Former FOX21 Anchor Nikki Davidson Shares Difficult Medical Journey That Led To Endometriosis Diagnosis

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and former FOX21 evening anchor Nikki Davidson is sharing the story of her health journey that led to her diagnosis for the condition that affects 1 in 10 women.

She’s also shining a light on the signs women should look out for, and why it’s important to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office.

Back in 2019, Nikki moved away from Duluth when her husband in the Coast Guard was transferred to another state.

She says her journey with endometriosis may have begun as long as eight to ten years ago when her menstrual cramps starting feeling more painful than normal.

Then about four years ago, the pain became more intense, more often.

“I would just get severe stomach cramps to the point where I thought I was poisoned,” Nikki said “I thought something was seriously wrong.”

One day while at work at FOX21, Nikki rushed to urgent care as the unbearable pain came on suddenly. Nikki At Fox

“It was the kind of pain that like can’t talk, can’t think of anything else, it’s just like I must be dying like that kind of thing,” she said.

After urgent care sent her to the ER, doctors there and in her follow-up appointments suspected she had endometriosis.

“The statistic is it takes an average of seven years for a woman to be diagnosed with this, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so lucky I just went to the ER and they figured it out right away,” she recalled.

To learn more about endometriosis, we talked to Dr. Michael Kassing, who works in Essentia Health’s OB-GYN department, but was not involved in Nikki’s diagnosis.

“Endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus, the part of the uterus that the woman would shed every month with a menstrual cycle actually implants and can be outside of the uterus in the lady’s pelvis,” Dr. Kassing explained. “The most common symptoms are kind of a nondescript pelvic pain, a pain with menstruation, pain with intercourse, and pain with bowel movements.”

Nikki had her possible diagnosis in Duluth, and shortly after moved to Louisiana with her husband who is in the Coast Guard.

“So I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to get to a doctor in Louisiana and we’ll be able to take care of this,’ but unfortunately that’s not what happened,” she said.

She visited with her new primary care doctor who didn’t believe she might have endometriosis.

Nikki says she then went through an OB-GYN visit, an exam with a urologist, a colonoscopy, three ultrasounds, and another OB-GYN visit.

“She was doubtful of the endometriosis,” Nikki said of her doctor during that time. “She was sure that I had pelvic inflammatory disease…and she ran the panels, but before those even came back gave me antibiotics, and told me to take them. And then the panels came back negative, so I was taking antibiotics that I didn’t need.”

Nikki And HusbandAfter all that, Nikki’s husband was transferred to Oregon, where her health journey continued.

“I had to go back to the beginning, back to a general care practitioner,” she said. “That doctor told me that I needed to go to therapy and that a lot of these things that I was experiencing were normal and kind of suggested that I not go to a gynecologist…but I insisted on it. By this point I had started studying things quite a bit because my symptoms were really out of control. I went from thinking I would never need a surgery to begging for a surgery.”

Dr. Michael Kassing, who again, was not involved in Nikki’s particular case, says diagnosing endometriosis can be more invasive than pinpointing other conditions.

“The definitive diagnosis for endometriosis is with surgery and essentially putting a camera in the abdomen, looking in the pelvis, and then doing a biopsy,” Dr. Kassing said. “Endometriosis is not always a straightforward diagnosis, oftentimes women will have other things going on that really require digging in deeper, sometimes with an ultrasound, sometimes with trial medication, but always always with a good history, meaning sitting down and talking with the patient, listening to her, asking her the questions about the symptoms we discussed, and then doing a physical exam.”

After more research and finding other women in a Facebook group with similar symptoms, Nikki learned about excision surgery, which involves removing tissue from the body.

“So I went to this doctor thinking she’d be able to help me out with that, and I brought it up, and she didn’t even know what the treatment options were,” she said.

Nikki asked for a referral to a specialist, and that’s when the situation started looking up.

“It was just completely different,” Nikki said. “She asked me so many questions and just really listened and even to get that appointment I had to fill out a ten-page pain worksheet to explain exactly what I was feeling.”

One year ago, Nikki finally had a diagnostic surgery and learned that she had stage three endometriosis.

A cyst had ruptured and left her with scar tissue.

“The surgery happened, woke up, they’re wheeling me through the hallway and my husband Patrick was right there, and the first thing I said was, ‘Did they find anything?’ and he said, ‘Yes, the doctor found a lot of endometriosis, she took it out, and she thinks you’re going to be feeling so much better,’ and I just burst into tears,” Nikki said. “It was just like one of those moments where, I don’t know, it was just so good to know that I wasn’t crazy and that I now had a chance of feeling better.”Nikki Hospital 6

Her message now: never give up advocating for yourself and pushing for answers, especially when it comes to your health.

“Knowing how much pain I was in, and how desperate I was for relief, to just be in that situation and not have any type of help in sight, that could just destroy a person,” Nikki emphasized.

Dr. Kassing echoed the sentiment of searching for a health care professional who listens in detail to a patient’s symptoms and experiences.

“I think the most important thing for patients to know is to really know what is normal for them and to find a provider that they are comfortable talking to and they can go to and say, ‘I’m having these symptoms, and this is what’s going on and this is bothering me,” he said.

Nikki says her hope with this message is that more doctors will learn about endometriosis in detail, and consider it as a possible condition a patient may be suffering from when their symptoms align with it.

“I think a lot of people understand that doctors can’t know everything, but it’s important for them to be able to accept that they don’t know everything and to know where they should send the patients that are looking for help,” she said.

One year after surgery, Nikki is now living with her husband in California and says her quality of life has improved significantly.

While there’s no cure for endometriosis, Nikki manages her symptoms with a healthy diet, fitness routine, medication, and physical therapy.

Nikki Running 2She says she still has bad days, but now lives with less pain than before the surgery and has been able to go back to doing the hobbies she loves.

Nikki even set a new half-marathon personal record.

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