Lewis, 27, who has won 33 Wales caps, had always suffered and lived with severe period pains and illness as a professional and elite athlete.
Only the diligence and advice of Wales Women’s rugby team medic, Jo Perkins, who is an expert in female health in Elite sport, spotted the symptons and arranged for a medical assessment.
Lewis was told if she had not undergone surgery her chances of having a baby were very slim.
She is now hoping to raise awareness of the gynecological condition after being overwhelmed by the support she had after posting about her personal situation on social media.
One in 10 women can be affected by the condition and fellow professional sportswomen, England Lioness captain, Leah Williamson, Bristol rugby player Daisie Mayes and Welsh Olympic champion cyclist, Elinor Barker, have all opened up on their personal battle with the condition.
Endometriosis is a medical condition that can result in pain, heavy periods and fatigue and if not diagnosed and treated can lead to infertility. While up to 70 percent of those with endometriosis may get pregnant naturally, endometriosis is believed to be the leading cause of infertility in women in the UK.
Lewis, said: “As a professional athlete I know how lucky I am to have the best treatment and the support from the Welsh Rugby Union after undergoing surgery after my recent Endometriosis diagnosis.
“The response from women of all ages and from all walks of life was truly overwhelming. To know so many women suffer the same severe symptoms I had demonstrates we need greater awareness and understanding to tackle the condition.
“Like so many women, I had suffered for so long without fully understanding what my body was telling me. It’s only after hearing so many different stories from so many women that I realised this is something so many of us have lived with.
“Personally, I just used to plough on even though I was in severe pain, believing I just had to live with it. Knowing so many women do the same and don’t complain was a shock. Greater awareness and understanding by everyone can only be a benefit to all of us.
“As an elite athlete, I am very aware how lucky I am. So many women are not as fortunate and the need for this condition to be treated as soon as possible and for education must be a priority.
“It would allow so many women to lead normal and healthy lives and have a better quality of life and end the heartache of discovering too late they cannot have a family due to this condition.”
Jo Perkins, Wales Women’s senior squad physiotherapist, said: “Ffion’s condition and mental toughness in dealing with Endometriosis is something too many women will recognize. We all know of women who have suffered in silence who believe extreme symptoms are “normal” so its vital we understand the condition and how it may present in sportswomen”.
“Endometriosis can have varying degrees of severity and symptoms and it does impact every woman in a very individual way.
“The WRU is working with our partners Vodafone to use cutting-edge technology with the PLAYER.Connect App to monitor and track the menstrual cycle to aid players performance, wellbeing and recovery. It has given us a greater insight into our athletes’ performances and how to manage and support them as people.
“We have encouraged all coaches, staff and players to talk and communicate around their health and wellbeing and would encourage everyone to do the same in whatever walk of life.”
Ioan Cunningham, Wales Women’s Head coach, said: “All of us need to have greater awareness and understanding around Women’s health and Endometriosis.
“Men, in particular, should be comfortable being open and discussing women’s health.
“Encouraging our players to talk and discuss how they are feeling is very much part of our approach as a coaching team and it has helped with understanding where are players are and improved our performance as a team.”
Emma Cox, chief executive of the charity Endometriosis said: “Having high-profile individuals such as Ffion speak about their experiences with endometriosis is very powerful, given this disease is so often ignored and misunderstood. Ffion is right to highlight that endometriosis is ‘more than just a painful period’, it is a potentially severe and life-impacting disease, and those with symptoms deserve to be listened to and get the support they need.
“Everyone at Endometriosis UK would like to thank Ffion for being so brave and honest, and using her platform to increase awareness of endometriosis and breaking the taboo around menstrual health. There is no reason why society shouldn’t be as comfortable discussing menstrual health issues as we are any other aspect of health, and as Ffion has highlighted, endometriosis can significantly impact mental as well as wider physical health.”
The WRU is working with partners WUKA and Vodafone to provide support to the Wales Women’s squad to aid performance as elite athletes and has published a Women’s Health Policy that offers staff, including contracted players paid time off to help manage period symptoms, among other benefits. It is intended to broaden this policy and resources to all staff, volunteers and to all community clubs in Wales.
The Women’s Health Policy is designed to empower all women around any health issues and will offer advice and support to improve the quality of life. The WRU is committed to encouraging greater awareness and to end the culture of ‘suffering in silence’.
For women who are looking for more information and support please click on the Endometriosis UK’s link https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/ and in particular the support page https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/get-support .
The Endometriosis UK offers services run by trained volunteers across the UK who have lived experience of endometriosis and its support services provide a safe and welcoming space for people to connect, access information and support, and share knowledge and experiences