My Fight With Fibroids: Symptoms, Treatment and Journey

Whew chile…where do I even start on this topic.  Growing up I would always hear people whisper about this thing called Fibroids but since it was always about older women, I never cared about it.  Now I’m in my 30s and Fibroids have hit me hard.

 

What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus).

The growths are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and vary in size. They’re sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas. – NHS

A lot of women don’t know they have them (I didn’t know initially) and symptoms can include:

  • heavy periods and/or painful periods
  • Constantly going to the bathroom (pee)
  • pain or discomfort during sex
  • Stomach pain

Fibroids are common and they seem to affect black women more.  In fact, when I found out I had Fibroids, almost every black woman I shared the news with told me they either had them or currently had a few.  Wow.

July is Fibroids Awareness Month and it’s a time to share more information, to highlight more options about the treatment of Fibroids and for sufferers to share their journey.  Even if it wasn’t Fibroids Awareness Month, I would still want to blog about this topic because Fibroids have changed my life and if someone out there can benefit from me telling my story, why not?

My Life Before Fibroids

Before Fibroids, I had what would be considered a typical period.  I bled for 5-7 days, had my lil cramps, ate a lil chocolate and would move on.

Everything stayed typical until I was about 26.   The changes to my “regular” period were very subtle.  Every other month it gradually got heavier and heavier but it was such a small shift that I didn’t notice it during the time.

Around age 29 my period was heavy from day one. Previously I could use a regular pad at the start, super for a day or two, light/pantyliners at the end but at that point, I was always using super pads

By the age of 30, I could only wear overnight pads during my period.  No regular, no super, just overnight.  I had to sleep with a towel underneath me and I was going through two overnight packs for each period.

By age 31/32, I was bleeding through my clothes, I was anemic, I was going through 4 -5 overnight packs a period, and sometimes I could bleed for two or three weeks.  My life was hell.

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Figuring Out What Was Going On

By that stage, I decided it was time to take control of my period.  Due to me not really being settled and the state of the healthcare system where I used to live I never really had a chance to figure out what was wrong.

I scheduled a scan and hoped for something and was surprised but slightly relieved when the doctor showed me my Fibroids.  Even though I knew Fibroids were noncancerous, I still felt really low leaving the clinic. I remember walking back home with tears streaming down my face.

I was tired, frustrated and confused.  The health care system in England is AMAZING in the fact that the NHS exists (and I am super grateful for it) but it’s also frustrating that some of the most simple things take forever to be explained or come to fruition.  The doctor who did my scan that day couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me anything about Fibroids, what happens next, what anything meant. I left the clinic feeling low, alone and confused.

Fortunately, my BFF who has Fibroids shared her experience and helped me calm down.  If you’re going through your own Fibroid journey and no one is helping you, here’s a little bit of what I learned about treatment options just from doing my own research.  Remember, I’m not a doctor and this what I’ve learned – speak with your doctor about the best options to zap those suckers.

 

Types of Fibroids and Treatment Options

  • Subserous fibroids grow from the outside wall of your womb into the space in your pelvis.
  • Intramural fibroids grow in the muscle wall of your womb.
  • Submucous fibroids grow from the inner wall of your womb into the space inside your womb – these are the ones I supposedly have.

You can treat Fibroids with medication designed to shrink them.  If you’re going to have surgery to remove your Fibroids, your doctor might prescribe these before the process.

Surgery is what mostly pops into mind when I think of getting rid of Fibroids and my doctor briefly mentioned there are different options and they mostly depend on whether you want to have kids or not.

The one everyone knows about is a hysterectomy and this is where you remove your womb.  This is the procedure doctors push the most and I swear if my doctor comes at me, a young woman who wants options on the horizon, I will go mental.

