First, my period wouldn’t come; it was unusually delayed by a week. And then, it finally came. But it never stopped. I bled for over a month non-stop before the cause was finally diagnosed: uterine fibroids. Basically, benign tumors in my uterus that had been growing over the course of my life and were now so large, they were collectively taking up almost half of the space in my uterus and had to be surgically removed.
I cried. I got angry. I became frantic. Why now? And why to me?
It turns out that over 80% of black women grow fibroids at some point in their lives. I would consider it an epidemic. But the amount of research that’s been done has been very limited.
And just like other injuries and illnesses, finding out you have fibroids is an extremely lonely experience. It’s a body part that isn’t societally acceptable to talk about and often illicits pity, which no one wants. And most people don’t know much about it, so they don’t know what to say or how to help. Even when you know other women who have gone through the experience, it’s hard to share the experience with them because it’s an issue that drags out over the course of months, sometimes years for people. And it’s simply difficult to keep the average person plugged into your experience for that long. It’s something that as the person going through it, is constantly on your mind and affecting your thoughts. But for others, they only think about it when you bring it up. It’s not a huge deal. If you’re not dying, most medical issues are seen as “not a big deal.”
The problem is that for the person going through it, it feel like hell. Between the constant doctor’s visits, the side effects of the medications you’re taking and the fears you may have around surgery and any unintended consequences/results, it’s freaking terrifying.
Especially because it’s in the uterus, which is such a delicate area of the body, any issues or complications seem to result in hysterectomies — complete removal of the uterus. Which for a young woman in her 20s, is terrifying. You’re now faced which weighing the odds of 1 unpleasant decision vs another. Your future lies in God’s/luck’s/the doctor’s hands. It’s so emotional and trying to get work done or pretend to feel the same as you felt before all these questions came up for you can be very difficult. Many of the doctor’s I’ve spoken to, when I asked for time off from work to process everything respond saying that I don’t need time to process because the surgery has a relatively quick recovery time. It kills me inside because our society doesn’t value human life. Like I said before, if you’re not dying, often the emotional components of well-being are simply ignored. Doctors are not trained to think of your whole health, just the parts that they can see. And it’s not until someone is suicidal that our society truly cares for them; we do not have great preventative care in our society. And this experience has made me realize this more now than ever.
What would the ideal solution look like?
Ideally, if someone found out they were going through any type of illness or condition, especially one with such life-altering potential effects, they would be able to:
- request time off to go to therapy, spend time with family,
- attend meditation or yoga retreats and take time to heal completely both inside and out.
- use the time off to really focus on their diet and make sure they’re nourishing themselves appropriately
- maybe a nutritionist would even step in to recommend meal plans
- take time to go to the gym and workout consistently so that they can raise their endorphins and establish a routine they can carry with them once they return to the rat race at work.
- use the time to volunteer at non-profits, so that they can gain a sense of perspective and control over their situation.
- get linked with others going through similar struggles so that they could confide in and comfort each other as they push through the process and deal with our nation’s unjust and inefficient healthcare system.
- have time to go to multiple doctors and get 2nd opinions & options.
- have time to get all their lab tests and grab whatever appointments are available during the work day & work week without feeling stressed about balancing it all with work meetings or managing expectations.
Does any of this resonate with you? What’s been your experience with fibroids? How have you managed to balance it with work? Comment below.