The issue of fibroids and black women is not new, so I won't bore you with the statistics. Just know that fibroids are almost three times more likely to occur in us than in our white counterparts.
Uterine fibroids are something I've always been aware of in my own family, as my mother and aunts have all dealt with them.
The little round devils would cause major pain, lots of bleeding, and stomach bulges that led to questions of pregnancy or overeating. And by the time I became a 20-something go-getter with a busy NYC social and dating life, I'd convinced myself that they would be strangers to me. I would will them away.
I had men to do, boss moves to make, and an image to maintain.
Back then, my period and I were besties, and she never gave me too many problems. We had a stellar arrangement: Keep it sexy.
I'd mastered when she was heaviest and what OTC pills to take when she was feeling extra feisty. I never gave in to those old-maid, conservative traditions of women who sometimes had whole wardrobes of loose dresses, frumpy sweats, and full booty-coverage briefs reserved for Aunt Flo. (And when it came to sex, those same women oftentimes wouldn't let their men near them when the time for their cycle came around.)
I wore what I wanted, from white-after-Labor-Day to sexy lingerie---no "period panties" over here.
If whoever I was dating at the time wanted to run the red light, I was down, as long as there were precautions taken to protect my 300-count sheets and personal health. I enjoyed clubbing at least three times a week in a good ole' body-con dress or wearing leggings and short tops---before Fashion Nova became a thing---even during "that time of the month."
I didn't mind being judged about my "alternative" attitude about my menstrual period, and to be honest, it was my body and my business.
I wasn't going to be restricted, shamed, or defined by one of the most natural, healthy, and beautiful things about being a woman.
By my early 30s, I'd matured tremendously and achieved quite a bit in terms of career advancement. I'd let go of the dating roster and the frequent late-night-early-morning routine, and I threw most of my energy into a new career as a self-employed consultant and freelancer. I changed my eating habits, got more into my spiritual health, and lost 30 lbs.
I thought I'd avoided fibroids, but by the time I hit 34, they were already plotting their grand debut.
I got my period one month, as usual, but this time it was heavier and lasted longer. I thought nothing of it at first and brushed it off as a product of stress from all the transitions I'd gone through as a budding entrepreneur.
That is, until they crashed my 35th birthday, causing light-to-heavy bleeding for 13 days. (My normal period lasts five.)
Not only did my period stick around, but she caused a lot of damage in the form of ruined sheets, a favorite freak 'em dress I had to trash, an emergency blood transfusion at the ER, and---above all---a self esteem that went from Sassy Sexy Sue to Debbie Darkness.
I went through at least two packs of extra-heavy overnight pads (with the wings), multiple boxes of tampons, and so many pairs of panties. I was even forced to buy---dare I say it---cotton briefs, which reminded me of the typical underwear people over 60 wear. I wanted to do nothing but work from home and sulk.
This ain't sexy and it ain't me, I told myself.
I thought the worst: Will I have to get a hysterectomy at 35? I have no kids.
I was in the throws of a new relationship---deeply in love---and me and my man would often chat about our desire to have families with kids of our own. The sex is great and uninhibited. Will he dump me?
I love to travel and do it often for client work. Will I have to wear Depends on every flight? Will I be leaking more than Black Girl Magic on a conference stage?
That ain't sexy.
My life is over. I would never feel empowered or confident again.
I finally told my boyfriend about it---crying on the phone with ridiculously doom-focused theories on our future. Turns out, he knew women who had fibroids, and he was compassionate about the whole thing. He even got candid in sharing graphic details of what he knew about them. He wasn't turned off at all and was nonchalant about my fears. "Babes, I care more about your health than some sheets I can replace," he said. "We'll be fine."
(I was not expecting such a response since I knew of a young woman who'd had bladder issues and when her man woke up one morning on pee-soaked sheets, he was utterly disgusted. It caused a major breakdown in their relationship.)
I talked with my mom as well, who gave me advice on how she dealt with them. Then I had a come-to-Jesus conversation with a physician about my options.
The journalist and medical-industry skeptic in me did some online digging of my own, and I found out that the discomfort fibroids often caused could be lessened with exercise, a great diet, and supplements. I started to lift weights again---wearing my favorite workout gear---and I began accepting that it's okay to take more frequent breaks between sets to change my tampon/pad combo.
I also began to accept that it was okay to adjust a few more things in my life, like eating more foods rich in iron, taking meds for pain or anemia, and logging the patterns and symptoms during my menstrual cycles. Only God knows the future in terms of pregnancy and my becoming a mother, so I chose to leave that to Him through prayer, devotions, and meditation.
Hey, I've even become a pseudo-expert in stain removal.
The anxiety has dwindled, my menstrual pain has lessened---for now---and the heavy bleeding has actually lightened since that I'm back on an active workout schedule, eating better, and feeling more confident.
I almost let those hater fibroids throw salt on my game. Now, I think of them like a distant cousin to Aunt Flo that I have to learn to get along with. I'm still considering decisions on the latest noninvasive procedures available, but I won't let age, ticking fertility clocks, societal pressure, or outrageous fears guilt me into making any rash decisions.
I can still be that sexy, driven, ambitious and smart woman who loves to treat herself to a few nice pieces from Victoria's Secret or L'Agent at any time of month.
Fibroids be damned.
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