Life with Fibroids … Again

by Teronda Seymore

FibroidsI heard my gynecologist’s words. I’m just not sure I understood them then.

“Wait a year before trying to get pregnant,” he said.

It was either before or after – I no longer remember – my laparascopic myomectomy, the robotic surgical procedure to remove fibroids and preserve fertility. I wasn’t even in a relationship so if my doctor thought my imaginary husband and I were eager to start a family because I was finally fibroid-free, he was wrong.

“I’ll wait, thank you,” I responded.

But in retrospect, my doctor’s statement was less of a suggestion to wait 365 days and more of a warning to launch “Project Procreate” on day 366 because a followup ultrasound revealed the regrowth of a tiny fibroid.

I wish the ultrasound could detect the root cause. There should be a list of potential culprits, like an allergy test, next to little checkboxes. Too much meat? Check. Caffeine? Check. Vodka? Check. Excess estrogen? Check.

Some medical studies inconclusively link fibroids to relaxers. (Say it ain’t so!) Other research points to genetics and hormones. This seems plausible considering at least four first cousins (on the same familial side) within my age group suffered from fibroids and all but one of us have been surgically treated (or retreated) within the past few years.

Up to 75 percent of women have uterine fibroids during their lifetime but many remain asymptomatic. They don’t know about the frequent bathroom visits or paralyzing lower back pain. Yet here I am nearly three years post-surgery with all-too-familiar signs: the tiny round abdomen but I’m really not pregnant and weight and muscle loss because at least one fibroid siphons all my available red blood cells and hemoglobin.

The latter was enough – a total loss of 12 pounds and a uterus the size of a twelve-week pregnancy – to send me to the operating room within a month the first time to remove at least six fibroids. But I convinced myself I had things under control this time, even with the headaches, excessive naps and the inability to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without taking a break. I also told myself it would take nearly another decade before I needed medical treatment again because that’s about how long it took for the first surgery.

One recent morning as I stood under a usual stream of hot water, I felt extremely weak, warm and slightly out-of-breath. Turning the water down to a cooler temperature didn’t help; neither did sitting on the edge of the tub. The lingering steam only exacerbated the problem. Surrounded by porcelain, I envisioned a few knots, gashes and a concussion in my immediate future if I didn’t move.

I stumbled out of the tub knocking over bottles of body wash. My vision went black and I hit the floor.

I actually fainted.

I remembered weeks prior to my first surgery, my gynecologist said, “You’ll need to take iron supplements or face a blood transfusion.” I was beyond iron-deficient three weeks ago. This time I had slipped into anemia.

My well-being isn’t an afterthought, though. I prefer to not faint, hemorrhage, spot or deteriorate. Having fibroids can be extremely inconvenient and messy. I’ve seriously considered skipping a second surgery and telling my doctor “Here, just take my uterus.” I miss my white pants anyway. And I’m tired of the rear view checks before I walk into a store or restaurant. But there’s that gnawing part of me that wants to maintain the option of biological motherhood and childbirth. Yet I can’t help but wonder if a myomectomy only gives me another short window to conceive, is it really worth it?

A little over two weeks into an iron regimen I’m almost back to normal, as in being able to function and having only common symptoms. Coincidentally, shortly after my fainting spell, I read two separate tweets from two different fibroid sufferers: one working on flattening her “pregnant pooch,” practicing pilates and eating right and the other soliciting natural ways to manage fibroids.

The Twitter suggestions ranged from limiting foods “tainted” with growth hormones  – chicken, red meat and milk – to taking guinea hen weed, a wild Jamaican plant used to treat a wide variety of health-related issues in men and non-pregnant women. It made me realize how unbalanced my eating habits have become. Gone are the days of green juice and organic fruits and chicken and I took my last multivitamin months ago. Lately I’ve eaten whatever whenever and my body seems to rebel. I guess there’s definitely some credence to how our bodies react to what we put in it. Maybe Twitter was on to something.

