Julianne Hough would love to just get up and dance. Alas, she still has a bit of recovering to do, from a condition that she says was much more serious than anyone previously thought.
The two-time Dancing With the Stars winner, who underwent surgery last week for appendicitis and complications from endometriosis, tells E! News that she hopes her experience sends a message to women who might be too nervous or embarrassed to seek help if they feel something might be wrong with them.
"I've always been honest, and to be honest, I think it can help other girls who ignore pain," Hough says. "You don't have to ignore pain."
Already, DWTS newcomer Lacey Schwimmer was motivated to get checked out for similar symptoms and ended up being diagnosed with endometriosis, which she is currently managing with medication.
Hough, as it turns out, suffered in silence for five years before enough became enough.
"I didn't want this whole drama with, like, the cameras filming you," Hough said when asked why she didn't seek medical treatment sooner this season. "I kept going through the show and I was just kind of quiet, and through the show it just kept getting worse and worse."
The 20-year-old Utah native finally decided that a hospital visit was in order on Oct. 21, when she hightailed it to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center following that night's live-performance show.
"Right after the show, I came back and just curled up in a ball and I was just sobbing," Hough recalls. "And there were cameras, and I'm like, 'I love you guys, but I did not break my foot. This is something personal. Do not film this.'"
Although at first she attributed the drama to "a bad stomach," even returning to dance the following week, the fan favorite ultimately revealed that she had been diagnosed with endometriosis, which arises when uterine-lining (endometrial) tissue grows outside the uterus.
Hough initially told her doctors that she wanted to hold off on surgery until this season of Dancing With the Stars was over.
"I wanted to be there for Cody [Linley, her partner]," she says. But the doctors said, "'You know, Julianne, we really recommend you do this now.' It's actually a really good thing I did."
Doctors ended up removing cysts from her left ovary, her bladder and other areas in the pelvic region, and also took out her appendix after diagnosing a mild case of appendicitis.
"I actually didn't know I had endometriosis, but I've had it for a while," Hough says, calling her condition "definitely genetic and hereditary." Her mother and sister have it too, she adds.
But now she would really like to just get back to doing what she does best.
"I want to be back this week, but it may be another week just because we don¹t want anything to rupture or the stitches to fly out," she tells E! In the meantime, fellow pro Edyta Sliwinska has stepped in to dance with Linley. And whether she's dancing or not by then, Hough has signed up to sing her current single, "My Hallelujah Song," on DWTS' Nov. 18 elimination show.
Speaking of hallelujahs, Hough says that boyfriend Chuck Wicks has been by her side throughout the whole ordeal.
"When somebody can take care of you, and really care to take care of you, instead of someone taking care of you because you have to, you can tell they're a keeper," she says.
(Originally published Nov. 4, 2008 at 4:52 p.m. PT.)