Sometimes when things happen, we get so bogged down by it that we actually need an external force to pick us up. Today, BellaNaija is sharing an uplifting story. It’s a story of hope, inspiration and it has many helpful tips for people who are in this situation.
BellaNaijarian, Princess Mercedes is a fitness blogger and health enthusiast. She is also a medical student – an aspiring OBGYN! So, when she was diagnosed with having fibroids, she reckoned she could manage her symptoms. Two years after the first diagnosis, she finally decided to go under the knife. Anybody who has health challenges will know that this is never an easy decision to make.
Princess tells us about her experience with a condition that is prevalent with women of African descent in their 20s and 30s.
We hope you are inspired by Princess’ story! Don’t let anything keep you down in the dumpsters. We gat you!
Symptoms & Diagnosis
My initial symptoms began as intense abdominal pain that eventually got worse with food intake. I was able to visit a physician, who conducted an ultrasound concluding there was nothing wrong with me (big mistake). I continued on and somehow I managed to get over the pain to study for my medical school exam.
One morning, I woke up severely constipated with a huge bulge protruding from my right lower abdomen. Keep in mind that prior to the appearance of the bulge I was experience severe menorrhagia (abnormal bleeding during menstruation). It was so bad that in one day I went through roughly ten sanitary pads and over the counter naproxen pain killers. This time around I decided to see a different physician, who performed a pelvic sonogram and the result was: enlarged non-gravid 18-20 week six uterus with multiple intra-mural fibroids. The treatment options given to me were: Depoprovera 150mg IM (intramuscular) or Myomectomy. I chose neither and decided I would manage my symptoms as I’ve been managing them in the past. I went on this way for two years!
Hesitation About Surgery
Being a medical student prepared me to receive the diagnosis of having fibroids. I was given two options by the physician which I made a decision not to accept any. One of the reasons was the fear of going through with surgery seeing I’ve never had surgery. The other reason was the side effects of the prescribed medication which meant I won’t have any periods for some time coupled with other adverse effects. I was able to shrink one of the fibroids by changing up my diet and working out, I mean lifting weights and doing cardio. In 2015, after another check up with a different physician, I decided to proceed with the surgery. My reason was I had become severely anemic, and it prevented me from studying for my board exams.
It felt like a huge burden had been lifted from me. My abdomen was once again flat when I laid down, the massive lump was gone. This meant I could not only take my board exams, but I did not have to make silly excuses as to why I couldn’t show up to events with my colleagues. This meant I no longer had to get up every twenty minutes (20) to use the bathroom!
My best friend
I’ve know him since first year of medical school and he was right there when I woke up from surgery!
They did not judge me, my pain was their pain. They did not label me with all the stigmas I was labelled for proceeding with surgery. A lot of people are not properly informed on the various types of surgery options for women with fibroids. To make it simple to digest, the longer you live the fibroids, the worse it becomes, the more likely a hysterectomy has to be performed. A hysterectomy is complete removal of the female uterus! A myomectomy on the other hand is removal of JUST the fibroids in whatever position they might be occupying around the uterus.
A few of my medical colleagues
It surprised me that amongst medical students, especially the ones from Africa or Asia, there was this notion that it was best I left the fibroids until after I had children! Wait a minute! you mean to tell me that despite the vast amount of medical knowledge these students had acquired, some of them still believed it was best to suffer in sever pain rather that remove the fibroids? YES
You Haven’t Quite Decided to Have the Surgery? Here Are Some Things You Can Do
My best advice is to first seek medical help from a well seasoned OBGYN. If he or she does not suit you, then seek another OBGYN until you are satisfied.
Change your diet
I know we love our rice and stew, eba etc! but my dear it honestly pays to eat healthy. You can have our home meals once a week if you miss it that much.
I started drinking a gallon of water a day (I still do) to help my liver out. Fibroids affects the livers ability to detoxify properly.
Visit my blog for more tips www.mindfulofitness.com
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About the Fibroid Surgery
It is very crucial. I repeat, it is very crucial that you bring your chap stick or whatever you use to moisturise your lips because that post surgery dry lips is very uncomfortable and it hurts too. The nurse who provided me with one thought I was informed to bring one as she had to go search for one to give me.
2. Granny Panties
Yes, you read right! This is not the time for Victoria secret type of underwear because your secret is already exposed (lol, trying to be funny here) but you get the gist. Your focus is comfort, so I suggest you invest in affordable granny underwear with lace band so that it rest comfortable on your incision site without causing any form of discomfort. Also make sure you invest in either pants or skirts with elastic or drawstring waistbands.
3. The Pain
I will be honest with you, the level of pain you will experience cannot be described, so please prepare yourself. Of course you will be prescribed some pain medication but i suggest you mentally prepare yourself for all forms of pain you will experience.
I disliked the hospital socks, so it is best you bring your own warm, fuzzy socks and bedroom slippers.
This is very common after surgery and may last many weeks. I attempted to start studying on week two post surgery, let’s just say after I almost fell on the stairs in the library, I realized this level of fatigue is no joke. So I respected myself, closed my med books and went home to rest. I made sure I rested until it was time for my post surgery check up with my surgeon (4 months later).
You won’t be able to take a “normal” shower post surgery, at best you will get a wipe down by one of the nurses. Before you are discharged, request that the hospital give you some of the same wipes so you can use them at home (at least for the first three days). No baths please post surgery!
7. Sleeping at home
I don’t mean to sound negative, I just want to be honest as possible. You will encounter discomfort when it comes to sleeping because no position will suit you at the moment. I found out that sleeping on the living room couch with a lot of pillows to elevate my head worked okay. The hospital bed was amazing (I can’t believe I am saying this), but it sure was because it can be adjusted to accommodate you properly.
My first night back home, I slept for an hour! I know this because my FitBit watch tracked my sleep time. On another note, it is a smart idea to invest in one. I was able to track my sleep cycle and how many steps I took per day.
This is for your car ride back home, place the pillow on you abdomen are and then strap on your seat belt. I must warn you that each time the car goes over a speed bump, you may feel a sharp piercing pain.
9. Positive vibes
It’s important you surround yourself during recovery with people who are positive because no one would truly understand what you are going through unless they have had the same surgery, so it helps to have people who are positive around you.
10. Coughing, Bowel movements and Sneezing
Please bend over and gently hold your stomach as you cough or sneeze, unless you just love pain. They (doctors and nurses) advised that bowel movements would hurt, but it was the easiest thing for me to do. Now if you find it hard to poop post surgery, I mean after you get home, I suggest you drink some prune juice as it helps with bowel movements. Also try chewing gum or taking small walks around the house.
It IS going to take some time to get back to normal, so be patient with yourself. It was hard on me, seeing that I’m very active at the gym I fought hard to be patient with myself. You do not realise how much your core is involved in most of your daily activities until you have an abdominal surgery.
Avoid foods that cause gas i.e. broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. Also avoid alcohol and caffeine.
13. Bloating (swollen belly)
This is normal, it will go away after some weeks. In my case, my incision site was heavily swollen up until week 10! I guess for some people that is normal. Surgery irritates the intestines making them retain more gas and stool, but with time it goes away.
14. No Exercise
Wait until after your follow up to begin non strenuous exercise, also ask your physician if its okay. Make sure to use your arms and elbows when getting out of bed, please ask for assistance because you will need it.
This is the best form of exercise post surgery as it helps with circulation. Start slow, you will find out you won’t be able to walk fast anyway. Also by week two, I made it a priority to go to the gym just to slowly (and I mean slowly) walk on the treadmill on a speed of 0.6, and in time i was able to increase the speed and gradually walk a bit faster. Initially I was able to walk only fifty (50) steps in a day! How crazy is that?
Post Surgery Musing
The next 24-hours at the recovery room were quite intense, I just laid in bed and was served liquids mostly, while constantly ringing in for the nurses each time I felt the pain. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy pain. Once the nurse asked me on a scale of 1-10 to describe my pain, I told her “it is not on that scale” and to my surprise she laughed, and just like that we began to chat because just like me, she too had undergone fibroid surgery, and like me, she too was Nigerian and had experienced all the negative labels our people associate with having fibroids and going through with the surgery. It seemed like almost every nurse that cared for me after the other’s shift was over either had fibroid or knew of someone who had and for most, they decided to dedicate their lives helping women who went through the same surgery during recovery. How beautiful!
I spent two days at the recovery room, after which I was asked to try to get up and walk. This was in essence to prevent blood clots from forming, and also to “motivate” me to use the restroom as i had a catheter placed in, and they needed it to be removed as soon as I was able to pee.
Two Weeks Post Surgery
It took me some time, but slowly and surely I was able to start walking a bit faster, lifting weights, taking short showers, and finally returning my body better than what it was before fibroid. I have followed the workout tips I shared on my blog www.mindfulofitness.com and maintained a healthy clean diet with a few cheat meals here and there.
As women, it is imperative that we assist and uplift each other.
Throughout my entire ordeal with fibroid, it came as a shock that the most negative of comments I received were from my fellow women. Women who were without adequate knowledge about fibroid and its symptoms, or worse what it can do to the female body if left untreated or women who had this notion that “fibroid removal = inability to procreate”. As saddening as it was to have to go through such a stigma constantly, I was determined to prove them wrong that having fibroid was not a death sentence unless you wanted it to be such by not taking the proper actions!
A lot of women are silently suffering, carrying fibroids bigger than we can imagine because of the fear of being labelled wrongly. I find that majority of these women are in “Third world countries” with little or no care to a hospital facility. Again it is imperative that we learn to support one another, they already have it hard and the least you can do is show support no matter how small because it goes a long way.
People often associate fibroid surgery with removal of the uterus, and that ideology is not always the case! There are different types of surgeries out there depending on the amount of fibroids, size and how advanced they may be. This is why it is advised that anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical help as soon as possible to avoid further complications. Please do not automatically label women battling with fibroids as non-fertile or what have you. As someone who went through with fibroids, I know exactly how a lot of women in this shoe fell. Be a little more kind and understanding towards them.
Almost a Year Post-Surgery
Currently I’m on the road to prepping for my first women’s figure competition and guess who is going to be there to support me amongst my other supporters? My OBGYN Dr. R! It is amazing to know that there are people who genuinely want the best for you. In the short time I’ve known my surgeon, he has motivated and constantly inspires me to keep pushing to be the best I can ever be. To anyone who is battling with fibroids or anything, make sure you find a great surgeon who has the passion for what they do because it makes a lot of difference in your recovery stage. Also take some time to do a lot of research on how to best manage your symptoms before electing to proceed with surgery. I do have some tips on my blog page on some things I did to help me manage my symptoms.
One last thing, if I can do it, you already know it is POSSIBLE and you can do it too. My little piece of advice to anyone who is battling with fibroids is this: DO NOT LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF NAYSAYERS! get the proper help you need, find a good obgyn and get sorted out. You will be okay.