I do realize alternative treatment may very well be equivalent to a placebo drug and no amount of postponing and “self-medicating” can change what is already evident and what could be my reality. I am susceptible to frequent and multiple fibroids. Perhaps I also need to prepare for the possibility that child-bearing simply may not be in my future.

  • Rachelle Monique

    I’ve had family and friends suffer from this. One of my friends has surgery even. I know this is painful. Bad eating habits cause every health issue known to man. I pray that you are healed and can have as many babies you wish for.

  • http://n/a Rebecca

    It’s the foods. this is true.

  • Prissy1

    Fibroids, sigh. I know this issue all too well. Lost a pregnancy to this or maybe incompetent cervix, drs. don’t know. It sucks. I want to get them removed to ease the discomfort, but yes, they suck!

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    I had just had a myomectomy this past July to remove a single fibroid in the cavity of my uterus. The location was the main issue that caused me problems starting late May and the entire month of June. I pray to GOD that it does not grow back, the fibroid issue took over my summer 2013. I alsp pray that you are healed!

  • OnwardAndUpward

    I had a myomectomy 5 years ago and my Dr told me to get pregnant in 6months because the fibroids would come back. Before my surgery I did a lot of research on alternative cures and discovered that in Asian cultures, tumors are often thought to be manifestations of bad energy either from ourselves OR from our ancestors. I thought about the women in my family and all the pain they endured and my own life and said … emotional baggage stops with me.

    5 years later, I’m married to a wonderful man who just appeared SUDDENLY, we’re waiting on our first baby and the fibroids never came back.

    Diet and exercise are CRUCIAL. If you don’t take care of your body why do you expect it to work properly. And so is a spiritual diet … whether it be Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Yemanja or a tree get connected with something … AND get out of toxic relationships.

  • CAsweetface

    That’s absolutely true, food along with environmental toxins cause just about every ailment and Western medicine wants to pump us full of prescriptions pills that don’t fix the issue they just put a band aid over it. A week ago today I was diagnosed with an Autoimmune neurological disorder and I’ve decided that I need to totally overhaul my life and try to holistic route to heal. I recommend going that route, researching and stay steadfast when taking control of your health. All supplements and herbal programs are not created equal.

  • https://www.facebook.com/MissAnnG Sheena-Ann Nelson

    Seriously relaxers don’t help they can help cause them. So stop relaxing if you do.

  • c0c0puffz

    I had a fibroid that hung outside of me. That scared me so bad. I hope to never get any more. It just reminded me to go see the Gyno more often.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    Wow, thanks for sharing, so many women have had fibroids, almost every women over the age of 30 that I have shared this info with and that has to be about 20 + or so.
    Every women in my close fam including my Granma(RIP), Mom and Aunt. You stay blessed also!

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    You know I was doing all those things and still developed fibroids.
    The right man has not appeared yet though :-)
    Peace and blessings to you!

  • http://gravatar.com/jswindell jswindell

    More than a year ago, I developed symptoms that were similar to uterine fibroids. My periods were getting heavier every year and getting around was harder. I did the natural treatments and saw little difference. I added b-complex to my diet and thought this was how I was losing weight.

    Then I had an abnormal Pap smear.

    When I went to the women’s clinic, they sent me to ER because of excessive bleeding in my cervix. It was there I had a blood transfusion and found that the mass in my belly was also fluid that comes from an infection or cancer.

    While they did later diagnose me with ovarian cancer, I am waiting to have a hysterectomy. Not my choice as I was looking forward to being an older parent but it apparently wasn’t in the cards.

    I can only say that watching the diet helps (I went vegetarian after my gyn told me I had a hormonal imbalance) but women over 35 should report anything that is not normal. If you don’t like the first Dr., keep it moving until you find a match.

  • Sunny

    I had a couple of fibroids and had an Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). The procedure cuts off the blood supply to the tumor and it eventually shrinks it in time. It worked for me but a few negatives: recovery requires overnight hospital stay due to pain management – yup hurts that bad; and its not recommended for women who want to have children.

