Kate Robertson experienced crippling pain and bleeding in between menstrual cycles for two years before she was diagnosed with endometriosis.
According to the Auckland teenager, doctors repeatedly blamed her pain on a "bad period" before she was diagnosed with the condition and underwent surgery last October.
Endometriosis is a disorder whereby the tissue which should line the inside of the uterus forms outside of it. It often requires surgical treatment to remove the excess tissue.
"After the surgery, I woke up and was told I have stage two endometriosis, located on my uterus, bladder, and liver. It took me about two weeks to stand up properly and I'm still getting used to being out all day. The pain simmered down for a month and then came back again and stayed the same.
"There's no real treatment, however. They removed any existing endometriosis but there's no way of saying whether the pain will get better or worse," explains Robertson, who hopes to raise awareness of the condition by sharing her story.
"I feel like my whole life has been set back. My career has been put on hold. There are no words to describe how much of a dent it puts on everything."
Robertson started experiencing painful and heavy periods when she was 16 but she didn't think too much of it at the time, telling herself that every girl suffers with bad periods now and then.
When she began experience chronic pain and bleeding, her father took her to hospital. But when scans revealed nothing, Robertson says she was sent home without answers.
The symptoms disappeared for a year, but by mid-2017 the pain returned again.
Last year, Robertson moved in with her boyfriend and was lying in bed one night when she began bleeding, despite not being due her period.
She doubled over in pain and was rushed to the hospital, only to be told it was a bad period and sent home. The pain returned and Kate called an ambulance the following day, but paramedics couldn't advise her as they didn't know what was wrong.
"Yet again I was sent home from the hospital with the recommendation of changing my pill, but I was in pain for days," recalls Robertson.
"I felt like no one understood. The people who you're meant to trust the most with your health are doctors. You'd think that they would do anything to get to the bottom of what was wrong with an 18-year-old girl in chronic pain."
The constant pain meant Robertson lost her job because she couldn't be on her feet all day.
"When I got that job, I thought it was the beginning of something new. I don't blame them for getting rid of me, to be honest. I couldn't even get up in the morning and have breakfast without bending over in pain, let alone be working all day."
Further scans and blood tests didn't reveal anything, so Robertson was sent for a smear test, where her GP suggested she could have endometriosis.
Now, she hopes to educate more women about endometriosis after professionals repeatedly minimalised the pain she was going through.
"After leaving my appointment at my GP, I burst into tears. How could the doctors at the hospital not have picked this up when I first went there? How could they have looked past it so easily? I had so many questions."
Following her surgery, Robertson is still coming to terms with her condition and hopes to educate more people about it.
"Endometriosis is a real illness. When a woman suffers from it, her whole life changes."