Black Women and Fibroids Part 1: A Mother and Daughter Story About Resources

What are fibroids?

What are they? Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors of the uterus. Also known as leiomyomata, myomas, or uterine polyps, they develop within the muscles of the uterus, ranging in size from a pea to grapefruit (or bigger). These non-cancerous tumors form during the childbearing years of a woman’s life either as a single fibroid or many, with different locations within the uterus. While they are rarely a cause for concern, they can be if they become too big or there are many present.

She didn’t have to have it removed until four years later.  She was feeling heavier in the stomach and she felt her stomach was unable to shrink in when she tried to suck it in. She had no pain— just concern that it was getting bigger.

She was told she had to remove her uterus in order to remove the fibroid.

By the time she decided to have it removed, it was the size of a 16-week-old fetus. Since she knew she was done having children, she decided to have the fibroid removed. She remembers she had three other friends dealing with the same issues at the same time—all women of color. She met with her friends to discuss all of their options.

I went with her to the blood bank—it was just me who tagged along—and I felt a sense of urgency as well as nervous energy. She gave blood in case she needed it during surgery. I saw women in wheelchairs being moved around quickly, one woman had her head in the trashcan vomiting. I was scared, and my mother was brave. She held my hand fiercely and I remember wishing that she was OK. The surgery happened over the summer because she was a teacher and was told she needed 10-12 weeks to recover, but she was feeling fine after three weeks. Still, she remembers how painful the stitches were. She spent seven days in the hospital and visiting her was the saddest thing to me.

My mother wasn’t concerned about stigma. She says she doesn’t feel different without a uterus other than not having a menstrual cycle, which she kind of enjoyed. In 1999, she started getting tension headaches and she feels that this was early onset menopause. After several trips to the neurologist, many prescriptions, and some blood testing, my mother started receiving hormone replacement therapy and that was meant to address the intensity of her headaches.

My mother regrets not doing her own research and relying on her doctor to provide her with answers. She would have preferred an early removal of the fibroid rather than waiting until it got to the size that it did. “She should have told me, as my doctor,” my mother reflects. She wish she knew about more natural ways of healing and would have liked guidance around her lifestyle and diet. She believes that fitness, hydration, rest, and clean, nutritious food are best for recovery and managing symptoms.

My mother had a partial hysterectomy and this was our experience of it. I didn’t fully piece together these memories of her experience until I discovered my own fibroids about a year and a half ago.