I swore I was about to bleed to death.
I was at work, standing in a bathroom stall frantically scrubbing my pinstriped lavender pants, shamefully unaware of the stain on them when I walked into the restroom for the umpteenth time and mad that I didn't wear black.
I caught my reflection on my way back to my desk to retrieve my cell phone. I was beginning to look gaunt. My iron count was so dangerously low that I was prescribed supplements, and I lost over 10 pounds – weight I worked so hard for years to gain, mind you – plus muscle all in one month.
I was suffering from uterine fibroids--benign tumors that grow within the uterus and a condition that disproportionately impacts 80% of Black women. While most women are asymptomatic and can continue life as normal, my symptoms--including frequent restroom breaks, lower back pain, and a hard, slightly round stomach equivalent to a 12-week pregnancy, according to my doctor – were a little more severe because of the fibroids' location and size. Fibroids can be as small as the width of a pea and as large as a grapefruit. Judging from the amount of blood loss, mine might've been approaching the size of a lemon or tangerine. I called my doctor for an emergency appointment because the bleeding wouldn't relent, and I was on track to pass out somewhere.
“It's been over three weeks," I said to the receptionist at my doctor's office.
The next morning, my gynecologist and I sat down to finalize a treatment plan. I was nervous about the whole idea of undergoing surgery, but I was relieved that I didn't have to have a hysterectomy, or the removal of all or part of the uterus and cervix. Unless it was cancerous, I didn't see the point of sacrificing a functioning organ, and according to an article in the International Academy of Pelvic Surgery, more women are opting for uterine preservation for reasons other than fertility: Sexuality and body image issues and personal and cultural preferences are presiding factors.
So it's important to know that a hysterectomy isn't a woman's only choice for fibroid relief, although many women think so and doctors may push for one as a solution when it should be the absolute last resort. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that 76% of all hysterectomies performed today were unnecessary. But some doctors aren't exactly familiar with the newer medical advances, or they find them too “time-consuming," as my doctor once pointed out. Hysterectomies are routine, but patients face longer recovery periods, instant menopause, and bladder and sexual dysfunction. But despite the fact that my symptoms may have fallen on the more severe side of the spectrum, my GYN and I agreed that another option would be ideal.
Initially I had previously picked up a pamphlet for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), partly to duck surgery. UFE, also known as uterine artery embolization, is a minimally invasive procedure that works by injecting contrast material – which may cause an allergic reaction in some women – into a woman's upper thigh to block arterial flow to the fibroids. It takes 1-3 hours and the patient is sedated – but not asleep – so she can follow any directions given by the interventional radiologist. Women can expect bleeding and pain from the breakdown of fibroid tissue from anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, although my doctor mentioned that some patients end up in the emergency room for “excruciating pain from dying tissue." In a few of those cases, women face emergency hysterectomies because of infections. But in best case scenarios, most women can resume usual activities in about a week.
However UFE isn't recommended for patients like me who do wish to preserve fertility because it shuts off blood flow that would be necessary for a future fetus. So I was left with the pill, myomectomy, or a combination of the two.
“I see the pill didn't work," my GYN said as he opened my chart.
The pill was supposed to have been the first step in controlling the profuse bleeding, and usually it does work for most women. It did for me, until my fibroids grew rebellious. Since I was already on oral contraception, my doctor just prescribed a different variation with iron. But to be honest, that pill was brown and looked funny (as in chalky-funny), and after years of taking the same tablets with no side effects, I was too stubborn to switch to a new one, anyway. Plus I convinced myself that I didn't drink enough water for my body to properly process iron, so that was that.
