When I was 16, I discovered my first fibroid, and I was terrified. It was in my right breast, and I thought my world had ended. After an unsuccessful needle biopsy, my doctor removed the cyst. It was benign, but another one promptly grew back in the same place, and fibroids became a part of my life. In the 50 years since then, I’ve had to reassure many x-ray technicians that the dark spot on my mammogram is nothing new, and I’ve made sure to keep good records to ward of scalpel-happy surgeons.
My OB/GYN discovered my next fibroid during my annual check-up when I was 27. It was in my uterus and was the size of a lemon, but since it wasn’t bothering me, we decided to leave it alone and see what happened. Nothing happened for a while; my next check-up revealed it had not changed in size. Then things began to change.
My menstrual cycle had always been light and regular — a 3-day period with 21 days until the next one. During the months after my check-up, my cycle increased both in length and intensity. After a few months, my cycle was 10 days on and 10 days off, and even with multiple layers of protection, I sometimes had to go home for a fresh change of clothes in the middle of the day. In addition, there were times when I could almost feel the cyst. When I lay on my stomach, I felt as if I had a pillow between me and the bed.
For some unknown reason, I didn’t contact my doctor until it was time for my annual physical. By then the fibroid was the size of a grapefruit. It had to come out. Since my husband and I had already decided not to have more children, the doctor wanted to do a hysterectomy.
“It’s so large that I’m going to have to go in through the uterine wall,” he said. “I could try and take just the fibroid, but it would leave you with a scarred up uterus that will give you trouble later on.”
The surgery went well, and the fibroid was benign. The doctor left my ovaries, so there was little or no hormonal shock to my system, and the absence of my monthly visitor was a blessing. If I had it to do over again, I would probably make the same decision, but in a do-over, I wouldn’t wait so long to consult the doctor about the symptoms I experienced that last year. My body was trying to tell me something, but I just wasn’t listening.