When Chloe Christos was 14 years old, she started her period. But instead of lasting for a few days, or even weeks, her period continued for five long years.
Rather than going to her doctor about it, Christos decided she would just put up with it.
But it soon got to the point where she was severely anaemic and could barely get up to go to school.
Christos, who was later diagnosed with Von Willebrand disease (VWD), has since spoken out about her ordeal to encourage other women to seek help if they think something is wrong with their bodies.
Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is a condition that can cause extended or excessive bleeding. It is caused by deficiency in or impairment of a protein called von Willebrand factor, which is an important component in the blood-clotting process.
Generally, it takes longer for people with the disease to form clots and stop bleeding when they’re cut. In Christos’ case, this meant endless periods.
“I knew it wasn’t quite right, but I was also embarrassed to talk about it. I felt very different and pretty alone,” Christos, 27, who is from Perth, told ABC News.
When she was 19, she had to have weekly iron infusions to help her get through school, however her iron levels remained severely low.
On average, women lose between 20ml and 60ml of blood throughout the course of their period. But in the space of four days, Christos would lose more than 500ml of blood.
After undergoing tests, she was diagnosed with VWD. However this was by no means the end of her struggles.
Christos said many people, even medical experts, didn’t realise what it meant for women to suffer from a bleeding disorder.
She was given a synthetic drug which helped release factor levels in her body, but it also caused adverse effects.
She was also given the option of a hysterectomy, however she declined as the idea of being in her mid-twenties and going through the menopause “terrified” her.
Christos, a stylist and art director, travelled a lot due to her work but ended up being hospitalised a lot of the time due to her condition.
She soon decided to settle in Perth and, after visiting a few local medical centres, she ended up finding one which changed her life.
At the Adelaide-based clinic, Christos was given a blood product mainly used by male haemophiliacs.
“I remember the first day I used the blood product. I was surrounded by friends who have supported me so much through this journey at the treatment centre in Perth. I had not felt that good in years,” she said.
Christos now has a normal period, which lasts between four and five days.
She said she feels “truly lucky” to have found something that helps her feel better, after so many years of pain and struggling.
The 27-year-old has shared her story to raise awareness of bleeding disorders in women and encourages to seek a proper diagnosis and the treatment they deserve.
She is now campaigning to improve quality of care and access to treatment for women with bleeding disorders and is raising money to attend the World Federation of Haemophilia, World Congress in July.
To donate to her cause, visit her GoFundMe page.