The other types of surgeries were not really explained by my doctor so I got a little help from Bupa:

  • Endometrial ablation. This is a procedure which removes the lining of your womb to reduce heavy bleeding when you have your period. It can treat fibroids on the inside wall of your womb.
  • Uterine artery embolization (UAE). This procedure is where small particles are injected into the blood vessels that supply your fibroids. This blocks the blood supply and the fibroid then shrinks. This can help to ease your symptoms. Because you have your womb, in theory you could get pregnant after it. The effects of the surgery on your fertility or any pregnancy aren’t certain, so, it may be less likely to be used as an option if you want to have a baby.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging-guided ultrasound surgery. This is a relatively new procedure, where ultrasound waves are used to destroy fibroids.

Where I Am In The Process

This has been a long journey.  I got my initial scan on September 11th, 2017 and it’s almost a year later and I am just getting to the stage where my doctor explains to me what treatment options will be the right fit for me – and I’m assuming that’s what my next visit will be.

This is what I mean by things taking a long time on the NHS.  I also want to point out that I had been going to my GP from April 2017 for the bleeding, since it was taking a toll on my every day health and my mental state, and the first time I got any medication for the heavy bleeding was March 2018.  A full year later. Even though I asked repeatedly if there was any medication I could take to slow the bleeding down.  When the gynecologist asked if I was on any medication and I said no, he shook his head and sighed.

At the time of me writing this blog, I don’t know what treatment my doctor will suggest.  I have my next appointment in late July so I’ll keep you guys updated.

Here’s a timeline of what I’ve done so far with the doctor

April 2017:  I went to my GP and complained about heavy bleeding.  They carried out a blood test and I was told I was anemic.  I got no further assistance.

May – June 2017:  I complained to my GP about the bleeding.  Nothing was done.

September 2017:  This is when I learned I had about five Fibroids, according to this first doctor.  This was at a private clinic.

September – October 2017: I gave the results from the private scan to my GP.  The GP told me they would forward the information to the hospital.

November 2017:  My GP submitted my information to the hospital

December 2017 – February 2018:  I called and followed up on my appointment relentlessly.  I finally got an appointment after admitting to my GP that the bleeding was taking a toll on my mental state.

March 2018: – I met the Gynecologist for what I thought would be an in-depth conversation about options and treatment.  He barely spoke to me which meant I had to visit Dr. Google but I did get medication for the bleeding (finally).

April 2018: – I had another ultrasound of my stomach.  During this scan, the doctor only called out measurements for two Fibroids but in the initial scan, he said there were at least five.  I haven’t had a discussion about the results of this scan as yet so I can’t say why there was a difference in the amount.

May 2018: I did an MRI but no one explained why I was doing this or how it was relevant to the process.  Dr. Google brought up a lot of answers that just caused me to ask more questions so I went to the appointment hoping everything was ok.

July 2018:  Hopefully I will be able to find out how many Fibroids I really have, what type of Fibroids I actually have, what the results of that second scan are, what the results of my MRI are, why I did  the MRI, can I get more medication for the bleeding, what are the next steps as far as treatment and please explain all the options properly. Hopefully.

What I want to happen

Fibroids have been a living hell and I don’t wish them on anyone.  I had to learn how to rethink the way I approached my period, I’ve changed my diet, I take supplements now, I’ve even started meditating to bring good energy to my uterus.

In addition to fighting Fibroids, I’ve also battled BV at the same time!   I’ve made some incredible strides over the last few months with getting my energy levels up and I’ll be sharing them in another post.

I could honestly keep these Fibroids and just take the medication to reduce the bleeding but my initial scan showed the placement of my Fibroids were such that even though I could potentially get pregnant, they might interfere with the progress of the pregnancy.

I am not sure if getting pregnant is in my future but I want the option to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible if I ever decide to go that route.  That is mainly why I am choosing to treat these Fibroids. Oh, and the fact that my stomach is starting to look permanently bloated…yeah not cute.

Final thoughts

If you’re struggling with Fibroids there is treatment and if the only suggestion you’re getting is to have a hysterectomy, switch doctors. Get another opinion.  I think a lot of doctors push this opinion because they are lazy and it’s an easy route. Eff that.