  • Mahagony

    I felt like I was reading my story. I also had a miomectomy in 2007. The pain still occurs during my period but so far the fibroid never came back. I have changed my diet to vegetarian about 2 years ago. Just waiting do the right man to come along to get pregnant.
    You hang in there dear and pray and hope for the best.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kelley.johnson.75436 Kelley Johnson

    A combination of beet juice, unsulfured organic blackstrap molasses, aloe vera juice, and lemon juice has been used to cure “female problems”, including fibroids and cycts. I have not tried it myself, but I know people who have and they say it’s worked for them.

  • Lynette

    I also had a UFE. I think it was one of the best things that I’ve ever done. One over night stay is not really a big deal. My first gyno kept pushing me to have a hysterectomy and when I inquired about the UFE he said that he couldn’t recommend it because of the pain involved during recovery. I remembered thinking “and there won’t be any pain during my recovery from the hysterectomy?”. When he went on to say that he would also remove my cervix to “reduce the chance of cervical cancer”, I thought to myself “well, why don’t you remove my breasts while you’re at it, so we can reduce my chance of developing breast cancer”. I told him that I wanted to do some further research and would be seeing another doctor for a second opinion and he actually seemed insulted by that.

    I ran to find another Dr.—an African American, female. and of course we found that I met the criteria for UFE. Yes I was in pain for the first four to five hours, but I was up and taking laps around the hospital ward after that. I was released early the next morning, well before what had been my scheduled release time. I stopped taking the pain killers about two days after the procedure and back at work after the third day.

    As I was in my mid forties when I had the procedure done, my goal was simply to reduce the size and symptoms of my fibroids just long enough to get me to menopause, because supposedly fibroid issues decrease due to the decrease of estrogen in your system. I just turned fifty and sure enough, I am just entering the stages of pre-menopause.

    I am not so sure that all of the hormones in our modern day diets are the cause of fibroids because both of my grandmothers and my mother suffered from them. And the use of hormones were not as prevalent as they are today.

    My advice is to do your research, and find a Dr. who is willing to work with you on what you ultimately decide to do. And if you have a Dr. who is hell bent on just cutting you open and taking out all of your organs (outside of life threatening issues) then get up off of the table and find someone else.

  • Apple Pie

    Interesting comment. Black women get fibroids more than any other group of women. A black doctor did research on this. It was said to be linked primarily to stress and our history of suffering. A lot of bad energy have been passed down to us through the women in our family, and many of us continue to carry on that internal baggage unintentionally. I just can’t seem to find the link to that article but it gave a very thorough breakdown. If I find it I’ll post it.

  • Apple Pie

    If I might add, poor dieting and lack of exercise was also mentioned in the article. Also, our high level or exposure to estrogen (through our hair relaxers, birth controls, and many hair products with synthetic ingredients that mimic estrogen, which seep in through our scalp and into our blood.) It was a lot of information, but internal stress was the biggest cause.

  • Faith

    Omg..this is my story. I just had my 2nd myomectomy. I also had uterine fibroid embolization a few years back. Those suckers just kept coming back faster and bigger. My doctor informed me that childbirth is not recommended due to the compromised nature of my uterus. I have been looking for natural remedies – thinking about vegan diet…chinese herbs…etc. Thank you for writing this piece…you made my day : )

  • Missy

    Not just black women, Jewish women too, same thing 3x the regular population of women. AA & Jewish women both have it in high numbers & at the same rates – - 3x more than the regular population of women.

  • Kaeli

    When you say black here are you talking about in America or worldwide? Is this a race issue or a cultural one. I totally agree that generational factors contribute but was wondering exactly was the causes might be.

  • Nika

    Reading this was like reading my story as well. Since fibroids are becoming an increasing “black female problem” it doesn’t get that much coverage. In 2007 I nearly died after my doctors took out a 7 pound fibroid that was draining me dry. I was 29 years old. At 21 I had already had one ovary removed because of a fibroids. So after this surgery I too was told to wait a year to get pregnant. Just one short year later the fibroid was back. My doctor suggested removing my uterus. I refused that option and took matters into my own hands. I stopped relaxing my hair after I read that certain chemicals in relaxers promote estrogen over production, one of the main culprits in fribroid production. Then I made every effort to eat healthy. My last fibroid was in 2009. But my symptoms began when i was just 18 years old. I ignored them and now I wish I had been smart enough then to do my own research and figure out how to help myself along with taking doctors advice. No one told me I could save my eggs, no one told me about laproscopic prodecures. I’m 36 now and will probably never give birth. So ladies, do your homework. Don’t just accept what a doctor tells you. Study your bodies and try many different methods before it’s too late.

