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This is my fibroid story

Compensation was provided by Hologic via Momtrends.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Hologic or Momtrends. 

I have fibroids. 

Every month for over a decade, I had to sleep on a towel for an entire week. Years of heavy periods because of uterine fibroids taught me that it’s a lot cheaper to replace towels than sheets and a mattress cover. It’s annoying, but after 20 years of dealing with them, I’d gotten used to it.

Does any of this sound familiar:

I can’t wear white pants. I’m on my cycle.

My period is on, so I’ll have to miss church  / your party / work.

Does anyone have pain meds? I’m cramping really bad!

This was my life with fibroids. I was in my early twenties when I was first diagnosed with them. My periods had always been heavy, but it had gotten to the point where it was affecting my quality of life. I knew that when my cycle was on, I was out of commission for the entire week.

The insane bleeding and the pain kept me in my bed, huddled under the covers with a heating pad on my stomach, taking meds and praying for relief. I would call out of work, and had to cancel plans that I had with friends. For those seven long days, my life was on pause.

I never really talked to my doctor about it because I thought it was normal. Periods are supposed to suck, right? At some point, though, the topic of my menstrual cycle somehow came up in conversation with my doctor. She was surprised to know all I was dealing with. After a pap smear and ultrasound, she told me I had fibroids. That’s where #MyFibroidStory began. 

What are fibroids?

Fibroids are non-cancerous tissue growths in or outside of the uterus.1 They can be teeny tiny, or large enough to make a woman look like they’re pregnant. African-American women are three times more likely to experience fibroids than other races3, but up to 80% of women will suffer from fibroids before the age of 50.2

After doing a little research on treatment, I was scared about what the diagnosis would mean for me. I didn’t have any children, yet, so I didn’t want to have a hysterectomy. Just about everything I read, though, suggested that getting rid of the uterus was the most common and effective option for fibroid treatment. In fact, more than 200,000 hysterectomies are performed annually to treat fibroids.4 I was not willing to lose my uterus, so I started to dig deeper to find an option that worked for me.

Fortunately, my gynecologist was incredibly supportive. She talked to me about the different choices I had for treatment, and we eventually found one that I thought was best for me and my lifestyle. I ended up having a surgery called a myomectomy, but there are non-surgical procedures to treat fibroids as well. You can explore treatment options here.

Don’t wait to talk to your doctor.

I was young when I was diagnosed, and I was able to get treatment early. While I did have some fertility challenges, having a doctor that understood my desire to have children and who was dedicated to helping me deal with the fibroids in a way that would allow me to grow my family was key.

Talk to your doctor.
Don’t wait.

In the many years since I discovered I had fibroids, I’ve talked to a lot of friends about it. I’ve encouraged other women who, like me, believed that a hysterectomy was the only option after being diagnosed. We’ve had conversations about how changing my diet has helped to minimize some of the symptoms that come with having fibroids, and I talked to them about the different treatment options I had considered.

We can Change the Cycle.

Want to learn more? Check out Change the Cycle, an online community where women who suffer from uterine and other pelvic health issues can find support. More than just education, it empowers you with the tools to speak up for yourself and make sure you know how to describe what you’re going through to your doctor. They even have a discussion guide to help you start the conversation.

You’ll also want to learn about the White Dress Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for research and awareness for uterine fibroids. To donate or get involved, head over to https://thewhitedressproject.org/

For years, women dealing with “lady problems” like fibroids had to suffer quietly. Not anymore. There’s no reason to be ashamed. We don’t have to hide during our period or be afraid to wear white —together, we can change the cycle, and it can start with you sharing stories to spark change. If you’ve suffered from fibroids like me, share your #MyFibroidStory on social media. If you haven’t, but you know women who have, or simply support this mission, share #WhyIWearWhite on social media.

*References:

1. Uterine fibroids: Overview. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/home/ovc-20212509. Accessed April 25, 2017.

2. Uterine Fibroid Fact Sheet. Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids. Accessed April 27, 2017.

3. Stewart EA, Nicholson WK, Bradley L, Borah BJ. The Burden of Uterine Fibroids for African-American Women: Results of a National Survey. Journal of Women’s Health. 2013;22(10):807-816. doi:10.1089/jwh.2013.4334.

4. Uterine Fibroids. National Institutes of Health. https://report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=50. Accessed May 30, 2018.

5. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Fibroids: Treatment. U.S. News & World Report. https://health.usnews.com/health-conditions/sexual-health/fibroids/treatment. Accessed May 20, 2018.

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