My Struggle with Fibroids Over 50

My blog topics usually focus on motivation and information to help you adopt a healthy lifestyle. Although this one is very personal, it still covers a subject about health and improved quality of life. As a blogger and freelance writer, I felt it important to share my story and provide hope for those who may be struggling with fibroids.
I have been experiencing health problems for longer than I realized. This past year brought more negative symptoms and bad days. I began feeling more uncomfortable than comfortable. The quality of my life was taking a toll and I became desperate to get answers and relief.
What I thought was chronic bladder problems turned into a diagnosed fibroid tumor pressing on vital organs. I will be sharing medical details and images just to prepare those who may be sensitive to such things.
After my diagnosis, I discovered there wasn’t a lot of research or informative personal shares about this subject. This was frustrating, especially for women over 50 and in menopause. This is of great concern because cancer risk increases when fibroids continue to grow during menopause.

What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are considered non-cancerous or benign tumors that can grow in different places on your uterus. They are also made up of muscle tissue. This means fibroids are hard, heavy depending on size, and can sometimes be felt upon examination. Some women can appear to look pregnant with very large fibroid tumors.
It remains uncertain why fibroids develop. Research indicates genetics can play a role and also the hormones estrogen and progesterone appear to feed them. Menopause is supposed to help shrink and relieve fibroid symptoms, but this is not always the case. I’m in the small percentage of women who struggle with fibroids over 50 and menopausal.
If your fibroids continue to grow during menopause, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor. Although fibroids are benign growths, there is an increased cancer risk in menopause.
Bad Day with Fibroid

My Symptoms

Although some women experience no symptoms with fibroids, they caused significant and increasing discomfort for me. I can honestly say fibroids suck and turned my life upside down. My symptoms were all over the place and bad days were really bad. This huge fibroid began controlling my life affecting me physically and emotionally.
The following are a list of symptoms I experienced almost daily:
· Urinary urgency and pain – up three to four times per night to pee and visiting the bathroom constantly thinking I had to pee. This became chronic and felt like I had a urinary tract infection all the time.
· Abdominal distention – I could appear to be 5-months pregnant on some days. This was hard emotionally and I was thankful for flowing fitness tanks to cover it.
· Low back pain – this was constant and felt like sciatic nerve problems. The pain would sometimes run down my legs.
· Constipation – fibroid pressing on colon made this a frequent problem.
· Pelvic fullness and pressure – my pelvic region felt heavy, bloated, and some days the pressure made walking uncomfortable.
· Pelvic pain – experienced overall discomfort and pain in the pelvis and especially my urethra.
· Pain with sexual intercourse – self-explanatory.

Getting Help

My symptoms continued to increase and I contacted my doctor. I thought I was having severe bladder problems. He ordered a trans/vaginal ultrasound and the test revealed a large fibroid tumor (6.7cm or size of a small orange). My surgery revealed the tumor measuring closer to 8cm (size of a large baseball) and sitting directly on my bladder.
With a firm diagnosis and because of my symptoms, I was referred to a gynecologist. Before moving forward with a treatment plan, I consulted with two gynecologists. I am a firm believer of getting more than one opinion and making informed decisions on health and medical care.
I had also spent weeks researching reliable sources on fibroids and reading a few personal stories. I put together a long list of questions/concerns and was ready to talk with the specialists.
My first consultation was a disappointment. I was told I had no other option but a complete vaginal hysterectomy. I was devastated and more than that, I felt rushed along and my wants not taken into consideration.
My second consultation was with my gynecologist and a much better experience. She listened to my concerns and answered all my questions. She initially recommended a hysterectomy but also understood and validated my needs and feelings as a woman. She was willing to move forward with what I wanted for my body and thoroughly outlined the procedure. Although I was afraid of the surgery, I trusted her confidence, training, skill, and personal attention toward me. This combination made me feel we were working together as a team to accomplish a positive goal and outcome.
My ultrasound scan left image 6.7cm
Actual tumor removed 8cm

