It was January 2016 when I noticed a change.
A month prior, I had my regular OBGYN appointment and everything looked fine. I was excited that 2016 was coming and I was looking forward to traveling and exploring new writing options, specifically with launching my blog.
A couple weeks into the new year, I started having irregular bleeding on and off a week or two before my period. Sometimes it felt like I was having a light to medium period for almost 3 weeks and then I would always get a week or two off before I started bleeding irregularly again. This happened about 7 times throughout the year. I would have this kind of bleeding that would happen occasionally when I was on the birth control patch, but not like this. Is this the new “normal” with me being on the patch? I thought.
When I told my doctor about the situation that November (yes, I waited that long because I was in denial), she ordered me to have an ultrasound immediately. Sure enough, my results came back: I had uterine fibroids. Actually, I was in Denver when I learned of the news. The drive back from Boulder to my hotel in Denver was surreal. I didn’t cry, but I was just…stunned.
Fibroids, non benign tumors, come in all shapes and sizes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 80% of African American women and 70% of Caucasian women have them and they can range from the size of an apple seed to the size of a baseball. I have 3: 2 are the size of apple seeds, 1 is the size of a quarter. It is that stupid quarter-sized one that is causing the issue. Some women don’t get additional symptoms or even know that they have them. With mine, I can see it, literally. Sometimes I will get minor aches and I feel tired. Emotionally, I get annoyed and have minor sadness. Sometimes I get angry. It’s hormones.
Because of the size of the fibroids, my doctor said no surgery would be needed, but that I could do 1 of 2 things: I could get a IUD, which would 100% stop the bleeding or try the birth control pill that would slow it down. I decided on the pill, since I wasn’t so crazy about having something stuck up in me permanently.
Once on the pill, I had a day of breakthrough bleeding twice in 6 months. I felt happier and confident because I knew the pill was working. I’m mostly home free! I thought. I even gave an interview to Prevention Magazine about what it is like to live with fibroids. I did the interview because I wanted to educate and inform women of the reality of it, that it’s okay, life still goes on. I also have a great support system from my friends and family.
On Monday, 3 months after my last incident, the breakthrough bleeding had returned.
Okay, I thought. Stay calm. Maybe it’ll last a day like it has the past 2 times since I’ve been on the pill and it’ll go away.
When it didn’t go away by Thursday, I made a doctor’s appointment. The whole thing was ironic, because just a week ago I was in the office for another check-up for something unrelated.
The doctor looked at me sympathetically but stern, yet again.
“Have you been relaxing and living a more stress-free life?” she asked.
I sighed. I knew the answer, but I didn’t want to admit it. The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind. My team and I were working remote for 7 1/2 months and I was able to relax by being in the comfort of my own home, on the couch with a laptop and not running around as much, with exception of the gym, which I go to every other day.
Now here I was, officially in an office setting. The days of me changing laundry while I worked or making myself a nice breakfast first thing in the morning were gone. I have been trying to readjust my life so that I could work between 7 a.m./7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m./3:30 p.m., go home and either go grocery shopping, cook, do laundry, hit the gym, go to Happy Hour, do some freelance or blog work, volunteer and maybe get some cleaning done.
As I have come to realize on week 3 of me being back in an office, I learned that I could no longer do more than one major thing after work. If I hit the gym after work, that’s all I can do. If I choose to write one night, that’s all I can do. I feel more tired physically and the only way I can re-engerize myself is if I take naps every day after work for 1 – 2 hours.
The problem is that I do have a lot of energy, emotionally and mentally. Working as a writer/reporter, your brain needs to stay sharp and fresh and you need to have a fun and outgoing personality. It’s a problem because once I get going and I am feeling good about my work or what I will accomplish for the day, my body feels revved up to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. Most of the time I get so caught up with the energy that I forget that it can cause an annoying, yet minor issue. Obviously, once I thought I could do it all again in a few days time, my bleeding had returned for days on end, 7 months later.
So yes, I have to blame myself.
At this visit, I was tested for anemia. My doctor didn’t think this was the case, but wanted to be sure just in case. My doctor also reminded me of the journal I had kept last year.
“Start it up again and document the month and how long the bleeding lasts for, if it does,” she said. “We’ll reevaluate in December.”
I do not know what is going to happen in the months to come. I just have to keep going forward and not let something like fibroids control my life. I am still trying to find a better work-life balance than I did in years past. All I know for sure is that I have to be on the pill (or IUD) until I reach menopause. After that, a new decision will be made. The fibroids can also cause pregnancy complications, which would cause them to grow larger, if I decided I wanted a child.
To all of the women who just learned of your fibroids diagnosis: this is normal and nothing to be ashamed, sad or surprised about. Become educated on the subject, teach others and most importantly, love yourself for who you are! 🙂
Below is also another awesome infographic I found with more information on fibroids.
Photo credit: WTOP, Center for Specialized Gynecology – Florida Hospital Medical Group