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I'm Having My Fibroid Surgically Removed Through My Vagina & I'm Terrified

Women's Health

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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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