Let me start by saying that this story ends (spoiler alert) with a hysterectomy. If you are a woman in search of alternative methods of fighting your fibroid and looking for stories of success in that area, I encourage you to continue your search but also to continue reading – because, I WAS you. I get it. My story did not end the way I had played it out in my mind but my fate was decided for me. I’ll get into the how’s and why’s of that later.
It all started in February of this year. I went to see my OB for a regular well woman exam – complete with Pap Smear, Mammogram, and Pelvic Exam. I’m a healthy 44 year old woman, proud Mama of a beautiful 2 year old daughter, and lucky wife to an amazing woman. I have always had heavy periods. Oh wait. Let me stop here and add that if you get squirmy by reading about, hearing about, or talking about, menstruation, menses, Aunt Flo, periods, cycles, “time of the month”, etc then this may not be the blog for you. I feel like that’s ALL I’ve been talking about for the past 8 months.
My OB is a talented, sweet, funny, and charming man as well as an excellent doctor. He delivered my daughter safely via C Section when my wife suffered from Complete Placenta Previa. Complete Placenta Previa is when the mother’s placenta grows over the cervix forcing the mother to have to birth the placenta before the baby comes which significantly increases her liklihood of hemorrhaging during childbirth. To avoid this, we had our daughter at 36 weeks and 4 days via C Section. I appreciate all my doctor did to make sure my wife and baby were safe during delivery and recovery.
At my well woman exam, I found myself giving the same old speech I had been giving for countless years. I have regular periods ~ 29 days apart to the letter but they’re heavy, painful, and usually end with large amounts of clotting. I often times have to wear a tampon AND a pad to fully protect myself (and other innocent onlookers) from the disaster that has always been my period. No doctor had ever batted an eye at my monthly predicament before now.
My doctor asked me if my periods were interfering with my quality of life. I agreed that they were and had been for years. It was then that he looked at me and said “You know…we can reduce your periods to 4 times a year”. In that moment, he became my knight in shining armor. I mean, what was this magic he spoke of? Only having my dreadful period 4 times a year? Sign me up for THAT plan. It was then that he put me on a method of estrogen based birth control called Lutera to begin the process of making my life better. Or so I thought.
About 2 weeks into the birth control pills, I noticed very heavy breakthrough bleeding. Breakthrough bleeding (I’ve learned) is a term they use so you don’t freak out at the amount of blood your’re bleeding on a pill that’s supposed to be stopping your bleeding. I wrote to my doctor to inquire about what I should do. His nurse responded to my email and said “Doc says it’s normal to have some breakthrough bleeding as your body adjusts to the pill. Go ahead and double up on the pill for 3-5 days. That should help the problem.”
Awesome. I had a new plan and for 5 days, I took 2 pills a day.
Worst. Mistake. Ever. Two and a half months into my pills, my bleeding got heavier and heavier and more uncontrollable. I began having terrible pelvic pain until one night I passed 3 blood clots that were each the size of my fist. Terrified, I decided to stop the pill. I wrote to my doctor to inform him of my decision and fill him in on what was happening. I received a response from the nurse who asked me to come in for an internal ultrasound due to abnormal uterine bleeding. Cue fear. What? Abnormal Uterine Bleeding? What did this mean? What were they looking for? Was this cancer? What in the world was happening to me? This was worse than any period I had EVER had and now I was worried there was something bigger going on.
Well. There was something BIG going on and it was called a fibroid. A fibroid that measured 7 cm in size and was the size of a tennis ball just setting up camp in the top of my uterus. Fibroids are benign tumors that usually begin their growth in a woman’s uterus during her most fertile years. They are incredibly common and they affect women differently. My fibroid was probably the reason behind all my years of heavy periods but we hadn’t known of its existence until now. They are typically A-symptomatic and my doctor described them as “very bad neighbors”. I also learned that estrogen FEEDS fibroids. So these pills I had been taking were feeding my fibroid and when I doubled up on the pill for those five days, it became an all you can eat buffet for the insatiable and gluttonous beast living in my uterus.
I felt defeated but little did I know what a journey and a battle I was about to go on. This is where my story begins. In my upcoming blogs, I will talk about everything from the vast amounts of hormones and drugs I was put on to my fear and avoidance of my doctor recommended hysterectomy to my incredibly severe case of anemia, two hospitalizations, blood transfusions, and my eventual emergency hysterectomy (which I’m currently at home recovering from now).
My hope is that this story will help anyone who is dealing with fibroids now. If you are scared; If you are facing a hysterectomy; If you are trying desperately to fight this fibroid (or fibroids) naturally to avoid surgery, I get you! I am with you! I know that I was amazed at the amount of women in my own life who were suffering with this affliction and just weren’t talking about it. We are taught to hush about our cycles but when we find others who are suffering the way we are, we become empowered in numbers. Knowledge is power and I have personally enjoyed hearing so many stories about how other women fought or are fighting their own battles with fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and other uterine issues. They gave me strength and a sense of support. But the truth is that at the end of the day, the battle is a private one. Between you and the invaders in your uterus. This is my battle story.