Ultimately I chose the laparoscopic, or robotic, myomectomy to remove the fibroids and keep my uterus intact. During this procedure, the surgeon makes a series of 3-5 one-inch incisions preferably along the bikini line but sometimes nearer the belly button where mine are located. A tube with a camera and small surgical instruments are then inserted into the abdominal wall. With the use of a “robot" or a separate console, the surgeon controls the instruments to cut the fibroids into “strips" thin enough to remove through the incisions. The surgery should've taken a few hours, but mine was nearly three times as long because my doctor and his colleague discovered more fibroids than were on the MRI once they were inside. But they were determined to complete the surgery without making a full cut across my abdomen. Some patients can go home the same day, however, I spent the night at the hospital, probably because I woke up late evening. I also needed a blood transfusion midway surgery, which UFE patients don't have to worry about. Recovery is about 6-8 weeks.
Three years later, at least one fibroid returned, which is a risk with both the UFE and myomectomy. But I still have no physical symptoms including fatigue, heavy bleeding, and severe anemia. I do try to practice a bit of self-care (again) because that was one thing that changed post-surgery. Now I'm more mindful of what I eat because some experts say what we put in our bodies – and on our bodies, like hair relaxers – can encourage the (re)growth of fibroids. It's possible genetics play a part, too. But there's no definitive answer.
There's also no cure for fibroids, and the only surefire way to get rid of them once and for all is through a hysterectomy, but that should still be a woman's choice. We shouldn't be led to believe we have no other recourse to both manage fibroids and maintain our uterus when, in fact, we do. Of course, treatment options vary depending on the patient, her medical history, and reproductive choices among other factors. This list of treatments isn't exhaustive, and as with any medical procedure, you should always consult your doctor and perform your own thorough research before making a final decision.
Have you had fibroids? What are some tips that you've learned to help with managing them?
Featured image by Getty Images
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
One thing about Megan Thee Stallion is that she’s going to motivate you to stay active. From afar, she seems like the perfect gym bestie, and up close, it looks like her workouts would have us gasping for air. But hey, she doesn’t call her routines “bootcamp” for nothing.
After an extended break from social media and the public eye, the Houston Hottie is back sharing the high-energy workouts that are keeping her lean and she’s happy to report that “the results have been resulting."
The 28-year-old rapper dropped an Instagram Reel, detailing the workout routine that’s putting her endurance to the test. With the help of her personal trainer, Megan has one word in mind when it comes to her progress and that’s: “Consistency.”
The “Savage” artist has been traveling, making “hot girl moves," and after returning from a trip to New York, she expressed that her trainer is pushing her to keep the same energy back in the gym.
“I had just gotten back from New York and I told my trainer, ‘Look, friend, I was having a time. Can you please take it easy?’” Megan said. “He said, ‘Hmm, I’ve seen you doing all that hot girl s—, so what you need to do is get in that gym and have that same energy.’”
Her trainer then instructed her to do jumping squats with an exercise ball and resistance band around her legs for an extra burn. “I put my thing down, flipped it, and reversed it and that’s what happened. This sh– burned like a motherf—,” she teased in the video’s voiceover while executing both forward and backward jumping squats.
It’s clear that when it comes to Megan’s fitness, her trainer doesn’t play around about pushing her to her limits. In the next set of her cardio moves, we see the Grammy-winning artist jumping rope and moving on to a combination of mountain climbers and lateral jumps over a speed hurdle.
“Right here, that’s when I realized: I’ve been saying my trainer’s crazy but I know he’s really, really crazy because he must think that I’m trying out for the Houston Texans or something,” she joked.
To finish her workout, Meg hit two more barbell exercises, one being a set of cleans with 10-pound weight plates on the barbell. She then closed out by doing lunges with the barbell racked on her shoulders.
Of course, the best way to close out a workout is to nourish yourself with a balanced meal. Meg showed off her delicious post-workout plate with salmon, a sweet potato, and assorted veggies.
With so much of her public life being shared on the internet, it’s nice to see her letting us in on her progress in a fun and motivating way. “I just want to be transparent with y'all. Working out hurts, but it’s really a mental thang, so go do it!”
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Taylor Hill/Getty Images