Earlier this year, I shared my fibroid diagnosis. I first found out that I had fibroids in my early twenties. Over the years, they grew in both size and number. I suffered from a distended uterus, making me look as though I was five months pregnant. My periods were so heavy that I was changing my menstrual cup every hour. I no longer felt comfortable wearing white, because of the abnormal bleeding that happened throughout the month. I could feel the fibroids and even though I tried a holistic approach, it’s clear that it wasn’t working. So, after much prayer and thought, I concluded that I had to do something for my own health.
At first, I wanted to try Uterine Fibroid Embolization(UFE) which inserts small pellets into the veins in your uterus to stop the blood flow to the fibroids and shrinks them. I found a location that was supposed to be amazing, and made an appointment. They reached out to let me know that they didn’t accept my insurance plan, but I could pay out of pocket for each visit, and would have to pay out of pocket for the procedure. This was not an option. So, I continued researching, and found a doctor that specialized in UFE. I made an appointment. The morning of the appointment, they called and had to reschedule due to an emergency. My appointment for July was pushed out to October. At this point I was beyond frustrated. My periods made me anemic, so I was often exhausted all the time. But I also wasn’t sleeping well, due to the pressure on my uterus and my bladder. But I persisted and found a doctor and when I called they could give me an appointment two weeks out.
I met with my doctor, and she looked over my previous records and recommended we schedule a laparoscopic myomectomy. She also recommended another MRI, and iron infusions to prepare me for the surgery. After my MRI however, it showed that my largest fibroid was 15cms and I had 10 fibroids mostly embedded in my uterine muscle. I also had a pedunculated fibroid, which means it was growing with a stalk attached to the uterus. After this, she recommended an abdominal myomectomy which would require 4-6 weeks of recovery and a stay overnight in the hospital. This was exactly what I didn’t want. But at this point, I knew I couldn’t continue like this, so I said ok let’s go.
I am currently 8 weeks’ post-op and I can honestly say that this surgery has changed my life. I knew my fibroids were bad, I just didn’t know they were this bad. My surgery took 4 and a half hours because the largest fibroid was 20cms and had to be broken up to be removed. But almost immediately, I could see and feel the difference in my body. I can lay on my stomach and my stomach is literally flat. My abdomen is no longer hard, and distended. I feel better than I have in years.
But leading up to the surgery, I was scared and nervous. The thought of being put under terrified me, and the unknown of recovery was terrifying. Also, the rate of my fibroids returning is extremely high. Fibroids feed off estrogen and as I am a woman in child-bearing years, and having had fibroids before there is a chance I could find myself in this same position again. As I prepared for my surgery, I was surprised that I couldn’t find as many firsthand accounts from women about their fibroid diagnosis or their process through surgery. I think we get so used to the pain and are taught that we just must suffer through it, that we don’t talk about what we’re going through. Fibroids will affect 70% of all women, so I know that I am not alone, even though this process can make you feel alone. Not to mention not discussing these things, will continue to have us suffer in silence. That time is over. Here are some tips to help you prep for surgery and what to expect:
- Your doctor might suggest an ultrasound, MRI, or other pre-op procedures: As I said, my doctor recommended an MRI so we could have a baseline of what we were dealing with. I had a previous MRI in 2019, and had a pelvic ultrasound this summer, but the ultrasound was not able to see what the MRI could. I also had two iron infusions, to bring my iron back up to normal levels in preparation of the blood loss I would sustain during surgery (I lost 500CCs of blood, about a pint). The iron infusions lasted for maybe 20 minutes each time, but I did feel sick after both with minor stomach upset.
- Get supplies: In preparation for my surgery, I ordered a heating pad (this was a God send), a hot water bottle, pain pills, laxative, CBD/THC ointment and oil, scar cream, sweats, and a cute nightie set. I packed an overnight bag with a toiletry kit, my nightie set, a journal, and other necessities in case I had to stay longer than one night. I went grocery shopping, cleaned my apartment, and did my laundry in preparation for being down for at least 4 weeks. I washed my hair and put it in a protective style, and cleared my calendar for an entire month.
- You will need help: I was fortunate to have my mom come and stay with me for a week and a half. My aunts also came and stayed with me and brought food and really helped me because you will not be able to recover alone. I needed help getting out of bed, and did not have enough strength that first week after surgery to do anything. Surgery is major trauma to your body. And even though it’s for our benefit, your body needs to recover and heal. This type of surgery requires not only the external incision to heal, but also the internal incisions within the uterus that must heal. You cannot do this alone. So, get your family or friends to help you, but you will need your community around you. It’s also good medicine. I felt better having my family around and really appreciated one of my best friends coming to visit me.
- Your body will tell you what it needs: I was on a round the clock pain regimen with prescription Tylenol, Motrin, and another pain reliever. By the third day of this regimen, I had diarrhea, nausea, and felt terrible. My body no longer needed this much pain pills so I switched over to Aleve and took it every 12 hours as needed. The first week after surgery was the hardest. I had a high fever, and was still very groggy from the anesthesia. But I tried to walk as much as I could, and sit up and move around if my body allowed. Even now, I still have some residual pain and am giving myself the grace to get through.
- Your periods immediately after might be hell: I had found a chat room of women who had undergone myomectomy and many of them shared that they’re periods after their surgery were terrible. I was terrified, but knew that I would have to handle it no matter what. And they were right. The pain and cramps during my first period were worse than the pain after surgery. I could physically feel my uterus cramping around the internal incisions. It wasn’t very heavy, but just be prepared that the pain will be intense because your body is still healing. It took exactly a month after surgery for my period to return, and I should be getting my second period post-op in a couple weeks. I am a little nervous, but am believing that they will improve as my body heals.
- You will feel hopeful: I am still in awe of my body. I’m also still in shock that I didn’t listen to her sooner. I am hopeful that now that I am fibroid free, I will be able to get pregnant one day and start a family. I am beyond excited at how my body looks and learning to respect her and listen to her. I realized I’m stronger than I thought I was.
I hope these tips help you as you continue your healing journey, or share them with someone who might need them. You’re not in this alone. Be gentle with yourself.