SINCE she was 14, Kimberley Cheal has dealt with excruciating pain on a regular basis.
The recently registered Rockhampton nurse, now 21, has endometriosis - an incurable condition in which the cells that make up the lining of the uterus (endometrium) are found in places outside the uterus.
For Kim, battling her condition has also meant battling the public's lack of understanding.
"Breast and prostate cancer are so widely talked about, but there is hardly any awareness for endometriosis," Kim said yesterday.
She said there were a lot of misconceptions about the condition.
"When you first get the symptoms you get told it's just bad period pain," she said.
"You end up seeing so many doctors, but you know the pain isn't normal."
Kim said it took an average of eight years for women with the disease to be diagnosed and by then scarring could often mean infertility.
Kim, who has had five laparoscopies, said she was glad she had been so persistent, having now been "pain-free" for three years.
But it was a difficult journey.
In her senior year, Kim was on a hormone treatment that caused her to have hot flushes and mood swings, often right in the middle of the classroom.
"I thought, how can I get my schoolmates to understand?
"Then I did some Googling and found the Queensland Endometriosis Association and I've been with them ever since."
Kim is now the Central Queensland representative for the association.
Engaged and planning a family with her partner, Kim's passion is spreading awareness of endometriosis, especially among teens.
"The best thing is early detection and treatment," she said.
"I want to get it out there so that when I say endometriosis, people have actually heard of it."
GET IN THE KNOW
- For more information, phone Kim on 0420 976 482.