Bendigo-born elite Victorian Institute of Sport swimmer Sian Whittaker can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After years of setbacks she is now on the path back to elite swimming after a recent endometriosis diagnosis.
Since her teenage years the swimmer experienced relentless pain during menstrual cycles, but recently it started to get even worse.
"Around two years ago it started to turn south and I was experiencing more than just pain," Whittaker said.
"There were stomach symptoms, food intolerances and fatigue, in addition to the pain which unfortunately pushed me out of the pool.
"The hardest part of it all was not understanding what was going on with my body."
Enough was enough for Whittaker.
The dedicated athlete wanted nothing more but to get to the bottom of her mysterious health symptoms so she could get back to doing what she loves most, swimming.
It is currently endometriosis month (EndoMarch), a global campaign to raise awareness on the disease.
Endometriosis involves tissue lining the womb growing outside of it on other parts of the body which brings upon symptoms such as intensified period pain and debilitating cramps that affects one in 10 women worldwide.
After Whittaker visited medical specialists it was determined the best course of action would be to undertake exploratory surgery to find the underlying issue.
"It was discovered I had stage two endometriosis and I was quite lucky that my fantastic surgeon was able it cut it all out and now I am on the path to recovery," Whittaker said.
"After the surgery I was balling my eyes out as I was so relieved as what had caused me so much grief for so long had been dealt with and now it's matter of seeing how the symptoms are during my next few menstrual cycles."
The one thing that didn't change in the years before the diagnosis was Whittaker's passion and dedication for swimming.
Post-surgery, there's now a clearer path on her return to elite training and competitions.
"I had to stop full training in July 2019 which was really hard, but the best thing is my love for the sport is still stronger than ever," Whittaker said.
"After coming out the other side I hopped back into the water for a light training session last week and now that I've been diagnosed I have a plan to move forward.
During her journey the VIS has thrown its full support behind Whittaker.
"When I wasn't able to swim the VIS helped me so much to continue working with them and building my life around other things apart from swimming," she said.
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