Why I Chose an Open Myomectomy

Fibroid treatment plans are a personal choice for each woman. Even though having a hysterectomy would have been an easier surgery, I made the decision along with my doctor to have an abdominal or open myomectomy. After reviewing the small amount of research I could and reading personal stories, I made a choice that fits best for me.
Some of the things I took into consideration and discussed with my gynecologist included:
· Possible sexual dysfunction with a hysterectomy. The uterus plays a role and contracts during orgasm. I read some women losing the ability to orgasm after having their uterus removed. Although not the case for all women, this was not a risk I was willing to take.
· I wanted to keep my uterus and being over 50 and menopausal shouldn’t be a factor for not having options. Myomectomy is typically a procedure done on women in child-bearing age.
· Increased risk of bladder and colon prolapse was indicated for some women who chose to remove their uterus. Having a past colon surgery, I was not willing to risk this.
An open myomectomy is considered invasive surgery and requires a small incision similar to a C-section. Having past colon surgery, I had an existing scar in this area that would be used for the procedure. An internal incision is made in the uterus and the fibroid tumor extracted. The uterus is sutured back together as well your abdomen.
I am going to be honest and just say it – myomectomy surgery is painful. Post-op pain is very high and requires IV and/or prescribed pain pills for relief. I was in the hospital for 2 days and pretty out of it for the first day. In fact, I don’t recall much about surgery day after the happy juice was placed in my IV. I do recall the post-op pain though and was thankful it was being managed in the hospital.

Surgery Day

Having fear and anxiety is normal prior to major surgery. It’s important to have a good support system around you leading up to and the day of your procedure. My husband and friends were such amazing, positive support for me. I was able to talk through my fears, hear words of encouragement, and prayers that really helped me before the procedure.
I had to check into the hospital at 6:30am with a surgery time of 8:30am. The two hours of pre-op was spent talking with the surgical team, surgical nurses, anesthesiologist, and my gynecologist/surgeon. Everyone was fabulous, made me feel comfortable, and reassured. My husband was there every step of the way, holding my hand, and giving the perfect amount of distraction to ease my anxiety.
The 2-hour window was also used to put on my surgical attire and place my IVs. Any questions I had were answered. They placed a pre-operative sedative in my IV and I really don’t remember being moved to the operating room.

Post-op Recovery

The recovery time for an open myomectomy is about six weeks. I am writing this blog on week four and still experiencing some manageable discomfort. The first-week post-op is most difficult with high pain and limited mobility.
I did stop taking the prescribed pain pills five days post-op because of constipation. I also didn’t like to feel spacy. I managed the pain with Ibuprofen, Tylenol, compression pillow, and resting. Although each person is different, I am off all pain medications in week four.
As a fit person, I had some unrealistic expectations about my healing. I guess I thought I would just spring right back after two weeks. Let me just say, the myomectomy surgery is very humbling. I spent most of my time sleeping, watching Netflix, and walking back and forth slowly to the bathroom.
This is not the time to worry about workouts or even eating clean. My appetite suffered for a week and all I could manage for a few days was toast and a few crackers. Major surgery requires major healing time and this becomes the priority. I allowed myself time to do absolutely nothing and my body needed that.

How I Feel Now

I am still recovering and looking forward to feeling better than I could ever feel. I have noticed positive progress already and this is encouraging. I am excited to start some light cardio and hand weights next week and feel ready. However, I will be listening to my body and not overdoing my physical activity.
I have noticed the following health improvements since my surgery:
· Urinary urgency is gone.
· Pelvic pressure and pain are gone.
· Low back pain is gone.
· Abdominal distention is gone (except for normal swelling from surgery).
· Physically and emotionally better.
· The fibroid no longer controls my life.
· Improved sleep and sleeping through the night without using the bathroom to pee.
· No more worry about having debilitating days.
· Improved sex life – it can only get better, but let’s just say everything is working fine.

Encouragement for You

Fibroids can suck and I hope my personal journey provides valuable information and encouragement for those who are struggling with symptoms. I also encourage you to share your story in the comments below for yourself and other women who are searching for answers and support.
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So thankful for Dr. Nejad
my gynecologist and surgeon

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