Updated: Jul 31, 2019
My fibroid and myomectomy journey.
There's really no other way to put it, but last year pretty much sucked. Now don't get me wrong, the whole year wasn't terrible, but the majority of well over 7 months was. I remember just as if it were yesterday, the first day I thought something wasn't quite right down there. Oh wait, full disclaimer, if you don't want to have anything to do with blood, menstrual periods, etc. this is not the blog read for you. Click away now! Alright, so back to the first day. I was on tour with Cirque du Soleil in Bridgeport, CT. My hotel was within walking distance from the arena and it was summer. It was also the first day of my period. I walked to the arena early that day to have lunch before I started working. As soon as I arrived, I felt extra wet down there. Now, it was summer and I just walked a bit, so I figured "maybe I was just sweaty," so I went to the bathroom and to my surprise there was a bloody mess waiting for me. I shrugged it off thinking I put in the wrong tampon, that maybe I put in a regular and not a super. I cleaned myself up and walked back to the hotel to change and made sure I brought some extra tampons to work. I didn't realize I would have to change my tampon once every hour. YES! I changed a super absorbent tampon at least once per hour. Thank goodness my job required me to wear black bottoms or I'm not sure how I would have survived that first day. But you see, it wasn't just that day, it was the next 3 days as well before my period finally eased up a bit and started acting "normal."
I took that month's cycle as a fluke and really didn't think about it again...until the same thing happened the following month-this time with more pain, nausea, gut-wrenching gas, and enormous clots. I was in Louisville, KY and within walking distance again from the arena. The first time the gas hit, it sat and stayed in one place in the pit of my stomach. There was nothing I could do to get rid of it. I remember feeling like I was waddling during my walk back to the hotel the first day it happened. I felt like if I stepped the wrong way, the gas was going to cause extreme pain. I'm not even sure how I slept that first night, but the gas was still there the next morning. I waddled over to the pharmacy around the corner and purchased Gas-X Extra Strength which worked almost instantly-this was one of my saving graces of 2018, no lie!
THE NEXT 4 MONTHS
At that point I knew something really wasn't right. That week I also became very nauseous and missed some time at work. And this became my "new normal" for my periods. Every month I had my routine. My Period Tracker app (highly recommend, I've actually used this for the past 4 years and available on iphone and android), would let me know when my period was approaching, I'd go buy my $50+ worth of supplies (pain pills, super absorbent tampons, over-night pads, Gas-X, oh and chocolate!), and prepare for my week of solitude. As long as I could get past the first 3-4 days of heavy bleeding, I was mostly ok. Some days I did feel light-headed or just not with it due to the heavy bleeding. For really bad days, I had to call off work and stay in bed.
I remembered my mom having heavy periods and one of my aunts talking about having a fibroid removed "the size of a grapefruit" and that's when it all clicked for me, not to mention I fit the profile-a woman in my reproductive years and African American. I started doing my own research about fibroids. One of multiple studies I read reported that at least 80% of African American women will have uterine fibroids by 50 and are more likely to report severe symptoms. Not only did I read research articles, but I also listened to podcasts and watched YouTube videos of myomectomies or fibroid removal surgeries, and then I made an appointment to see my gynecologist.
Well actually, I switched gynecologists within the same practice. There wasn't anything wrong with my current doctor, but I wanted to speak to someone with more experience in Women's Health issues, especially fibroids and fibroid removal, and truthfully someone who looked like me. I read and listened to too many stories of African American women going to see their gynecologist only to be told nothing was wrong with them. Dr. Catherine Harth at UChicago Medicine was a God-send. She was very knowledgeable, listened to my concerns, was patient in regards to my scheduling conflicts (as I was still on tour), and was willing to work with an outside doctor when I wasn't in town to get some of my imaging done. During our first visit, Dr. Harth pretty much gave me all the answers I needed along with handouts in regards to myomectomy options. First, I needed to get a transvaginal ultrasound and sonohysterogram to see how many fibroids and/or polyps I had, their location, and their size. From the imaging results, we would discuss what surgical options would be best for me. I received my imaging at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Dr. Jennifer Dundee is a gynecologist and infertility specialist and was very helpful in regards to answering my questions about my confirmed multiple fibroids and her recommended surgical options that would decrease the amount of scar tissue and preserve my fertility. I received a copy of my ultrasound images and a report was sent to Dr. Harth. From there, Dr. Harth and I made a plan...more about this, my surgeries, and recovery in Part II.
For now I have one request, not only as a Women's Health clinician, but also as someone who recently went through this ordeal, if this even remotely sounds like you or if you're having any pain or discomfort down there, do not hesitate to get it checked out! In need of post myomectomy care, advice, or a Women's Health referral? Contact us or Book an appointment.
Continue reading Part II!