A Black Woman Shares Her Battle with Uterine Fibroids

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? 18 days in… and every week is more chaotic than the next, chile. In addition to a solid skincare routine, diet, and exercise regimen, my focus this year is to write with intention. This month, my focus is making space for stories on health and wellness. Specifically, calling attention to the health concerns that disproportionately impact Black women. My homegirl Taylor was gracious enough to agree to an interview on something deeply personal- her battle with uterine fibroids.

According to VeryWellHealth ( https://www.verywellhealth.com/uterine-fibroids-in-black-women-5093537), African American women are three times more likely to develop the condition, receive an early diagnosis, develop symptoms, and respond differently to standard medical treatment, compared to white women.

The health effects of fibroids range from being asymptomatic to significant pain, anemia, bleeding, increased urinary frequency, fertility problems, and pregnancy complications. Black women are at an increased risk of infertility and the development of pregnancy issues. Taylor shares her story and how she is actively working to bring awareness to a condition that greatly impacts our community.

“I first learned about uterine fibroids shortly after turning 25. I was a little concerned that my period was very irregular but I just assumed that it was due to stress from working long hours. I went to my doctor for a checkup and that’s when my doctor revealed that a 4.7 cm uterine fibroid was the cause of the irregularity.

At first, I wasn’t sure what this diagnosis meant or how it would change my life because I had never heard of fibroids prior to this. Uterine fibroids, especially untreated, can cause heaving bleeding and clotting between or during menstruation, lower pelvic pain, enlargement of the abdomen and painful intercourse. 

After speaking more with my doctor at the time, I was absolutely petrified because of my doctor’s approach and dismissal of health concerns. This doctor only offered one solution for this diagnosis and that was to get a myomectomy, a surgical procedure to remove fibroids that is often compared to a mini C-section. I didn’t advocate enough for myself before agreeing to undergo surgery and later found out that my surgery wasn’t necessary.

A second doctor told me that I could have used birth control to monitor my fibroid growth and that is why I urge women to not only get routine checkups, but to also get a second opinion. Although the conversation about fibroids and Black women’s health is constantly changing, I wish I knew more about how uterine fibroids would affect my life. 

For my own peace of mind, I tried to find research on uterine fibroids and made small lifestyle changes. Fibroids feed off of estrogen so I reduced my dairy and red meat consumption, as those foods have higher levels of estrogen. I also incorporated more exercise and stress relieving activities such as yoga, meditation and even booking spa days to ease the body. Unfortunately, after my surgery, another fibroid grew back in the same location but luckily, I didn’t need to remove it. My current doctor and I felt like it was better to monitor this growth with birth control and the lifestyle changes I previously made. That is not the case for every woman and it’s heartbreaking.

I’m currently in my last year of the Media Studies Master’s program & Documentary Studies certificate program at the New School working on my documentary film, The Silent Willow. The Silent Willow originally started as a documentary film to raise awareness about uterine fibroids, but after weeks of research I realized that these benign growths were a catalyst to a deeper conversation.

Black women are three times more likely to suffer from fibroids than women from any other race, so why are some of us as silent as the growth? What are Black women experiencing more than any other race that leads to these statistics? 

The Silent Willow will include my personal journey and interviews with various Black women and health professionals whose lives have been affected directly or indirectly by fibroids. It will include archival footage that frames the historical aspect of the mistreatment and disregard of Black women’s health.

It will also explore why this health condition remains a taboo and will address the implicit bias and racial disparities in America’s healthcare system. Interviews will be staged in places where women tend to congregate, emphasizing on the strength of togetherness. The film will also use imagery of trees, flowers and bodies of water to represent the anatomy of a woman.”

Thank you Taylor, for being brave enough to share your story with the world. Check out the visual pitch for her upcoming doc here: https://vimeo.com/488584342

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