Bloating, constipation, cramping, painful sex, extreme fatigue. As crazy as it may sound, I thought these symptoms were happening to me simply because I was getting older.
Call it naivety or just pure ignorance, but it made sense to me. It wasn’t until my OB-GYN of nearly 12 years, Dr. Smith, delivered the unexpected diagnosis of fibroids that the dots finally started to connect. But even after getting my diagnosis, the journey wasn’t smooth sailing.
Here’s my story, from diagnosis to healing to paying it forward.
After exclusively dating my then-boyfriend for nearly a year, I felt I was too old to have an unplanned pregnancy. I decided an IUD was best for what I needed.
When the day came to have the IUD inserted, I arrived at Dr. Smith’s office on time without running into any traffic. (If you’re familiar with the traffic in Atlanta, Georgia, then you can understand why this is such a big deal!)
The process of getting the IUD put in went off without a hitch, despite some pain caused by my cervix not being very dilated.
About 3 months after the insertion, my periods subsided and eventually stopped altogether. I had no cramps, almost no bloating, and my boyfriend and I could get frisky as often as we liked.
Before the IUD, I would soak through a tampon and pad every 1 to 2 hours. On average, I went through about seven pads and tampons per day (I had to double up) when things were at their worst.
My IUD was about to expire, so I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Smith to have it replaced with a new one.
But strangely, at the replacement appointment, Dr. Smith was unable to locate my IUD.
She went on to explain that it could’ve fallen out, migrated to another part of my body, or even gotten stuck inside my uterine wall. Within 5 minutes, she sent me to get an ultrasound to locate the IUD.
During the vaginal ultrasound, the little white T-shaped IUD was found front and center by the technician. Before wrapping up, the ultrasound tech casually asked me how my fibroids were coming along.
At that very moment, things started to move in slow motion. With a confused expression, I asked her what she was referring to. Up until that very moment, I had no idea what fibroids were.
Her face turned three shades of red. With a quivering voice she mentioned that the doctor would talk to me about it more, but there was nothing to be concerned about.
Deep in my gut, I knew something was wrong. I got dressed, gathered my belongings, and slowly headed back into Dr. Smith’s office suite. She pulled my chart, explained that the ultrasound tech saw some rather large fibroids on the ultrasound film, then suggested I have a hysterectomy.
At that very moment, I was officially diagnosed with uterine fibroids.
I was overwhelmed with an onslaught of emotions — confusion, disbelief, fear, frustration, and so much more. It felt like my body had betrayed me.
After I questioned Dr. Smith for what seemed to be eons, she didn’t provide many details other than the fact that there’s no known cause of uterine fibroids.
I left Dr. Smith’s office with her words echoing in my head. “They’re like kudzu. You cut them out, and they’ll just grow back, which is why I recommend a hysterectomy.” She was very cavalier and borderline condescending.
Kudzu is a fast-growing vine that’s considered an invasive species in the United States, especially the U.S. South. It’s difficult to get rid of due to its aggressive growth.
I told her that I didn’t want to get a hysterectomy and I’d be in touch after discussing my diagnosis with my boyfriend and family.
As soon as I got to my car in the parking lot of Dr. Smith’s office, I called my boyfriend. I frantically blurted out, “Dr. Smith said I have fibroids, and recommends that I get a hysterectomy!”
Somewhere between the tears, confusion, and panic in my voice, he was able to calm me down and assured me that we’d talk more about it at home.
But when I got home, I had little to no information to share with him, other than the fact that I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids and Dr. Smith said that I needed to get a hysterectomy.
To a certain extent, I felt silly because I should’ve been able to share more details with him about fibroids, but I just couldn’t. I felt helpless.
Approximately a week after receiving my fibroid diagnosis, I received a call from Dr. Smith’s office. It was an office administrator calling to schedule a hysterectomy.
Again, things started to move in slow motion. I couldn’t allow myself to lose my cool on this innocent person because she was simply doing what she was instructed to do. I told her to have Dr. Smith call me.