  • Apple Pie

    @Missy

    Do you have the link leading to that research? All case studies show that black women are 3-5 times mores likely to develop fibroids than any other group of women. Why is it that when truths are revealed about black women, your first rhetoric is ALWAYS, “This happens to other women too, “White women, asian women do too”. Why are you guys always quick to point fingers at what’s happening to other groups of women? Do they point fingers to us? No they don’t. They accept the responsibility and make the changes needed in order to better themselves. This is the main reason why black women can never get right. Let me ask you, Are Jewish women as obese at black women? Do they apply a lot of chemicals to their hair as much as black women? Are they as stressed out as black women? Stop worrying about other women and what they are doing. This isn’t about them.

  • Apple Pie

    @Missy

    I noticed how you received thumbs up on your comment whereas I was given a thumbs down for my previous comment, although I was simply stating facts from an article I read. It was most likely because I stated a fact that most didn’t like, while you attempted to divert that fact with finger pointing. Black women need to stop encouraging bad behavior. If you go on Youtube and just type in “fibroids”, you are going to see videos of mostly Black Women, and a few white women. The truth is the truth. Black women need to make serious changes in order to combat this disease. One will either learn through advice or experience. Unfortunately, many of us would rather not take advice.

  • Cee Jay

    This is my story too. I am so upset about it. I’ve gained a ton of weight for the same reasons, and because I’m terrified to shift around and exercise. I don’t want to be too far from a bathroom. shrugs.

  • Apple Pie

    @Kaeli

    Yes, the study was done on Black women in America, the Caribbean, and Sub Sahara Africa.

  • Ashley

    I’m browsing through the comments (on my phone so I don’t think I saw them all) but hasn’t anyone tried birth control? I take loestrin to manage my fibroid symptoms and it’s lovely. Light, short period and no pain. No infertility. When selecting a birth control, find something that keeps the estrogen from spiking and is a low dose like lutera (which I’ve also taken) or loestrin. It doesn’t get rid of it, but it holds the line and lets you live your life. And, for the record, my two first cousins who had much more serious fibroid symptoms have had several children between them and then, plucked that uterus out. So, it is possible to get pregnant with fibroids (depending on their location).

    That’s all. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  • The Comment

    I love when black doctors use the wisdom and intelligence from our ancestors; the first medicine men.

  • Pat

    Uterine artery embolization ladies! I’ve had it performed twice. It saves the uterus and is minimally invasive. Check it out.

  • simplyme

    It still has a risk of infertility since the beads can travel to your ovaries. I don’t know what the risk of infertility is… but many gynecologists wont do it if you want children.

  • Lillian

    Thankyou for sharing your story and thanks to everyone who has commented. I just discovered I had two small fibroids a few weeks ago. I am still emotionally distraught especially because I have been a vegetarian for almost 20 years, never had alcohol, never been on birth control and only started drinking coffee in grad school and only drink it like once or twice a week. I’ve been natural as long as i’ve been a vegetarian. It’s hard for me to even figure out how I developed a hormone imbalance. But i did cut most dairy out three weeks ago. I am absolutely terrified because i’ve been in deep deep pain for three weeks and it was my paranoia and notice that my lip color had changed that made me go to the doctors in the first place because something was off. The thought of having far worse issues is scary. I have found that castor oil packs help as does the work of Queen Afua -perhaps you ladies may want to check her books out.

  • Charlotte

    I’ve heard of using castor oil packs but I don’t really know how that works. How long do you leave it on? Is it okay to use during your cycle? I’ve heard before that you shouldn’t put heat near your ovaries because it might be bad for your eggs.

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