Push your doctor if they’re not being helpful.  At one point I was at my GP’s reception about three times a week asking about my appointment.  Every day they told me it was going through. Then why haven’t I gotten my appointment in the estimated 4-6 weeks?  By demanding to be a part of the process I learned my GP had not sent my information to the hospital.  Similarly, when I knew my info had been forwarded to the hospital I followed up weekly on my appointment date.

People don’t think Fibroids are an issue so be prepared to be mocked. My ex-flatmate, a registered nurse, constantly dismissed my feelings and complaints.  According to him, it was a non-issue and it made no sense for me to be so invested in something as silly as Fibroids.  If you’re not invested who will be?  

Natural treatments might make a difference.  Even if they’re not shrinking the Fibroids they can help boost your energy levels, might reduce bleeding and make you feel more confident.  I’ll be sharing some of the natural treatments I tried in another post.

If your mental health is affected, get help.  Sometimes I was bleeding for three weeks at a time, I couldn’t go anywhere because I would bleed through my clothes and I would sleep for days because I was  always tired.  Explain to me how that is good for anyone’s mental being. Nah..didn’t think so.

July is Fibroids Awareness Month so this is a fitting time to share this post and this journey.  I hope this was helpful and if you’re dealing with Fibroids let me know in the comments, or if you have managed to get rid of those devils share it too!


My Fight With Fibroids: Symptoms, Treatment and Journey

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8 Comments
  • JennasWorldView
    July 17, 2018

    I love love love this post because it is something women, Black women especially need to be talking about! As I read this I reflected on my own health issues that I have beeen afraid to blog about. I feel even more now inspired to share and build awareness.
    Thank you for sharing your journey and providing so much knowledge and encouragement within this post. I believe everything will work out for and fibroids will soon become a distant memory!!

    Jenna
    Xoxo

    • Olli
      July 17, 2018

      Thank you for your kind words. This was so hard to write; I think I restarted this post about three times because I got so angry at my situation. Then I realized I have to write this because it’s like you mentioned, it’s all about building awareness.

  • Ellen
    July 17, 2018

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I wish you the best for your health in the future.

  • Shana
    July 20, 2018

    Thanks for sharing. I haven’t gong through this myself but my mom definitely did and it was an experience. She ended having a hysterectomy. She has two grown daughters so it didn’t bother her. But being in your 30s and ready to have kids, it can be scary about what decision to make.

    • Olli
      July 21, 2018

      Yeah. Honestly I want kids but I don’t know if life will let me have one/them… I just got in a relationship so that’s not even on the horizon, I was single for a long time so it didn’t happen then and financially I can’t do it alonee. I have the gift of foresight…call me Cassandra – as soon as I entered this relationship I knew it wasn’t gon happen so I quietly dashed that dream By force, the universe is telling me this is not my journey. This is actually going to be a future blog post so keep peeped.

  • Huda
    July 27, 2018

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us! I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been! I have heard a lot of women seem to be getting this, so there should definitely be more awareness of this and how to cure it or atleast make it better! xx
    https://beaulife.org

  • Bianca
    August 2, 2018

    I hate that this has been your experience. WOC face so so much with healthcare providers. I can’t imagine the frustration and anxiety, but I’m sending you love and nurturing healing. My ex-partner thinks she has fibroids, so I’ll definitely be sharing this series with her too. I never understood why her cycles plagued her in such a cruel way at a young age (she was 24 when we met). Please keep sharing your stories. I look forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with you.

    • Olli
      August 2, 2018

      If she has very heavy periods, it could be fibroids or it could be something like PCOS, etc. Encourage her to get a scan and please share this post with her. I’ll be updating in a few weeks with the supplements I take and my diet which have helped me get more energy, my energy levels are ALWAYS low. Blessings to you and her and hope this can help her move forward on her journey.

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