I’m a smart girl. Don’t tell me I’m making this up.

Surgery was the best decision I could have made. Despite the initial pains of waking up from surgery, I felt better. I knew my body was different and said right away, “Dr. Seckin just gave me my life back.” I described it as an elephant being lifted off of my pelvis, as a towel being removed from around my organs.

I cannot count the number of times those words flew from my mouth. Inevitably, by the time I uttered this final cry for help, it fell on the doctor’s deaf ears.

I knew something was wrong with my body in 2009. I had started taking birth control because I went to an all women’s college and that’s “what girls your age should do.” I quickly realized that my body wasn’t reacting well to the hormones and quit after only a few months. What followed ruined the past five years of my life: I became a slave to my body. My mind became cloudy and my body dissolved into less of a tool and more of a burden. Something was terribly wrong.

I was twenty years old and scared. I grew up in a medical family (my dad is a physician and my mom is a periodontist) so after months of feeling abnormal, I called my GP and told him something was wrong. I was getting constant UTIs and felt heavy all the time. I had gained twenty pounds on the birth control and my body wasn’t the same, inside and out. His response? “It happens to girls your age.” I was shocked. Stunned. Surprised at his refusal to acknowledge my symptoms.

On the phone, my doctor half-jokingly told me the cure was to stop having sex. It was the ultimate in slut-shaming: a middle aged Alabama man telling a young woman in college in New York City that her body would be completely fine if she would just go back home and live a proper life. In addition to lifelong celibacy, he advised I try an over the counter cranberry supplement. Cranberry took the edge off, but I still ended up teary-eyed and in the hospital because of the pain.

Defeated but still worried, I saw another doctor. She listened to my story and sent me for a pelvic ultrasound. Everything came back normal.

Since I was about to take a long solo-journey through rural parts of the Middle East and Asia, she agreed to treat the symptoms. Per her instructions, I took one antibiotic daily for six months. It helped me feel human, but something was still wrong.

When I reached Bali in late 2011, a funny thing happened: I made an appointment with a medicine man. He “sensed” the disease and knifed my back, kidney, and pelvis with a special blunt-tipped knife. This knife, known as a kris, was used to both sense the sick areas and “kill the demon inside.” Odd as it may sound, I felt better – the best I had in years. Maybe, just maybe, I was relieved that someone finally acknowledged my pain.

When I returned to the states in 2012, I went back to my New York doctor. Right around the time she agreed that something might be wrong, she left and referred me to another doctor in the practice for a diagnostic laparoscopy. When I called to confirm, his nurse told me I was scheduled for a hysterectomy.

I gave up.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that I was reminded of my body’s difficulties. While I was intimately sharing my life with someone for the first time, I was reminded that I shouldn’t have to be in this much pain. Early on he encouraged me to get healthy and promised he would be by my side along the way.

As 2013 progressed, my periods were getting worse. By October, I was escaping the office for the comforts of my home so I could cry the pain away. I wrote down once, “my body is taking a meat grinder to my insides.” Through research, the process of elimination, and internet stories from young women suffering around the world, I was fairly certain I had endometriosis. But without a solid New York medical team, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted a doctor to believe me.

I trusted Dr. Seckin the second I met him. He went to the same medical school in Turkey as my father and his daughter is attending my alma mater. He knew the disease and generally only received patients seeking a final chance. On my first visit, he asked why I chose to see him and, fighting back tears, I told him my story and asked him to be my medical quarterback. I asked him to fight for me and help me feel better. Most importantly, I asked him to believe me.

He was the first doctor to send me for a MRI. He was the second doctor to tell me I needed laparoscopic surgery. He was the only doctor I trusted. Why? He. Believed. Me.

When surgery day arrived, I was scared of the unknown. Horrified by the thought of anesthesia, carbon dioxide, and everything else, I gave up and trusted my surgical team. It was the best decision I could have made. Despite the initial pains of waking up from surgery, I felt better. I knew my body was different and said right away, “Dr. Seckin just gave me my life back.” I described it as an elephant being lifted off of my pelvis, as a towel being removed from around my organs.

When Dr. Seckin went out to the waiting room to tell my boyfriend about the surgery, one of the first things he said was, “she knows her body really well…and she was right.” It was endometriosis. There was something inside of me that was building and causing me pain and making me hate my body. Luckily, it was gone.

It’s now a week later and I feel better than I did before surgery. My life is better than ever and I owe it all to the fact that Dr. Seckin believed me. He knew I wasn’t making it up.