MasterChef Australia’s Grace Jupp On The Struggle To Get An Endometriosis Diagnosis — & What She Did Next
At 18 years old, I packed my bags, leaving my family home in QLD to pursue my dreams of studying film and television in Melbourne. I quickly found myself employed in specialty coffee cafés and was juggling full-time study, and hospitality management alongside a desire to travel the world. My ambition was never lacking. If anything, I found that the days lacked enough hours to facilitate all the wonderful plans I was setting out for my future.
It's funny how life has a way of demanding your attention. Just like any other day, I walked into work one day, only to collapse, be rushed to the hospital and be pumped with more medication than I had seen in my lifetime. The overnight stay turned into a laparoscopy, which confirmed burst ovarian cysts and very mild endometriosis. I now had many big life decisions to make regarding my ongoing health plans, but the hardest decisions were quitting my course and stepping back significantly with my work — ultimately letting go of my desires.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, causing physical and emotional changes. It leads to chronic pelvic pain, fertility challenges and hormonal imbalances, not to mention the impacts on mental wellbeing. We don't know what causes endometriosis, and each day is a coin toss as to whether the immense pain will be disruptive. But, even on a ‘good day’, fatigue, nausea and headaches often tend to linger. What’s most difficult about the condition for me is that each person's experience varies, meaning effective treatments are hard to come by.
Breaking the stigma right off the bat, I have always had bad menstrual periods. Each month would come around and I wondered why none of my peers disclosed to me their severe headaches, episodes of nausea and pain. I don’t doubt at all that my resilient attitude has been moulded by assuming that temporary (but, nonetheless, debilitating) pain was normal for women to frequently experience. After receiving my official endometriosis diagnosis in 2018, I somewhat sighed a breath of relief. A doctor had confirmed that what I was feeling wasn’t normal and started treating my disease. Unfortunately, the relief was temporary as within less than a year, I had exhausted most available treatments, all of which exacerbated my symptoms, landing me in the ER more nights than I care to remember.
I have always lived a life fuelled by hope but at no point have I felt more hopeless than confiding in the one person who had affirmed my disease. During a severe episode of pain, I met with my gynaecologist for help and their response was that I was overreacting to my pain (in this instance, an IUD which was being used to treat my endometriosis had forcibly expelled into my cervix — I promise, it’s very uncomfortable, even the third time around).
The doctor who had committed to helping me get my health back on track reiterated that my endometriosis was mild, and that I just needed to get better at remembering to take my paracetamol. In that moment, the same lie I had once believed returned. I felt the need to not burden those around me with my struggles and keep my sickness to myself because it was mild and not worth bothering over.
Fast forward a few years, and I have my answers. And whilst they come with no clear plan or pathway, they remove confusion from my life. The doctor diagnosed my endometriosis correctly, it has never been out of control, but what has always been severe is my adenomyosis — which was described to me as endo’s nasty cousin. Unlike endometriosis, it occurs within the uterus muscle, meaning the excision and ablation treatments available for endometriosis are impossible with adenomyosis.
Since receiving my second diagnosis, I have spent a lot of time horizontal, in bed, waiting out the pain. When I compare the goals I had a few years prior to this time, I am often disheartened at the opportunities I lost in the battle of treating my pain. During this time, I met my now husband, Tim, who has been the greatest support I could imagine. Whilst a lot of the support has been regarding my general health and our family, he was a big motivator for me pursuing a new and exciting opportunity. And somehow, I found myself entering those sacred doors to the MasterChef kitchen. It truly feels like the plot twist of my life!
I have had the incredible opportunity to participate in this season of MasterChef Australia, however, my journey came with a unique set of challenges due to my health battle, with both physical and emotional hurdles. MasterChef demands long hours on your feet, intense pressure, sharp focus and the ability to do all of this with the knowledge that people are watching. For me, this meant keeping a straight face whilst pushing through excruciating pain in many challenges. Often, what I found to be most difficult was the mental preparation for a creative cook, whilst factoring in how to deal with a potential flare-up.
Every dish I prepared has been infused with resilience and an unwavering desire to prove that my sickness does not rule over my ability to succeed.
Endometriosis and adenomyosis not only affect my physical health, but also take a toll on my mental and emotional wellbeing. The intense pressure of the competition, combined with the emotional challenges of managing my condition, definitely tested my resilience. There have been many moments of frustration and self-doubt, however, I kept reminding myself of why I applied in the first place.
I have been a victim of my disease for years, and with this has come countless misspent opportunities, many special moments traded in for a hospital bed and years of living with an oppressive thought that ‘I can’t do that because what if I get sick and have to quit?’. Submitting my application was a significant moment (not even imagining I would get a call back), where I took back the power to chase my own passions and no longer let my illness lead.
Alongside the commitment I made to myself to not let my condition rule me, I also drew strength from the support of fellow contestants and the judges, who continuously encouraged me to keep pushing forward. A highlight amongst the precarious balance of the force of my physical health and the intensity of the competition was having the support of my fellow contestant, Brent Draper. Brent knows the difficulties of combining health complications and the pressure of the competition better than anyone, and having him by my side as a friend, helping me pick myself up on hard days and reminding me of my purpose, was priceless.
Despite the pain, I refused to let it hinder my determination and passion for cooking and the competition. I would go so far as to say that every dish I prepared has been infused with resilience and an unwavering desire to prove that my sickness does not rule over my ability to succeed. I have spent too many years unaware of the truth behind my condition. Too many doubts littered my mind, and what’s worst, is the years I let the fear of pain rule my ambitions.
To the 1-in-9 women living with endometriosis in Australia, you are so strong. My hope is to inspire even just one other woman to fight against the ongoing cycle of being ruled by their condition. No, this won’t cure the pain — you almost certainly still experience migraines, cramps and nausea —but what’s not certain is how we choose to overcome it. I say we take back control and chase every goal.