A few months ago I thought I was losing my mind. I couldn't get enough sleep. My anxiety was getting worse every day. My memory was terrible. I felt vacant and removed half the time and the other half a grouchy bitch. It was like I was watching things fall apart from a distance and powerless to stop it. When my personal relationships started to suffer I had to do something.
Right after my 39th birthday, I went to my general physician who gave me the burnout speech. She told me to exercise more and reduce my stress. She even offered me an anti-depressant. I wanted to punch her. Hard! I started seeing a therapist, which was beneficial, but not for the symptoms that sent me there. Then it came time for my yearly check-in with my OB. I decided on a whim to ask for a new doctor at the women’s group I use and it was the best decision of 2019. Always trust your gut!
Uterine fibroids. All three different types and too many to count. I was shocked but also relieved. I wasn't crazy! My hormones were out of whack and my endocrine system was just trying to maintain. Yes, I had a monthly likened to a crime scene but know what EVERY doctor said up until that point “You're just getting older. This happens in your 40's and then menopause arrives". Yeah. I went from relieved to downright pissed off.
Fibroids are painful though right?
Yes, but symptoms are never the same for everyone because the human body will do everything it can to protect you. I just ignored what little physical discomfort I had because I’m a woman. I do what I have to because I will. I had cramps but who doesn’t? The only physical symptom I had was I could feel my low back losing flexibility. My raging estrogen and adrenaline levels were also helping me ignore and push on.
The pain came once I started progesterone therapy and my body was closer to balance. Suddenly my head was clear. All the anxiety was gone. My bitch level returned to standard but now for half the month, I was in pain. That is when I decided on a hysterectomy because I don’t have time for this! I am a wife, mother and small business owner. Fifteen days of zombie menstrual coma is not conducive to success!
What about other forms of treatment?
A myomectomy to remove the fibroids was not recommended by any doctor that looked at my ultrasound. There were just so many that no one was confident they could get them all. However, they were all in agreement that the fibroids would eventually grow back.
An ablation would only remove growths inside the uterus. Unfortunately, I also had growths on the outside of my uterus which can only be removed by myomectomy. Making this option not worth it.
I did consider an embolization but the necessary screenings to check on the catheter turned me off. I've had one to many MRI's to volunteer for anymore.
Ultrasound therapy has positive results but my insurance wouldn’t cover it. My doctors were also sure the fibroids would return.
Go vegan and overhaul my lifestyle. Ok. Truth. I believe in the power of food 100% but I’m not strong enough to resist a prime rib or cheese. I got a lot of great information about natural remedies from practitioners and recommended readings. I did implement changes going more organic and ditching chemical. I applaud and bow to anyone who has success in battling illness with food and lifestyle changes. I'm open to change but if you take my bacon I will fight you!
I wanted a permanent solution. Familial history and the simple facts made it clear that my uterus was either going to dominate the rest of my life or had to go. It became everything I had to get through work and into my bed. I couldn’t catch momentum to launch anticipated projects. Keeping my thoughts together to get an email sent felt like a marathon at times. I was struggling to maintain a presence to mom and wife. Yes, I just made mom and wife as verbs because they are. I am blessed with a loving husband and two beautiful girls. We decided years ago that the baby factory was closed. I scheduled the hysterectomy for January 13, 2020. I need to be my best for me but right now those girls need me most.
But you're a Pilates instructor and KNOW your body. Didn't you realize something wasn't right?
I couldn’t get through full workouts anymore. The more immobile I became the worse my body felt. I mentioned that my low back felt tight. I would look at video footage of myself working out pre-diagnosis and notice that my lumbar was losing flexion month after month. I gradually began losing controllable sensation in my low abs. By the end of the stomach massage, I was ready for a nap. My balance began to decline and as a retired dancer you think I would have picked up on that. I wrote all of this off to not dancing anymore and my body adapting. Also, I wasn't maintaining a consistent movement schedule. I blamed adulting and lack of time. Fibroids honestly never occurred to me because after all, I was just 'getting older'.
I couldn't even consider stomach massage post-diagnosis and cleared of excess estrogen. I still had half a month of feeling alright but would be so far behind administratively that workouts were scarce. I was diagnosed in October 2019 and had to wait for benefits to restart in January. Each month the textbook physical symptoms got worse: dizziness, fatigue, pain, confusion, constipation, frequent urination, bloating (my kids asked me if I was pregnant so many times), nausea.
So, why am I sharing this?
Did you know that the top demographic for women with fibroids is African-American women ages 35-45 and 10-20% of all women will suffer from them at some point in life? That is one and twenty! I, therefore, thought that not only was I not alone but we aren't having the conversations with our daughters that we should.
I reached out to the amazing community of African- American women I have met through Black Girl Pilates. The amount of us suffering was jaw-dropping. To every single BGPI and Tribe member, I extend my fullest gratitude for sharing your stories, contacting and supporting me. ALL THE LOVE! Their voices were the catalyst for me to share my story.
Then I started calling my close girlfriends. Sure enough, a quarter of them were going through something. Fibroids were just the tip of the shit storm for some of my best friends and we weren't even talking to each other about it! The common thread between everyone I talked to was that we all knew our mothers and grandmothers went through something. Most of us didn't know exactly what and none of us were prepared for when it began to happen to us. We didn't even know what to look for when. No one warned us. Also, we were all going through it earlier than our mothers and being told that we were 'just getting older'.
I'm sharing my story so other women will. I'm sharing my story so I break the cycle of non-information with my girls. My oldest is twelve and the puberty monster has eaten her alive. I have a whole different approach in how I talk with and inform her. I also prioritize validating her feelings no matter what they are. It takes confidence to demand attention and that is how we become advocates for ourselves.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been sidelined and I’m sure it won’t be the last but it is the most uncharted. So I will rebuild my body, again. This time I will actually document it! I’ll have to work the system from fundamentals up to get back to where I was starting to progress. Remember that Achilles rupture? I still do and I was just starting to feel strong again. Yet back I go once I’m cleared to exercise.
And Just Who Am I You Ask...
I have been a movement educator for over twenty years. I found Pilates through my undergraduate curriculum as an injured dance major at Goucher College. Pilates did what years of physical therapy couldn't and it became my passion. Years later I completed my graduate degree at CU Boulder and became certified through the Pilates Center, Boulder in 2005. I began teaching Pilates full time and dancing every last piece of cartilage out of my knees. Using Pilates to heal me has shaped my teaching method and approach. Guided by the classical method of Joseph Pilates I teach to educate each body of their individual movement potential. I have grown Pilates 804 from a mobile business to a home studio offering privates. Then into a fully equipped studio offering group classes and a comprehensive teacher training program (TTPP).
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