Be Your Own Advocate: One Woman’s Inspiring Story of Medical Misdiagnosis, Infertility, and Learning To Love Her Body

It’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a medical professional when something just doesn’t seem right about your body. When things are “off,” it’s not usually a good idea to tough it out and hope everything is okay. This is where the old adage, “better safe than sorry” comes into play.

Best case scenario, you describe your symptoms, they give a diagnosis and some tips or medicine, and in a few days, you’re feeling better. 

Unfortunately, things aren’t always this straightforward. 

Illyssa Herrington was in her early twenties when she began to experience chronic abdominal pain. This was accompanied with inexplicable rashes, joint pain, and extreme food sensitivities. 

Illyssa visited her doctor, and although unsure at first what could be causing her array of symptoms, after months of testing, she was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that commonly causes abdominal pain and food sensitivities. Seems like the perfect match, right? 

Illyssa was given intense steroid medications that repress and control her immune flare-ups. Although this treatment subdued her symptoms, it didn’t entirely alleviate her pain. 

A few years later, Illyssa’s immune reactions returned in full force, despite the medication she was taking. She was put on an all liquid diet for several months in an attempt to control her reactions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. 

Illyssa began to look for other opinions. She visited another doctor who, after some testing, determined that Illyssa had been misdiagnosed. She did NOT, in fact, have Crohn’s Disease. Unfortunately, this doctor wasn’t sure what was causing all of her abdominal issues. 

The next few years were difficult. Illyssa still did not have a diagnosis, but her symptoms were getting worse. No one seemed to know what was wrong. 

In a last ditch effort to find some resolution to years of pain and unknown medical issues, Illyssa reached out to her OBGYN, who would be performing a minor procedure to remove some endometriosis (endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus). 

Illyssa asked if, while doing the procedure, her doctor would check for any other abnormalities that could be causing her chronic pain. 

While performing the procedure, Illyssa’s OBGYN discovered adhesions on her appendix.  Illyssa had Chronic Appendicitis, a condition that causes the appendix to leak fluid over time, rather than suddenly bursting. Shortly after, Illyssa had her appendix removed. 

It wasn’t long after this surgery that Illyssa and her husband began to talk about starting a family. Due to Illyssa’s extreme health concerns, they had postponed having a baby until they were able to find some resolution for the pain. This seemed like the perfect time to start trying. 

The only problem was, Illyssa didn’t get pregnant. As it turns out, years of hormonal birth control combined with the intense steroid medication she had been on had impacted her ability to naturally conceive. 

In her typical style, Illyssa did not give up. She and her husband are now looking into alternative methods for growing their family. 

Through it all, Illyssa has remained a positive light for the community and advocate for herself. She has learned the importance of speaking up for yourself, trusting your body, and loving who you are right now. 

This journey led her to start a personal styling business, through which she helps women connect with their true selves, process their own body image insecurities, and create wardrobes that help them feel confident in their own beautiful skin. 

Medical misdiagnosis is a serious issue and incredible burden for those involved. If you suspect you may have been misdiagnosed, or the doctor you’re seeing simply doesn’t know what is wrong, take a page from Illyssa’s book and become your own advocate. 

Do your research and seek other medical opinions. Trust yourself. No one knows your body like you do! 

To hear more of Illyssa’s inspiring story, check out my latest podcast episode.

Jessica MilanesComment