I sat in my gynecologist’s waiting room, hoping I wouldn’t have to run to the bathroom before my appointment. I’d been bleeding heavily, going through a box or more of super-plus tampons a day. I’d even tied two of them together for double protection. I was scared. At 57 I knew I was on the verge of menopause. But wasn’t I supposed to be bleeding less, not more? Finally the nurse waved me in. When I stood up, I could feel the terrible draining sensation, as though fluid was pouring out of me.
“I have to use the bathroom,” I gasped, rushing past her. I shut the door and pulled down my pants. Bloody. Barely an hour had passed and I’d already bled through double super-plus tampons. And that’s why I needed to see my doctor. I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything strenuous, because I was bleeding too heavily. The night before, I’d been at a Christmas party, sitting on the floor chatting with people when that familiar draining feeling came over me. I made it to the bathroom on time before I bled through my pants, but then what to do with the used tampons in someone else’s house? I wrapped them in Kleenex, hid the wad under my sweater, and nonchalantly stuck the mess in the kitchen garbage.
My doctor palpated my abdomen. There definitely was a noticeable bulge on my usually flat-as-a-board stomach. “Feels like quite a large fibroid,” the doctor said, “about the size of a golfball.” He gave me a pelvic, took biopsy samples, and scheduled me for a pelvic ultrasound. The ultrasound showed what I’d feared: Fibroids, more than one. I wasn’t sure what would happen next. Would I need surgery? I couldn’t go on like this, bleeding incessantly.
My doctor went over all the options, from myomectomy to hysterectomy. I hated the thought of surgery and told him so. But then he offered hope. “After menopause, fibroids often shrink on their own. The hormones that supply their growth will diminish.” I only needed to get through this period of incessant bleeding and perhaps, with what he called “watchful waiting,” it would all go away forever.
Since I was about to leave on vacation, he prescribed a medication to slow the bleeding. I took it once — and passed out. I never took it again. The heavy bleeding lasted two weeks. After several weeks I had another bout of bleeding, but this time less severe. As were the following bleeding episodes until . . . the bleeding was gone forever. My abdomen has shrunk back to its normal flatness and, I imagine, so have the fibroids. Not gone but shrunk, withered reminders that fibroids can’t live without hormones. With watchful waiting, sometimes they simply vanish on their own.