Many of you know Holly and Susannah as the face of the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis Interdisciplinary Program. For years, they’ve been essential to helping our patients improve their quality of life, function, and well-being. Now, Holly and Susannah are pursuing new opportunities outside of the Centre and will be with us on a more casual basis. Recently, we had the chance to ask these two a few questions about their work.
What made you want to work with people with endometriosis?
Susannah: I’ve been working in Women’s Health for over 15 years. Pelvic pain and endometriosis is often under-recognized and can lead to symptoms that significantly affect function and quality of life for years – I wanted to be involved to help try to change this cycle.
Holly: I’ve always had an interest in women’s health! Before working here, I my counselling practice focused on women’s reproductive and sexual concerns, and so working in the area of chronic pelvic pain and endometriosis was a natural fit for me.
What have you liked the most about your work at the Centre?
H: Aside from working with our amazing interdisciplinary team, I love hearing patients’ stories after accessing treatment and after practicing our pain strategies. Every day I get to witness changes in not just their pain, but in their quality of life, especially their mood, stress levels, relationships, sexual function, and work or school life.
S: It’s very rewarding to give patients the knowledge and tools to make significant changes to their pain, function and quality of life. One of my favourite areas to work in is sexual pain; it is fantastic to help patients improve this.
What part of your work are you most proud of?
S: I’m proud of being a part of the team that developed this interdisciplinary program. I’m also proud that we take time for our treatment sessions and give time for patients to share their experience with us and time for us to listen. Our patients are the most important part of the team, and I believe we foster patient-centred care.
H: Me too! I’m proud that we have a holistic focus on the whole person, rather than solely on the patient’s uterus.
What’s next for you?
S: I’ll continue work in the area of pelvic pain and sexual pain. I want to also develop my practice with teens with bladder and bowel problems, vaginal and pelvic pain and endometriosis. I believe early intervention is necessary to prevent chronic problems.
H: I plan to continue to provide therapy for the treatment of chronic pelvic pain, and to provide support for other reproductive health related concerns such as infertility, pregnancy/postpartum, PMS/PMDD.
Another goal I have is to focus more on concerns related to sexual health and sexual function.
And finally: What do you find are the biggest challenges your clients face and how should we tackle these?
H: Most of the patients I see in the clinic express how difficult it is to find support. Even though pelvic pain affects about 20% of women, many people still don’t fully understand it or how it affects quality of life and function. We need to continue to work hard at getting information out to the larger community on how to support someone with pelvic pain and/or endometriosis.
S: One of the most frustrating things for our patients is not knowing how or why they have pain, or why pain gets worse at times. Understanding pain and its triggers is very powerful and allows patients to start changing their pain! Pain education is key for success.
Pain and tension often go hand in hand. Practicing techniques that help unwind tension are important, starting with ways to calm the nervous system, such as mindfulness-based strategies. Finding ways to move with less tension, guarding and protection is also important. The more we tighten up and protect, often the more pain we will have. Specific hip/back stretches and pelvic floor relaxation exercises can also be helpful. Working with a pelvic health physio can help guide which exercises would be best for each individual. One size does not fit all!