Tansyn Dennett estimates that endometriosis has cost her a dozen jobs over the years, not to mention the agony the condition causes her.
Endometriosis, which affects one in 10 women, occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing inflammation, pain and in some cases infertility.
Some days the period pain is so great she cannot get out of bed and her husband must come home from work to carry her to the bathroom. It also affects her immune system.
But because endometriosis is an invisible disease, it is often misunderstood.
Ms Dennett began suffering symptoms in high school but was not diagnosed until she was 25, a common story among sufferers with diagnosis taking an average of eight to nine years.
“I’ve lost jobs in the past for having too many sick days,” Ms Dennett said.
While she thought female co-workers would support her, often it was not the case.
“Women are the worst because if they don’t understand they dismiss it as ‘just a period’, when the reality is far different,” she said.
“And you don’t discuss your period with men full stop, which makes endometriosis a hidden disease that few people understand.”
That lack of understanding led to Ms Dennett developing depression and anxiety.
But in her current job as project administrator at Nicholson Construction, Ms Dennett has found the support and understanding that has been missing in other workplaces.
She made her managers aware of her condition in her first job interview and they have supported her ever since.
“I really struggle to put it in to words because for the first time in my life I have that support. Just to know someone has got my back, someone finally understands it’s not in my head and not made up. If I’m sick, I’m sick … whereas in the past I’ve taken myself to work and been a mess.”
Ms Dennett’s employers and co-workers are hosting an afternoon tea and wearing yellow on Friday as part of Worldwide EndoMarch, a campaign to raise money and awareness of endometriosis around the world.
“There’s no cure, but we can try to cure ignorance – that’s my war cry,” Ms Dennett said.
Ms Dennett has also helped establish a local support group Ballarat Endo Sisters on Facebook for local women suffering endometriosis.