Novelist Hilary Mantel Discusses Her Endometriosis

Isn’t it great when a well known person comes forward and talks about a taboo medical condition? – This is exactly what happened with the much loved novelist, Hilary Mantel, who wrote a highly informative piece for the Guardian, entitled: “Every Part of My Body Hurt.” In her brutally honest and straight forward account, Mantel, who had suffered countless years of unrelenting pain and fatigue, finally got a diagnosis. – This was the poorly understood condition, named endometriosis [1].

Mantel describes her fragility at age 11, when she was beleaguered by her first period, and the reality of her “low-pain threshold”. She recalls: “my period pains eased. But soon nausea, vomiting, fatigue and aching legs took me to the doctor… I was offered tranquillisers and anti-depressants, and the opportunity of a career as a psychiatric patient, which in the end I found the strength to decline” [1].

Moving on to her 20s, she showed no improvement; and as things became even worse, Mantel was desperate for a diagnosis. – However, all the medics she consulted wrote her off when they looked through her medical notes. She goes on: her periods were agony when she came off the contraceptive pill, and her pain seemed to be emanating from all over her body. At age 17, when she was: “bleeding continuously and hardly able to stand upright,” her condition was given a name, but…

“It was named on the operating table, and to make me viable I had to lose part of my bladder and my bowel, my womb and my ovaries. I woke up to a strange future – childlessness, a premature menopause, and a marriage, already tottering, that would soon fall apart” [1]

The Importance of Getting a Correct Diagnosis

These days, no one should ever have to go through what Hilary Mantel did. However, getting an accurate diagnosis with your GP is not guaranteed. Indeed, it is not straightforward, and as Mantel herself states: “It is a peculiarity of endometriosis that the pain suffered isn’t necessarily related to the visible extent of the disease. Many women are only diagnosed when they have difficulty conceiving. Early diagnosis is crucial. It must be treated and managed before permanent damage is done” [1]. To that end, seeing an Endometriosis Pain Specialist who has many years of experience within the field is the best course of action. – Action which should be taken right away…


[1]. Mantel, H. (2004). “Every part of my body hurt.” The Guardian.