A few hours later I received a call from Dr. Smith. Without being disrespectful (though a big part of me wanted to be), I expressed my level of disappointment and disbelief. I told her I was taken aback by the fact that she’d move forward with having a hysterectomy scheduled after I explicitly told her that I had no interest in getting one.
By the end of the call, Dr. Smith was apologetic. She admitted that she’d been doing hysterectomies for so long and was probably set in her own ways because she knew that hysterectomies work.
She went on to say that she also understood that I’m the type of patient who needs a doctor who will “listen to them.” At that point, I had heard enough. I ended the call and never visited Dr. Smith’s office again.
It felt like a breakup, considering I had been a patient of hers for nearly 12 years. But I’m so glad I stood my ground and advocated for myself when I knew a hysterectomy wasn’t what I wanted.
After sulking in my own sorrow for a few months, I decided to take control of my situation and start researching uterine fibroids.
While scrolling on Instagram at 2 a.m. one day, I stumbled upon a profile that caught my eye. I reached out to the owner, who ended up becoming my lifestyle coach.
She spoke my language. She understood me. She articulated the symptoms I’d been experiencing for years but had ignored. Within a few months, I signed up to participate in her coaching program. It was a major financial investment and something that I’d never done before.
The coaching consisted of:
- weekly group calls
- unlimited emails and texts
- a downloadable E-book
- fitness and breathing techniques
- guidance on how to transition to a vegan lifestyle
- information about consuming natural organic fruits and veggies
In the group, I met a few like-minded womxn who were seeking to be healed of their uterine fibroids, just as I was.
Unfortunately, things quickly fell apart after the coach became overwhelmed and sessions started getting canceled. The group stopped meeting entirely and, yet again, I felt like I was left on an island with nowhere to go.
A silver lining
When the lifestyle coaching program came to an end, it was the start of a new chapter for me. I became obsessed with finding out as much as I could about uterine fibroids.
I began eating specific foods for my blood type, read countless scholarly articles, participated in several small focus groups, researched various medical journals, and had in-person meetings with different doctors until I felt I had enough information to make an educated and comfortable decision on how to best treat uterine fibroids.
I decided to undergo a minimally invasive procedure called uterine artery embolization (UAE), or uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
While I fully understood the risks, I felt it was the right decision for me at that time in my life.
In this procedure, a doctor uses a nonsurgical technique to cut off blood supply to the fibroids, which leads to fibroid shrinking and softening.
Compared with traditional surgery, UAE:
- causes less blood loss and pain
- allows for a shorter recovery time
- doesn’t require general anesthesia
In addition, there are other nonsurgical options available to treat uterine fibroids.
If you’re interested in nonsurgical or minimally invasive treatments for fibroids, research your options and discuss them with your doctor.
Having UAE was a lifesaver! I was back on my feet within 24 hours.
My menstrual cycles are back to normal, my libido has been restored, and the bloating, pain, and pressure are almost nonexistent. Plus, my hair, skin, and nails have been rejuvenated.
Although I’m no longer vegan, maintaining a diet that’s healthy for me is very important in maintaining my fibroids treatment.
I still avoid eating:
- fried foods
- high fructose corn syrup
- red meat, including pork
I continue to make my own fresh organic smoothies, cold press my own organic fruits and veggies, and also create my own tonic from time to time.
After going through my experience with fibroids, I’ve decided to dedicate my life to help other womxn. In 2020, The Fibroid Pandemic was born.
I created this organization to help womxn make informed decisions as they embark on their journey to healing uterine fibroids.
Through education, access, and support, The Fibroid Pandemic is committed to providing womxn with the tools they need to advocate for their health and well-being.
I’m the proud owner of The Fibroid Pandemic and am here to help womxn heal and live their best lives!
LaToya Dwight, BBA, MSM, RHU, CHCC, REBC, is a mother, wife, sister, friend, aunt, mentor, and driven employee benefits consultant living in Atlanta, Georgia. She started The Fibroid Pandemic as an answer to the frustrations she experienced during her more than 6-year journey with uterine fibroids. After undergoing a minimally invasive procedure, uterine fibroid embolization, LaToya is now a passionate advocate for helping womxn understand options to overcome uterine fibroids. You can follow LaToya on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.