GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Each year, hundreds of thousands of women have hysterectomies to treat a condition called uterine fibroids.
More than 70 percent of women will develop them at some point, although fibroids only cause symptoms in about 25 percent of women.
The good news is that with the help of technology and awareness, women do have options when it comes to treatment and for those women, completely parting ways with their uterus is not their only option.
Back in February, you may have noticed my long absence from air to have a major surgery after years of treating my complications.
It’s a story many of our viewers encouraged me to share. Just a warning, some of the descriptions may be disturbing.
“This is the cavity of your uterus, where you have your cycle from and where you get pregnant,” said Dr. Marie Rowe, Greenville Women’s Clinic. “You can see your fibroids were very much distorting your cavity.”
I’m one of the hundreds of thousands of women who suffer from the non-cancerous tumors that can be found throughout the uterine cavity, the muscles and even outside the uterus.
I never had many problems with mine until my fiancé and I suffered a miscarriage.
“If that pregnancy implants near that fibroid where it’s not able to establish a good blood supply, you can have an early pregnancy loss, which is the most common reason for miscarriage in women with fibroids,” said Rowe.
Dr. Marie Rowe with Greenville Women’s Clinic is my OBGYN and performed my surgery.
She says the pregnancy set off the growth of the fibroids, eventually leading to even more problems.
“Fibroids grow based off of estrogen,” said Rowe. “Around pregnancy, that’s when your hormones are the highest, and I think for you it was the fuel to the fire. You already had a predisposition with some small fibroids.”
The symptoms left me tired with heavy, constant bleeding, in excruciating pain and most times just an emotional wreck.
For years, I tried several different treatment options and none of them worked.
“Part of the way you felt was also the side effects of putting you on various birth control, because birth control can make you feel hormonal and have unpleasant side effects when it affects your mood,” said Rowe. “Some people on certain birth control can feel depressed, so we were trying to treat your bleeding, but it was causing other side effects by the hormonal manipulation of what we were trying to do.”
Many of you would take notice during the nightly news, sending me messages asking if I was tired, was I feeling okay or why was I gaining so much weight.
Well, my fibroids made me look as if I were 3 months pregnant — some measuring the size of softballs.
“Fibroids, basically they flare, and they swell and that’s where the sense of abdominal bloating comes,” said Rowe.
So, without the success of drug treatment, I was faced with looking at other options, including having a partial hysterectomy.
For the record, I’m under 40, so for me having a hysterectomy, all kinds of things went through my head.
“When you go to make a decision about surgery on your uterus and definitely before you’re ready to part ways with your uterus, it’s a major decision,” said Rowe. “Patients will hear me sayIi want you to be 150 percent sure of your fertility options.”
The day came for my surgery, a myomectomy, to remove my fibroids, but keep my uterus intact, so I can have children in the future.
“For you, you had a major, what we call an exploratory laparotomy, where you have an incision that’s very much like you’ve had a C-section,” said Rowe.
Dr. Rowe removed 13 fibroids from various parts of my uterus, more tumors than the ultrasound was able to detect.
“I thought before going into your surgery that you had about three major fibroids that were the problem,” Rowe said. “Once we got in and saw how many you had, I was surprised as well.”
The surgery took about three hours, then three nights and two days in the hospital and six weeks of recovery at home.
“You feel every se e, because your muscles and nerves everything was separated in order to complete your surgery in taking those fibroids out,” said Rowe.
I’m now three months post-surgery and feeling much better.
My symptoms have been reduced but not completely resolved.
While I did have my fibroids removed, they can eventually grow back.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, and they all come with certain risks.
Talk to you doctor to figure out the best treatment options based on your specific symptoms and diagnosis.
To learn more on frequently asked questions, visit the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health of Human Services website at https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids