“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” – Martha, John 11:21
These are the words of a grieving sister mourning the loss of her brother Lazarus. Crushed by bereavement, she believes that circumstances could have been different. I know Martha usually gets a bad rap in many sermons for her busy, excessive temperament; but sometimes like Martha, depending on the circumstance, our real life experiences that cause grief and pain, can cause us to respond by wondering, asking or considering, how situations could or should have been different.
Growing up, I never really had much issues that would cause me to be hospitalised. As a female, I learned from a young age that monthly menstrual cramps were perfectly normal and pretty bearable, until my teenage years. The pain was quite disabling at times until I discovered Nurofen. I still wasn’t able to side-line the bloating, backache and headaches, but at least I could keep active if absolutely necessary. As life moved on nurofen was not even enough. I sought help from GPs and they offered stronger tablet form medications but no further investigations.
The world wide web is an interesting place. I’ve heard arguments for and against the idea of painful periods being “normal”. For me, I believe that an incessant, crippling pain is usually a sign that you may need more thorough exploration of how your body is functioning.
In July 2017 when I was totally hunched over unable to move, I was admitted to hospital. Two months before my white wedding and I am on a hospital bed in the corridor of an overcrowded patient ward. I was given medication and a few hours later, the doctor tells me that it looks like I had a kidney stone, but x ray showed that there was nothing of concern so it was ok to be discharged. I’m given a discharge sheet and in tiny writing at the bottom of the paper is a reference to ‘Fibroids’.
“Fibroids are common, with around 1 in 3 women developing them at some point in their life. They most often occur in women aged 30 to 50. Fibroids are thought to develop more frequently in women of African-Caribbean origin.” – NHS
Skip forward to my wedding day, a beautiful day, fabulous honeymoon, and new chapter of my life and marital journey. Not long after, a letter from the hospital I had attended for the kidney stone, was asking me to return to the hospital for a scans and review. Meanwhile, for the remainder of the year terrible monthly menstrual pain, heavy menstrual flow continued. I again went back to my local GP, more medication but no further exploration.
I attended the hospital appointments, and my Kidney’s were fine, Urethra fine, but loads of fibroids? This Doctor did not explain much but just started to speak about hysterectomy? I was slightly distressed and I just wanted to leave!
I chose to blog about this issue, with the encouragement of my husband, because, although this was my personal experience, the more I spoke about it, shared my journey with others, the more I was gaining a new understanding. I had friends who shared their own personal experiences of discovering fibroids were in their womb. Some found out because of the usual symptoms, others due to difficult pregnancies.
I discovered that July is Fibroid Awareness month in some American states. Women all over the world, sharing our stories to raise awareness, which helps to provide deeper understanding about the mysteries of the female body. As a black woman of Afro-Caribbean descent, some studies and suggestions highlight the increased frequency of fibroids developing in women of this heritage. So do these studies suggest that if we are experiencing certain symptoms, there should be further investigations made at an earlier stage with recurrent visits to the GP about this issue?
Subsequent to my hospital appointments I was referred to a gynaecologist. He told me “if your periods are manageable we won’t do anything’ and then persisted to tell me about the bureaucratic referral processes in place to address this issue. When speaking to certain medical professionals during this process, I often felt excluded and helpless. Letters were sent to me with medical jargon to explain the scans I had but I did not have medical understanding to understand the gravity of what the scans revealed. Telephone calls, further appointments, re-referrals, going around in circles with no discussion on treatment. Am I supposed to sit here as these invaders take over my body!! I recall speaking to a family nurse and she told me quite frankly, “do not allow them to leave you like this.”
Being in this situation, helped me to realise that I can not put my future in the hands of infallible human beings. I had to keep trusting God for wisdom, direction and intervention. A year later, I received a letter to see another gynaecologist – July 2018. My husband as usual was with me at this appointment. He asked us a few questions and said “Ok, lets removed them.” Oh wow. Okay. This felt like a relief and a divine answer to prayer. It was whole year and I was tired. But this felt like a well needed breakthrough.
September 2018, after celebrations in Rome for birthday and anniversary, I came home, had an assessment and was booked into have the myomectomy that week. I was admitted to the BMI Hospital and I felt such peace, my husband praying over me, the staff warm, friendly, professional and making me giggle. At this moment in my life all that mattered was addressing this issue. Everything else like work, ministry and the busy-ness of life can wait.
I woke up from the surgery heavily sedated, sore. It was pre-covid days, so no social distancing measures in place and I woke up to see my husband, family and friends around me. Thank You Lord.
These staple like stitches held my wound together, tube for blood drainage in my side, urinary catheter….well, this is different lol. After a good first night, the following day I was assisted by great nurses, very pleasant care and even physio. I can’t laugh or cough and I feel so tender. The surgeon came to see me and provided feedback on how he felt the surgery had gone. I was shown a picture of these ugly fibroid invaders that were removed and also that he had treated endometriosis. Another condition that could also explain my previous pain and heavy menstrual flow.
My recovery required me to engage in no heavy lifting, do nothing strenuous and don’t drive. The day after my operation the nurse encouraged me to engage in the physio. Physio already? Yes ma’am, one tiny step at a time. The surgeon was very surprised to hear that I was booked for physio already, as his other patients were not. All glory to God for the swift beginning of healing and being mobile again.
Once home, the walk up three flights of stairs took longer than usual. But once home and indoors I was able to get comfortable. I love to sleep on my stomach but now I have to learn to sleep on my back for three months with my legs resting on a cushion. Thank God for my hubby, my carer who would make sure I was ok in the morning, leave for work and then come home cook our dinner and do everything that needed to be done at home.
I had to take the injections that prevent blood clots daily and I chose to take paracetamol rather than nurofen if I experienced any pain. The first week after the operation, I had terrible bloating, but I was warned by the nurse that this would happen. This was alleviated once I threw up, which felt like every clip in my stomach was being ripped from the inside. Ouch! Of course, I am fully aware that every woman is different and will heal and recover differently.
I had a personal lockdown. Time to reflect. I believe this chapter of my life unfolded to provide more than just insight into my own health, but I gained something to share with my sisters….
- Any ongoing, unusual, chronic pain should never be ignored. It maybe nothing, it may be something, but why not check it out?
- All women can be affected by fibroids and endometriosis, yet studies suggest that those of African-Caribbean origin are “thought” to be more prone to developing fibroids.
- Obesity can be a key factor that is identified as causing the development of fibroids so research into nutrition and overall health and fitness is a great benefit. As with everything there are arguments for and against most things. But I became focused on getting my weight down with a method that was beneficial and enjoyable. I’ll blog about my weight loss journey soon, but for now I encourage you to stick to the most healthiest option for you!
- Fortunately, the resources and information on fibroids and endometriosis are very accessible via difference sources. We can learn objectively, whilst listening to our bodies and knowing how the information may relate to our personal circumstance.
- From the point of seeing “fibroids” written on my discharge sheet, to having the myomectomy, was a year and two months. I have no idea what the NHS waiting times are now due to covid-19? Wherever you are in the world, your access to healthcare will differ. Whether you invest in private consultation or public provisions, if you have concerns, make them known to medical professions. The cost of not addressing this issue early could offer more health issues in the long run.
- This is a deeply emotive and personal area for so many women, couples and families. I am so grateful that I had people that my husband and I could trust and who were able to respond to our situation with love, sensitivity and prayer. It’s not a right for everyone to know all the ins and outs of what is happening to you especially, if you feel you need time to process these matters in your life, that’s ok. Don t feel pressured. But don’t feel ashamed either. Your journey and your story is unique, but not uncommon.
I had a myomectomy, but there are a number of different surgeries depending on the severity of your circumstances that can and will be offered. These are not menial issues and the gravity of the impact should not be minimised. I have heard many experiences. Some women require a hysterectomy which is womb removal, some experience miscarriages, one friend had a serious dilemma after childbirth due to fibroid related issues. Wombs matter regardless what age we are! So I really believe that raising awareness early can maybe assist to recognise early symptoms and gain early intervention if necessary rather than endure discomfort and/or irreversible outcomes.
With all I have read, heard and experienced, I am happy to encourage so many with the message of hope. I understand that I was graced to have this testimony. My recovery was steady and I took the time to evaluate my whole life. I had a successful operation and my monthly pain is no where near as intense as it was before the op. My recovery was not just physical, but emotional and spiritual. 2019 was a very positive and dynamic year. Taking steps of faith, making changes and embracing a new season.
Half way through the year of 2019, I was experiencing some sharp pains in my side. I return to the gynaecologist and I find out something else! The journey continues and will be reflected in Part 2 of my story.
When Lazarus died, Martha in general terms was asking Jesus “where were you in our situation?” Jesus then demonstrated powerfully, that even when a situation seems bleak, God has an unfolding purpose that can bring hope to our souls and glory to His name! By faith, I’m still learning and growing in this truth, and the purpose in this blog is to encourage the readers, experiencing difficulties directly or indirectly that you are not alone, and that in Christ, there is a purpose in our difficulties even when we can’t see it.
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Photography by Armsmac Studios
Fibroids NHS Website
July Fibroid Awareness Month – The Fibroid Foundation
Join the conversation – Pelvic Pain support.
Photo looks and products:
Boohoo Cap from Boohoo.com
Jacket from Primark
Frill top from Primark
Mum Jeans from Tesco
iL Makiage Foundation
White heels River Island
Earrings New Look