NCIS:Los Angeles actress Kym Jackson will never forget the moment she first heard the word endometriosis.
It was June 2017, and Jackson, then 35, decided to be proactive about family planning and begin the process of egg retrieval and egg freezing at a fertility clinic in her native Sydney, Australia.
"I went in for my transvaginal ultrasound," she recalls. As she and a sonographer visualized an ovary, Jackson spotted a weird shadow. "I said, 'Is that a big follicle?' And she said, "No, no, no. That's your endometriosis." And I was like, "My what now?"
Jackson was even more shocked to learn she had the cysts in both ovaries, but the clinic persuaded her to continue with egg-retrieval, anyway, rather than pursue an official diagnosis and treatment with an endometriosis specialist.
It was a surreal moment. Until that point, Jackson says she lived a largely asymptomatic life while endometriosis silently invaded her reproductive system. Save for a nasty endo flare-up that landed her in an Urgent Care, periods were a "two-Advil-job."
"I was like, well, I'll just freeze as many eggs as I can and try to do what I can to shrink the cysts."
She went on a two-weeklong stretch of hormones to stimulate her ovaries. Egg retrieval was successful, and she continued with life, hopping on a plane bound for America to film new biopic, Wish Man. To reign in period pain and pelvic pain stemming from the cysts, she adapted an endo-friendly diet that eliminated dairy and gluten. With her endo pains diminished, she shrugged off going to an OB-GYN for a follow-up.
In February 2018, during a second visit to the clinic to freeze more eggs, Jackson learned that the scary cysts she saw in her ovaries had doubled in size—likely due to the hormone stimulation she underwent during the first round.
Still, her fertility specialists proceeded with the retrieval, telling her: "Our priority is to preserve your fertility and get those eggs," recalls Jackson. "But we're going to be avoiding the cysts as much as we can." That plan failed, when, during the egg retrieval they accidentally punctured the cyst. Afterward, the specialist encouraged her to find an endometriosis specialist.
Jackson, 36, says she immediately began Googling around and found NYC-based endometriosis excision specialist Dr. Tamer Seckin.
"I literally think I just Googled, 'best endometriosis surgeon.' I think Dr. Seckin's name was one of the first ones that came up. I had gone to so many blogs and so many articles about endometriosis, and Dr. Seckin's name just kept being referenced by everyone." She quickly made a March appointment with Seckin, and despite her fears of having surgery, says she felt a sense of calm in his care.
"He put me at ease immediately. But at the same time, made it very, very clear the severity of the issue." Her April endometriosis excision surgery lasted six hours as Seckin worked to excise her bilateral endometriomas and multiple endometriosis lesions throughout her bladder and bowel. Despite the lengthy procedure, the actress says her recovery has been surprisingly pain-free.
Post-op, "I didn't take any narcotics. All I took was Motrin."
And after a three-day hospital stay, she was back on her feet, exploring New York City with her beau, Aussie actor Andrew Steel.
"The minute we got out of Lenox Hill Hospital, we dropped our stuff off at home and went straight to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. I think we were at the festival walking around for about an hour and a half, and then we had lunch there, and then we went home and watched the last two episodes of Breaking Bad. And then the next day, we actually went to see School of Rock [The Musical] in Times Square."
Two weeks later, Jackson says she's back in her midriff-bearing tops ("There are barely any marks at all!" she shares) and says her boundless energy continues.
"I walked the dog for about an hour yesterday. Already I feel like I have more energy than I had before the surgery."