• In her own words: living with uterine fibroids

    Chart showing annual new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia: 3 million; gonorrhea: 650,000; syphylis: 70,000 (Source: American Social Health Association)
    Stomach pain, pressure on the bladder, bloating, and irregular periods were all signs Nancy* had that something was wrong. Sharing these symptoms with her doctor, lead to an early diagnosis of fibroid tumors on and around her uterus. After a successful laparoscopic surgery, she is tumor free and has been able to resume her normal lifestyle. Nancy at 51, is married and a mother of two children, ages 32 and 28, and a grandmother of one.
    What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?
    I had stomach pain and I felt like I had to urinate all the time. I also had bloating and indigestion. Then, I had a period that lasted for over six weeks.
    What was the diagnosis experience like?
    I went in for a regular Pap test and pelvic exam and I told the doctor that I felt that something was wrong because of how I was feeling. Through the ultrasound and exam, the doctor found that I had several large fibroid tumors. He wanted to schedule me for surgery the following week. However, I went for a second opinion and that doctor ran quite a few more tests. He did more blood work, another ultrasound and an MRI. He confirmed that I had fibroid tumors the size of a football, and recommended a complete hysterectomy.
    What was your initial and then longer-term reaction to the diagnosis?
    My initial reaction to the original diagnosis was that I wanted to get a second opinion before I rushed into surgery. I felt much more confident with the thoroughness of the second doctor. I was relieved in a way to know what it was and anxious to get it taken care of. The first doctor predicted that it was cancer, but didn’t do the degree of blood work and testing to really confirm that. The second doctor said there was a possibility of cancer, but he would have to run more tests.
    How are uterine fibroids treated?
    I had a complete hysterectomy through laparoscopic surgery. They removed the uterus, both ovaries, but not the cervix. I then had follow up check ups every six weeks. Right now I'm not on any medications. However, because I have night sweats and hot flashes pretty bad, I tried the estrogen patch, but that didn’t work out real well. I also tried Black Cohosh, which is an herb to help with menopause. I plan on going back to the doctor to see if there is something else I can try because the night sweats are getting more intense and more frequent.
    Did you have to make any lifestyle or dietary changes in response to having uterine fibroids?
    Once the healing process was over, I've been able to get back to my routine. I was not to do any heavy lifting for about six weeks. Because my job was mostly office work, I was able to go back to work in 2 ½ weeks.
    As far as dietary changes, I didn’t really change anything other than I didn’t have the cravings like I had before surgery. I also feel better after I eat instead of feeling so bloated all the time.
    Did you seek any type of emotional support?
    No, just from family and friends.
    Does having uterine fibroids have an impact on your family?
    At the time I think my family was very concerned. The fear of cancer was an emotional part for the family. My husband helped out with some of the household tasks during the first few weeks when I was home for surgery.
    What advice would you give to anyone living with uterine fibroids?
    I would recommend that they get a second opinion, and that they feel confident with their doctor. Take it slow (unless you have to act quickly) and consider all your options. Because I had the laparoscopic surgery, instead of the traditional, I healed and recovered faster. Don't wait too long if you feel something is wrong to see a doctor.
    *Not her real name
    Interviews were conducted in the past and may not reflect current standards and practices in medicine. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how this condition is diagnosed and managed today and what treatment approaches are right for you.
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