On April 10, I will have a Hysteroscopic Myomectomy — a surgical procedure that removes fibroids through the vagina.
To give you a little backstory, in December of 2016, I went in for my annual pap smear. Since I had been without insurance for almost three years, seeing a doctor was both terrifying and a relief (thank you, Obamacare). When I hit my mid-20s, I noticed something was off. I had always had a heavy cycle, but my bleeding was much heavier, and I couldn't move from my bed five days out of my seven-day cycle.
I'd just chalked it up to getting older, but since I was going in for a checkup, I wanted to ask my doctor questions.
After my pap smear was complete, the doctor asked if I had any questions. I told him that my periods were much heavier than usual and asked if there was a possibility that I may have developed fibroids since they run in my family. "Fibroids aren't genetic, and I didn't feel any during your exam," he said.
In my Google search, I read that black woman are three times more likely to develop fibroids than any other group in the US. I also stumbled upon a study that linked relaxers to uterine fibroids. There has to be reason fibroids are prominent in black women, right?
But since he was the "expert" in the room, I didn't ask any more questions fibroids. "I've heard birth control pills can help the heavy bleeding, do you have any recommendations?" I asked.
He prescribed me Levora and sent me on my way. Birth control was something I'd stayed away from because I'd heard horror stories of women becoming depressed, having prolonged cycles, and hormones fluctuating so much, it affected their physical appearance — but I was desperate. After almost nine months of taking the pill, I found myself in a Los Angeles emergency room. As I was telling the nurses why I was there, I felt like a drama queen.
Who goes to the emergency room because of their period?
After checking my blood, I was prescribed iron pills and told that if I had another cycle like this one, I would likely need a blood transfusion because I'd lost so much blood.
Since I was new to Los Angeles, the ER nurse assigned me a gynecologist for a follow-up appointment. He was known as one of the most thorough and caring doctors at Kaiser, but LA traffic caused me to miss my appointment, so I rescheduled with another doctor. When I arrived to my new doctor's office, I changed into my paper gown, laid down, put my feet in the stirrups, and stared at the fake clouds on the ceiling.
A few moments later, a black woman entered the room. I was surprised but also happy to see her walk through the door. She introduced herself and pulled up my chart. "Why were you in the emergency room?"
After giving her the details, she asked: "Do you have a history of a blood disorder?" No. "DId your doctor in Atlanta do any additional tests or an ultrasound?" No, but he did prescribe me Levora. "Yes, Levora is known to help with heavy bleeding and should have helped with your symptoms. Let's do a pelvic exam and run some tests to see what's going on."
"Do you want kids?" she asked. "Yes," I said holding back tears.
After a cervix exam, blood work, and ultrasound— I did indeed have a fibroid. Not only did I have a fibroid, but it was protruding out of my uterus, which explained why I was in so much pain and the reason my birth control wasn't helping.
Had my first doctor taken the time to listen to my concerns, I would have known my issues were not just hormonal.
After that appointment, my nurse scheduled a saline ultrasound. During a saline ultrasound, the doctor opens up the cervix, inserts a small tube into the vagina, and injects saline into the cavity. It was as painful as it sounds (I even had to sign a waiver), but after the appointment, I decided I wanted to have my fibroid surgically removed. I was given a number to call to schedule my surgery but it took nearly three weeks for me to develop enough courage to dial the number.
But when I picked up the phone to call, I started to cry. Not just cry, but ugly cry. The reality that I had to schedule surgery on my uterus set in for the first time.
I am terrified of having this surgery. I know women that have been through this and understand that millions of women have been in my shoes, but that doesn't make me any less afraid. I had to ask myself a question:
Do I put this off and continue to be in pain, or do I put my fear aside and go for the surgery?
I have a lot of things working in my favor. I have a black woman as my doctor. My family is flying out to be with me. Oh, and I won't have to send an email each month to saying, "I'm not feeling well enough to work today," or "I'm so sorry I couldn't make your event over the weekend because I have a non-cancerous tumor in my uterus that is causing me so much pain I can't stand up straight and makes me so tired that I can barely open my eyes today."
Okay, I've never written this email, but that's what I'm thinking whenever I have to send the generic "I'm not feeling well" message.
Since confirming my operation, I've been trying not to think or talk about it because I start to cry. Being vulnerable is much harder for me than being "strong." Over the last couple of weeks, I've been more open to talking to other women about their experiences, and also admitted to myself and those closest to me that I'm scared.
Acknowledging fear doesn't mean your weak, it just reminds us that we're human.
It took a move to California, an ER visit, and a new doctor to find out why my body was out of whack, but I'm on my way to getting my life back. If it were up to me, I would have taken a holistic approach. No one wants to have surgery, but the reality is that what works for one woman may not be an option for me because while our symptoms are similar, our bodies are different.
Whether that's going on the pill to help with bleeding, taking the holistic route, opting to have surgery, or doing all of the above, ultimately, we have to decide what feels right for us.
There should be no judgment, only support.
Featured image by Shutterstock
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash