My Journey with Fibroids and How I Overcame Them to Live a Healthier Life
To be honest, I’m not quite sure when it began. It may have been a slow, steady progression that I didn’t quite notice. Or maybe the onset was sudden.
But a little more than 20 years, I took immediate notice. Now I can remember that day vividly. I was working in the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Downtown Atlanta. I was sitting in my mesh fabric office chair at my desk. The great thing for me is that the chair was black. All of a sudden, I felt a gush of liquid. This never happened before. I stood up and looked at the chair. I was so embarrassed because it was completely saturated. I made my way to the ladies’ room and saw that my clothing was soiled as well.
Lucky for me, I kept a sweater or jacket at the office for chilly days. I wrapped it around my waist, discreetly rolled my chair into a private corner and commenced to cleaning it with soap, water, and paper towels that I took from the restroom. I then went to my supervisor and said that I didn’t feel well and needed to go home for the day. This thing would go on for several months. Finally, I made an appointment to see my doctor.
After an examination, she shared that “this thing” as I considered it was something called fibroids. UCLA Health defines fibroids as mostly benign or noncancerous tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous tissue. They include three types – subserosal, intramural, and submucosal – and range in size from a small pea to a watermelon.
The Mayo Clinic states that fibroids typically occur in women ages 30 to 40 and that Black women are more likely to suffer from this disorder than white women. The Black Women’s Health Imperative puts a finer point on it. Over our lifetime, 80% of Black women will develop and suffer from fibroids. According to WebMD, symptoms include heavy and painful menstrual cycles, aching in the back and lower abdomen, frequent urination, and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
When I considered treatment, I knew that I didn’t want something invasive. I settled on Uterine Artery Embolization. Johns Hopkins Health Center shares that the procedure shrinks fibroids by cutting off the blood supply and is performed by an interventional radiologist. Afterwards, I felt like a different person. I felt great. My cycles were lighter, and I no longer suffered from anemia because of the tremendous loss of blood. I experienced relief for about three or four years.
But the fibroids did come back and with a vengeance. By that time, my magazine editor Monique R. Brown wrote an exceptional book in 2002 called It’s A Sistah Thing: A Guide to Understanding and Dealing with Fibroids for Black Women. I read it and learned so much about fibroids. In a conversational way that was reader-friendly, she shared how I and other women can select conventional or alternative treatments that were personalized just for us. Using her step-by-step action plan and consulting with my gynecologist Dr. Stephanie Carmichael, I decided to have a total hysterectomy. I feel like that term is a misnomer because I still have my ovaries. Dr. Carmichael said that we should leave my ovaries intact so that I wouldn’t be “slammed” into menopause immediately. It was the BEST thing I could have ever done.
Those two procedures worked well for me because of my own medical history, and I was not interested in having more children. Fibroid treatments can range from nonsurgical to surgical. They include SERMs, hormone therapy, GnRH agonists, fibroid embolization, endometrial ablation, myomectomy, and hysterectomy. But each woman should consult with her primary care physician and gynecologist and select the best course of treatment to help her lead a healthier and happier life.
JULY 1st is National Wear White Day! Please wear white to show your support for women suffering from fibroids. Share #wecanwearwhite on social media.
Visit White Dress Project to find out more and see a calendar of events for July.
A regular contributor to The Ashro Blog, Leslie E. Royal is a global travel writer, author, product profile expert, micro-influencer, and multi-media journalist. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including Upscale Living, ESSENCE, AAA Midwest Traveler, Black Enterprise, FORTUNE.com, Medium, and AAA Southern Traveler. She is an Ashro Brand Ambassador and the host of their popular video series called Onward and Upward with Leslie E. Royal. The creator of the Leslie’s Lane consumer information blog, she is the author of two books: Leslie Lane The Book!: Your One Stop Internet Resource Guide to Links for Jobs, Inspiration, Discounts, FREE Stuff, Scholarships, Travel & More ( $14.95) and How to Write and Self-Publish Your Book for FREE with Amazon’s KDP: An Easy Way to Complete Your Manuscript in Seven Stress-Free Steps ($9.95). Follow Leslie on Instagram @LesliesLane and see her Amazon Author Page.