never fully went away. In this time, Antonia had met her husband Lee and they decided to try for a baby.

Indescribable pain led Antonia to make an incredibly difficult decision 

Antonia was eventually told that her endometriosis was preventing her from falling pregnant naturally, and so they opted for an assisted fertility treatment. In 2005, Antonia underwent two rounds of Intrauterine insemination (IUI) to try and conceive but, unfortunately, neither were successful. Antonia says, “Sadly, both cycles failed and because I was so poorly after the second cycle, we decided to stop the IUI altogether. It was a difficult decision to make – especially as we both wanted to become parents.”

Eventually, Antonia’s pain became so bad that she decided to undergo a total abdominal hysterectomy in 2009. She says retrospectively: “Life was increasingly depressing and as far as I knew, this would be the cure. This would give me back my life and it would mean that I could, at last, live life to the full. I had been so poorly; I wouldn't have been able to look after a child - so the decision to have a total hysterectomy felt right. And as much as I'd have loved to bear a child of my own, sadly the fates decided otherwise.” 

Under the assumption that the total hysterectomy would completely rid Antonia of her endometriosis symptoms, she was devastated when – just six months after the operation – all her symptoms returned. In 2011, Antonia pushed for another laparoscopy however, she was told that there was no more endometriosis present, and her gynaecologist discharged her. She was referred to a pain unit and told that she needed to learn how to live with her pain.

Her symptoms were being ignored 

“My symptoms were being brushed off as remembered pain, but I knew something was going on. I was having cyclic symptoms, despite the fact that I had had a hysterectomy two years earlier, and I thought that I was going mad. I had everyone telling me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I needed to be weaned off my painkillers, even though I was still in agonising pain.” 

Fast forward to 2014 and Antonia still had no answers. She pushed for a blood test, which revealed that she may have ‘Ovarian Remnant Syndrome’ - a rare condition where small pieces of ovarian tissue are inadvertently left in the pelvic cavity, following the surgical removal of one or both ovaries. Once again, Antonia was prescribed Zoladex – but it wasn’t long before it began to lose its efficacy. Antonia felt emotionally and physically drained, and her symptoms were still being dismissed by her doctors. 

Focusing her efforts on finding private healthcare options

This is when Antonia decided to investigate private healthcare options. On a Facebook group for endometriosis sufferers (called ‘Nancy’s Nook’) she learned that the gold standard treatment for endometriosis is something called excision surgery. She had heard about Peter Barton-Smith, a Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon at The Princess Grace Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK), who was an expert in excising endometriosis. Because of his reputation, Antonia tentatively reached out to him and in June 2016, Antonia travelled up to London for her first appointment. Prior to her appointment, she was sent for a TVS (trans-vaginal ultrasound) with a doctor called Davor Jurkovic, who specialises in scanning women with endometriosis. He was able to find a 6mm nodule of deep infiltrating endometriosis on the left side of her pelvis, but wasn’t entirely sure if she should undergo more surgery.

Antonia added: “Peter had doubts about operating on someone who only had a 6mm nodule of endometriosis, but because he had seen photos from my 2011 laparoscopy, showing a mass of scar tissue on the left side, he was fairly confident that he would find the ovarian remnant hiding underneath it all. I left his office that day with a huge smile on my face because he had listened to me and was offering to help.”

Robotic-assisted surgery has meant she is now pain-free

In September 2016, Mr Barton-Smith performed a robotic-assisted laparoscopy on Antonia. The anticipated 6mm nodule of DIE turned out to be a ‘huge lump’ which was approximately 6cm in diameter. Antonia added: “I remember lying there in recovery when Peter came in to see how I was doing. He told me that he hadn’t found any ovarian tissue but that had found a ‘massive piece’ of endometriosis. The day after my surgery he explained that, in order for the nodule to have grown to that size, it would have been there for decades – and that it must have been missed time and time again. He said that he had no doubt that this was the cause of all my pain and he was right. The first time I emptied my bladder post-op, I burst into tears. For the first time in over 20 years, there was no pain.”

It’s now been two and a half years since Antonia’s surgery with Mr Barton-Smith. She is living pain free and no longer has any endometriosis symptoms. What’s more, she is no longer consuming copious amounts of pain medication. She concludes: “I firmly believe that having surgery with Peter has changed my life and I was extremely lucky to be able to afford to go private. I am now, finally, living my life and I am having a blast. It’s important to remember that even when you’re at your lowest, there is always hope and that there are doctors out there who do listen and who do help. Just look at me. I am a ‘poster girl’ for successful excision!”

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