According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately 26 million women between the ages of 15-50 have uterine fibroids. These usually noncancerous growths of the uterus most often appear during childbearing years. The initial symptoms present in various forms, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, pelvic pressure/pain, or back pain. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a fantastic fibroid survivor, Natasha Morris, who experienced fibroids and the symptoms that go along with them firsthand.
Natasha’s earliest memory of fibroids was a “belly pooch” which she initially thought was belly fat until she went for her annual well-woman exam. At this point, she discovered her belly pooch was NOT just fat, but fibroids. That was approximately 17 years ago. From that point on, Natasha was up for the fight of her life.
Being diagnosed with fibroids changed her life drastically in multiple ways. She had to deal with the physical pain and emotional and mental exhaustion it caused. The following is part of our conversation. I hope it gives insight to those who read this blog.
How did being diagnosed with fibroids change how you went about your everyday life?
My life changed drastically, especially during my monthly cycles. I wore black for at least a week for fear of leaking through my clothes and risking being embarrassed, especially in public. I also had to wear overnight pads during the day. I had to change pads every two hours. Also, as the fibroids grew larger, I had to be strategic in what I wore, being careful not to wear certain types of clothing that would show my pooch, which made me look pregnant. I didn’t wear white during this time, and I couldn’t go on weekend trips or hang out, especially if there wasn’t a restroom nearby and it fell during that time of the month.
How were you affected emotionally?
Having fibroids took a toll on my self-esteem and made physical intimacy painful in my romantic relationships. I didn’t feel whole as a woman. I felt as if I were damaged goods. I was in a “sunken” place. I got to the point where I couldn’t attend baby showers because there would be talk about babies, and I knew that was a sore spot for me. It hurt me so much. Even going to my yearly OB/GYN appointments had an emotional impact. In the waiting room, I’d see these women who were carrying a fetus and I was carrying fibroids. It’s also a struggle when you have a natural desire to be a mother and sharing my issue with other women who haven’t gone through what I am going through don’t understand how I’m impacted.
What treatment did you undergo?
I didn’t have one treatment, but I ended up having three. My first treatment was called Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE). This procedure relieved some of the bleeding and allowed me to go from wearing overnight pads to regular ones, which was a huge deal. It also provided me with a decrease in cramps but didn’t help the pooch, because the fibroids were so big, and there was no shrinkage. The second procedure was called Acessa, which is a Laparoscopic Radiofrequency Ablation. I made a two-hour trip to have this done in Augusta, Georgia after finding an MD who would do the procedure. She was not able to complete the Acessa fully as she had hoped because the “stubborn” fibroids caused hemorrhaging, so she stopped the procedure. She was, however, able to complete enough of the procedure so that when I lay on my stomach, I no longer needed a towel or a pillow; that was huge for me, and I took that as a “win.” The fibroids still did not shrink, because they had calcified at this point. I did everything in my power to shrink them holistically and medically until around age 48-49, and then I decided it was time for the hysterectomy. I prepared myself mentally and physically for a whole year before having the surgery.
Why do you feel it’s important to talk to all women about fibroids?
It’s important because we don’t talk about it. It’s important to talk about the physiological and emotional impact that it can have on your life. We might only talk about it if it comes up in conversation. As women, we tend to SUFFER IN SILENCE. I feel like my testimony is important so that I can help others. Also going to therapy is important. Just having someone to talk to about what you are going through is huge.
How are you raising fibroid awareness?
I am raising awareness by being available to women who need support and encouragement as well as ministering to their needs.
Natasha is an amazing woman, and I could have chatted with her all afternoon. She opened my eyes to a lot of things that I never knew about fibroids. After you’ve been diagnosed, it’s important to find a doctor you trust who will make your journey with fibroids a little easier. Ladies, find a doctor who will listen to you and your problems. Also, don’t be afraid to speak out about what you are going through. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to go to therapy. Mental health is important. Also, be sure to go for your annual well-woman exams. If you miss an exam, be sure to reschedule it. Early detection is better than late detection.
Natasha would like to personally invite you to watch RED ALERT! A Conversation about HER Health, a virtual summit about uterine fibroids and the women whose lives they impact, based on the upcoming documentary Red Alert: The Fight Against Fibroids directed by Erica L. Taylor. You won’t want to miss this!