The tips and health data in my blog are suggestions, based on my personal experience and as part of my own research, they are not intended to replace the advice of a health professional.
Two months after my surgery I can say I am happy I took the decision to go through it. I have to admit that it was an experience like no other. After having a heart surgery I thought that this process was going to be easier and quicker, but I was wrong, I saw all the colors of a chiaroscuro, it was a strange period. But I also have to admit that I have learned a lot from this experience and I had the invaluable opportunity to meet amazing people who work giving their best in order to improve others’ lives.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids or also called myomas, are non-cancerous tumors that grow on the walls of the uterus and may have symptoms or not. There are several ways to treat fibroids, which may include surgery. There are different types of surgeries, less invasive such as laparoscopic or robotic and hysteroscopic myomectomy; or more invasive such as myomectomy and hysterectomy. In myomectomy, the fibroids are removed while preserving the uterus. In hysterectomy, it is the most common procedure and the uterus is removed. A study entitled, “Hysterectomy Surveillance” indicates that in the United States 600,000 hysterectomies occur every year. In a New York Times article, Natalie Angier states, “One in 3 women will have a hysterectomy at age 60.” The rate in United States is in the highest is among the world. I want to think that this study is old (93) and today the number is smaller, especially since technology has developed methods such as laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy and hysteroscopic myomectomy being much less invasive methods. In any case, it is clear that there are many other treatments and it is the doctor who evaluates the ideal procedure for each patient, because in addition to being the expert, this depends on different factors, such as the size of the fibroids, their location, the patient etc.
Last summer I had some weird symptoms, I had an appointment with my clinical doctor, she sent me to do a sonogram and a few weeks later I was informed that I had a fibroid, just before going on vacation. Upon my return, I visited the gynecologist with the results of the sonogram. The gynecologist gave me the option of not having surgery and waiting for the fibroid to be reduced with menopause, but it seemed absurd. Why would I wait? Why would I want to keep it in my body? The study confirmed that the fibroid was large, I suffered from bleeding, to continue with that situation, it made no sense to me, especially because I am not afraid of the operating room. The doctor told me, “Then you have to see Dr. Peter Balazs” in another clinic. At this point, I was anxious, I did not know the surgeon, and even though after my heart’s surgery this one was minor, I have to admit that I was a little scared.
Finally we met Dr. Peter Balazs, and he kindly explained the alternatives, he proposed laparoscopic myomectomy to avoid a major scar, but it seemed to me that abdominal myomectomy was faster, although this procedure is more invasive, it is faster in time operating room, for me this point is important since anesthesia produces alternate effects like hallucinations and emotionally disturbs me. I really did not care about the scar, but three things were really important to me, first, preserve my uterus, second, local anesthesia and third have the surgery as soon as possible to be free in September and not to lose my College’s classes.
Without much more to add, Dr. Balazs said, “We see each other at the Hospital the day of the surgery.” I think that appointment did not last 10 minutes, it was concise and right to the point.
Dr. Balazs was very friendly and cordially answered all my questions and was confidence, I knew I could trust him. After we concluded the routine tests, the day of surgery arrived.
At the Saint Joseph hospital in Paterson, I was prepared for surgery with the routine protocol. They admitted me to an intermediate room and then went to the operating room, the nurses gave me a dressing gown, they took my vital signs, and they asked me different questions regarding my health, everything was in order. Then the doctor came and he explained the procedure again to my request, it was brief and clear. Again I assured him that he would not take my uterus out, and he said, “Not only in case I had to save your life,” and he left. After that I spoke with the anesthesiologist, my partial anesthesia plan did not work out, she convinced me that it was better to be completely asleep. Shortly after they took me to the operating room I wanted to look at everything, I love everything that has to do with medicine, especially operating rooms. But I couldn’t help it, I was scared. I told myself, “Laura you have 5 kids a heart surgery, you got this! Plus this people know what they are doing”. Everybody was ready, I felt good energy from the entire team, when the doctor appeared, a particular gesture from him gave me the certainty that everything will be fine. Shortly after the anesthetist with a small needle in her hands asked me what do I do, “I write,” I said, then fell sound asleep.
The surgery was performed without problems in the previously calculated time, the doctor talked to my husband while I was still sleeping. When they woke me up, I only saw two people, and I asked for “oxygen”, but I was totally mobilized and crying, I asked the nurse to give me my “fake baby”, the effects of anesthesia…She told me there is not such a thing and that I was about to go to my room, I was crying and I did not want to go because she would not be there for me. She put me a warm blanket, I was so cold, and the blanket was so soothing I felt a little better. Looking back I am glad we used general anesthesia, because Dr. Balazs found more than one fibroid in my uterus and of larger sizes than the ultrasound showed. The next day the doctor came to my room and showed me the photo of the fibroids he removed, I really needed to see them, “I thought so,” he told me, shortly after he discharged me and we returned home.
Why do I share my experience with myomectomy?
Myomectomy is a common procedure but also considered a major surgery. I get the impression that we don’t talk about women’s health enough. Perhaps more is being talked about it now because it has an impact on infertility, but many women endure these problems silently and with resignation. When I discussed this with family and friends I was surprised to learn how many have fibroids and with no treatment, they carry them waiting for them to “dissolve”. They even keep them when they have constant bleeding and are at risk of anemia. I wonder why we endure these things? Are we educated like that? Is it part of our culture? Many doctors recommend to their patients not have surgery, with the reason that fibroids can be reduced with menopause or with hormonal treatments. The contradictory thing is that fibroids usually appear in our fertile age.? In my case, I could go 6 or 7 years waiting for menopause to reach me, so it does not seem like a good alternative. When they propose surgery, they often recommend removing the uterus, or fail to give all the options. Unfortunately, not all women ask all the questions or they are not lucky enough to find a professional who takes the time to explain the alternatives treatments.
- Let’s explore some of the symptoms of fibroids.
- Heavy bleeding or painful periods
- Anemia (when you don’t have enough red blood cells)
- Bleeding between periods
- Feeling “full” in the lower abdomen (belly), sometimes called pelvic pressure
- Frequent urination (caused by the pressure that the fibroid exerts on the bladder)
- Pain during sex
- Lower back pain
- Reproductive problems, such as infertility, multiple miscarriages and early onset of labor during pregnancy
- Obstetric problems, such as a higher probability of caesarean section
The reasons why fibroids form are also quite ambiguous in my opinion:
- Body hormones
- Genes (may be hereditary)
While I was aware that the recovery from surgery was going to be painful, I wasn’t expecting the horrible depression I had. My sister-in-law and my cousin had told me how painful it is to get out of bed after the C. section and I was prepared. But that pain was nothing compared to the inner emptiness I felt. I felt so down, nothing to do with the woman I am normally, I cried day and night with the guilt and emptiness of having abandoned a child, (something absurd). I also cried for no reason, I tried to read books, which I do all the time, but I could not concentrate. I sunbathed on the patio and slept as much as I could, listened to music and took Tylenol every 6 hours, but the state did not improve at least for the first two weeks. My family took care of me, the first few days I had almost no activity, little by little I reassume my normal routine. I started to heat up the food to my kids or make breakfast. A week and a half later I started college, still with the fresh stitches in my low abdomen, and with the black cloud over my head, but I did it anyway.
In the second week after the surgery I went to my check up with Dr. Balazs he removed my bandage. The doctor found me well, healing as he expected, but when I told him about my mood I broke into tears, in front of him, the nurse and my husband. Now I remember it and I still feel sorry for it. I could not contain myself, my emotions collapsed anywhere. Dr. Balazs told me that my depression could be a consequence of the operation but it could also be caused by other factors. Many of the things he told me made sense to me, others I really couldn’t understand. Again I found something unknown, nobody had warned me that this could also happen. As a woman I have the experience of having had 5 babies by natural birth, with some of my babies I had some “blue” moments nothing resembled this pain, this intense emptiness in which I felt submerged. As the days went by, I could feel better, I could see the horizon. Little by little I wanted to do things, to return to work, I began to smile and play with the kids. I began to feel myself again and leave those dark feelings behind.
As for the physical recovery as the doctor said, it helped me a lot to be fit, my belly returned to its normal state (or even better) in weeks. At the time of the operation my blood values were optimal and this sure contributed to my recovery. In the fifth week I resumed my workout routine, however to work my abs I needed to wait until the 8th week.
While this process was not easy, I am so glad with my decision. I am blessed to have the emotional support and care of my husband and family. But I was also lucky to find a professional like Dr. Peter Balazs and his team, who patiently responded to my concerns and doubts throughout the process. His vocation and dedication toward his patients are amazing! I want also mention the great work that NHCAC does providing health and other services in our community. From my heart I also thank the team that took care of me at Saint Joseph Hospital, especially the nurses, they work with so much love that I only have words of affection and gratitud for them.
With this experience I understood how important my hormones and my sexual organs are, but also why is that I have to put myself first and take care of my health. That’s why I implore you all: stay tuned for the symptoms and ask all the necessary questions, do your research, evaluate your options. We have to take care of ourselves, we are the base of our family, the base of the community and even the base of the economy. I urge you to advocate for women’s health, for it’s investment in research and quality care. We do NOT deserve less than that. Take care of your symptoms and do not underestimate them, living with bleeding, pain, swelling or lack of energy is not normal or necessary. Be your own priority, look for ways to improve your quality of life. If you find a good professional, awesome, but remember: at the end of the day it is your body, it is your responsibility, it is your own life.
- “Hysterectomy Surveillance — United States. 1980-1993.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00048898.htm.
- By NATALIE ANGIER . (February 17, 1997, Monday, Late Edition – Final). RADICAL AND ROUTINE — A special report.; In a Culture of Hysterectomies, Many Question Their Necessity. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://advance-lexis-com.ezproxy.bergen.edu/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:3SP8-96S0-000P-N357-00000-00&context=1516831.