Continuation of Fibroids. Pt 1.
It’s now December 2016; I have completed my first 3 months of my Fibristal medication and I am finally meeting with my Calgary gynaecologist. First of all, I’m feeling amazing after being on my supplements without a period for 3 months. Second, I’m nervous because I won’t know if the medication is actually working until I get another ultrasound and blood test. I make appointments for those two tests prior to my gyno appointment so we can review my progress. Good news! My iron stores have rose by 13, but I am still below 100 and have a long way to go. My fibroids have shrunk from 5cm to 2.5cm, and 2.5cm to 2cm, so again good news! The gyno then asks of my future birthing plans and I explain that my husband and I would like to start trying for kiddos soon. The gyno then explained:
“Your uterus is like this room. There are the walls, a floor and a ceiling. A fertilized egg will float down and land anywhere on one of the walls/floor/ceiling of your uterus. If it lands on a wall with no fibroid, you will have a healthy birth with all the regular risks. If it lands on a fibroid, you will have a miscarriage in the first trimester because the egg will not receive enough blood/nourishment through the fibroid. Even your reduced fibroids are still a big risk for a miscarriage and if I were you, I would proactively remove them in surgery before you start trying to conceive. Many women will have miscarriages due to fibroids and years later find out the cause, after already so much heartbreak. It is wonderful that you are in your situation pro-actively preparing for a healthy pregnancy.”
Wow, what a statement. Had I not had complications with my IUD, I might have never known about my fibroids until after possibly multiple miscarriages. It made me think, in Canada where you can have free doctors appointments and ultrasounds, shouldn’t it be a recommendation for every woman planning to get pregnant to book an ultrasound and a blood test? Especially since fibroids and iron deficiencies for women are so common. But the problem is, no one teaches us to ask for these tests. No one recommends tests until something is wrong, even though proactive health measures are always the best measures. It is easier to fix something at the beginning of its development versus when it becomes larger and more serious. Why does no one talk about fibroids? Or normal/abnormal periods! Or cysts! Or miscarriages! All are common, all are part of women’s health, and all should be taught in school. And all should be taught to all genders because even if you don’t have a uterus, it’s important to have the knowledge to be able to support someone who does.
Ok rant done, back to my story.
So surgery, that sounds scary. Fortunately if your fibroids are inside your uterus, like mine, the doctors enter through your vagina and make no incision. It is noninvasive because they use a tool called a scope that has a little camera on it and a little blade to shave off the unwanted fibroid. It is actually the exact same tool that was used on my knee for my meniscus surgery! I am sedated so I will not feel, or see, or hear anything and the surgery lasts 1-2 hours. If your fibroid is outside of your uterus (which does happen) then you will have an incision on your abdomen or inner thigh (depending on placement) but they still use the scope to make it as noninvasive as possible. I decided I wanted to pursue the surgery and booked for June 4th, 2018 when I would be done school on the East Coast and back from traveling in Africa. In the mean time the doctor encouraged me to complete the final three months of my Fibristal medication because the smaller the fibroids were, the more successful and shorter the surgery would be. So I went on with life for the next 5 months as per usual working on my iron stores and taking my medication.
Before my surgery I first wanted to take another blood test to see how my iron and hemoglobins were doing, and guess what?? I’m at 130 for iron!! And that’s healthy! A year ago I was at 81 so this is a huge improvement. My hemoglobin still needs work but I’m so glad progress has been made. This improvement was not only due to taking supplements, but also with help from an amazing nutritionist. In December 2016 when I met with my Calgary gyno, I also met with Ruth Crowle from Compass Nutrition. I wanted to meet with a nutritionist so that I could learn to be a better plant-based cook for myself and my future family. Shouldn’t we all have a better understanding of what our food does for our bodies? I mean our body is the temple that keeps us moving, breathing, and living, we should probably fuel it to our best abilities. And unfortunately, our Canadian education programs not only avoid important women’s health topics, but also do not teach enough about healthy eating. They do tell you that too much sugar is bad, and that you should have a balanced diet, but that balanced diet is designed and funded by a milk company. So the daily recommended food groups are: dairy, grains, vegetables, fruit and meat. If you are plant-based, or transition to plant-based eating, or are dairy free, or gluten free, this chart does not help you learn how to eat nutritionally. And even if you do eat all the food groups on the chart, this chart does not help distinguish the importance of pairing certain ingredients to aid your body’s nutrient absorption, nor does it teach you how to actually COOK the food (an incredible skill we should all have!). So I was seeking a teacher to educate me on food and recipes, an extremely important education I was lacking. Ruth taught me so much (I wish everyone had a nutritionist in their school!) such as pairing Iron with vitamin C for better absorption, increasing my Omega 3’s, and foods that can help with my Anemia. Some of those high iron foods are lentils, tomatoes, spinach, beets, molasses (yay molasses cookies!), fortified cereals and granolas. She also taught me that nutritional yeast (a yummy vegan cheesy substitute) has incredible amounts of B12, something vegans have a hard time naturally adding to their meat free diet, which is a nutrient that helps with hemoglobins. And Hemp Hearts have a high amount of Omega 3’s, so if you’re not eating fish, incorporate some Hemp Hearts into your cereal/smoothies every morning! We also strategized about how to reduce my tofu intake to 1-2 times a week by substituting with other high protein ingredients such as: beans, nuts, chickpeas, pea protein, lentils, seeds, and oatmeal. This way I can continue to eat vegan without having the set backs of anemia or synthetic estrogen intake (refer to Fibroids. Pt 1. for my Anemia and hormone story).
Finally it was surgery day. I woke up unable to eat or drink anything (surgery requirements), got into my comfiest pyjamas, and was driven to the hospital bright and early by my amazing husband. I was admitted to the Women’s wing of the Calgary South Health Campus, a wonderful new hospital with big windows, bright natural light, welcoming colours, and great people to help you. The coolest thing about the hospital? Beautiful chimes/angels singing can be heard throughout the hospital every time a baby is born! I felt at ease, especially since my nurses were kind, fun and so caring. I was taken to a room for briefing and to start my IV for fluids. I was then taken to the operating room, given an oxygen mask, asked a question or two and… that’s all I remember. The next thing I knew they were cleaning up and I apparently asked, “Have you started yet?” to which they replied, “We’re all done!” I was very out of it, pain free, and happy.
Which brings me to today, five days later I am still in recovery, but very minimally. I have been able to go about house work and errands, I went to one Slow Flow+Restorative Yoga class, and I’ve gone on some walks. I wear a pad for a small amount of bleeding and cannot wear tampons, have sex or go in pools for a couple weeks until I’m healed. When I have done too much activity, I get a little light headed and nauseous and just rest the remainder of the day. But overall I’m feeling great, fibroid free and excited to see what my future post surgery will be like. I am hoping my periods will go back to a manageable experience and for a healthy pregnancy down the road. I will likely give an update in a few months so please come back if you’re interested in the progress. Thank you so much for reading, if you have any questions or comments please message me. We are all in this together.
Lots of Love,