Hey Gang! So in case you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting many gym #selfies lately. It’s not because I’m being lazy and skipping the gym, rather I recently had fibroid removal surgery (myomectomy) and have been out of commission. I had no intention of writing a blog post about this experience, but I’ve encountered so many women that struggle with fibroids that I feel compelled to share my story. Now don’t fret, this is a story of a success and hope, not of negatively and fear. So let me start from the beginning…
I’m very active young woman, 29 years old with no history of any medical problems. However, like a year and a half ago my periods started getting really heavy to the point that they were inconveniencing me at work and making it difficult to get through the day. I thought it was just due to my body changing with age and because I had stopped taking birth control. A few months later I mentioned my symptoms to my OBGYN during my annual exam and she responded that my heavy menstruation could be due to fibroids. I was like, huh? Surely enough during my exam she did feel some lumps on my uterus so she instructed me to a have an ultrasound, during which my fibroids were confirmed. At this point, I totally freaked out. A million questions ran through my mind like – “Can I still get pregnant?” “Do I have cancer?” “Is this because of my diet or lifestyle?” “Do I need surgery?” “If so, what kind of surgery?”
Fortunately, my doctor was very thorough and walked me through the severity (or lack of severity) of the situation and explained that fibroids are benign tumors very common among women of child-bearing age and in most cases can go left untreated if they are not causing symptoms. However, mine were causing symptoms and were fairly large (ranged from 2cm to 7cm) so she highly recommended that I have them removed if I planned to become pregnant in the future.
“Okay,” I thought to my self, “So I know I need to have surgery, the questions now are: When? And how I will have the operation?” This is where my GRIT by Brit hardcore research mode kicked in. During my investigation, I learned 3 key facts that changed my world for the better:
- You are NOT alone – up to 80% of women experience fibroids before the age of 50. So don’t freakout. You’re not critically ill or cursed. As long as you treat your fibroids appropriately, you are likely to be well. Also, the presence of uterine fibroids is mostly genetic. So if you your mom had them (mine did) you will likely have them too. Also, some studies show that high consumption of alcohol and red meat are likely to lead to fibroids, but this hasn’t been scientifically proven.
- You do NOT need a hysterectomy – If you have several fibroids and ovarian cysts you may think that a complete hysterectomy (removal of your entire uterus and ovaries) is your only option. This is not true! For many older women in their later 40’s and 50’s this is the best option because they are not likely to bear children. But if you are in your 20’s or 30’s, you can opt for a myomectomy to remove your fibroids and preserve your fertility. For some women who have really small fibroids that are not growing rapidly, birth control is an effective treatment to mitigate heavy bleeding and no surgery at all is needed.
- You do NOT need to get a giant C-section scar – So many of you, like me, are very active wellness-minded young adults who cringe at the thought of being cut open and laid up on the couch in agonizing recovery for several weeks. Fortunately, there are several non-surgery options and minimally invasive surgery options (e.g. laparoscopic myomectomy, DaVinci Robot myomectomy, high intensity focused ultrasound- HIFU)
Personally, I decided to go with the laparoscopic myomectomy to treat my fibroids. I really wanted to do HIFU, but it’s still in the clinical trial phase and radiologists will not let women who wish to become pregnant undergo the procedure – so HIFU got ruled out.
I had surgery on Jan. 22, 2014 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital with Dr. Jon Einarsson. It was a day surgery and the procedure itself took about 3 hours. I checked in the hospital at 8:30am and went home around 3pm. Here’s a pic of me leaving the hospital (in some pain but still cracking a smile for the camera).
Below is a photo of my uterus before and after my surgery. As you can see up top, the fibroids were making my uterus much larger than needed and taking up way too much space in my belly. I also had an ovarian cyst which you can see on the bottom left corner of the top photo. On the bottom you can see my uterus now, without the fibroids and without the cyst. So much more space! There’s some stitches and internal gauze that will dissolve over time.
Here’s a photo of my incisions. I’ve gotta be honest, I was really concerned about having a giant scar on my belly – who wants that? I was so relieved to learn that I could have my myomectomy surgery done laparoscopically (even though lots of gynecologists told me I couldn’t…hmmmm). As you can see, there are just 2 small incisions on the left side of my abdomen (each only 1 centimeter) and then there’s an incision in my belly button. So, 3 incisions altogether. Each incision is covered with a dermaglue that peels off in like 2-3 weeks. Not bad huh?
Today, I’m grateful to report that I am 3 and a half weeks post surgery, have ZERO fibroids or ovarian cysts, a fully functioning uterus and ovaries and I feel AWESOME! The laparsocipic surgery has significantly less recovery time and uterine scarring than the open myometocty, which is puts me in better shape for when I get pregnant in the future. I’ll return to work full-time this week with zero restrictions. Last week I’ve even starting working out again! Also, my scars are tiny and healing very well. I have minimal swelling in my abdomen but my pelvis region is still a bit tender. I also have some bruising around my groin and on my upper thighs which will last for another month – that’s the worst of it. Overall, I feel so blessed for the abilities of modern surgery and for my amazing surgeon, Dr. Einarsson.
I just wanted to share my experience with you guys so that hopefully it can be a story of encouragement for anyone going through the same thing. If you have ANY questions at all feel free to post a comment below. Also, if you have had experience with fibroids, please share your story with us! Let’s support each other
Be a Well Woman! xoxo, Brit