LaToya Dwight on the Fibroid Pandemic
You were diagnosed with fibroids a few years ago. What was life like leading up to your diagnosis?
Leading up to the diagnosis of uterine fibroids, life was pretty normal. I was well into my 15+ year career as an Employee Benefits Consultant, a full time single parent, and had been dating my then-boyfriend for nearly five years. Bloating, adult acne, constipation, pica, lethargy, pressure in the abdomen area, cramping, sudden urgency to use the restroom, and painful sexual intercourse were common symptoms that I experienced regularly. As crazy as it may sound, I thought these symptoms were happening to me simply because I was getting older.Call it naivety or just pure ignorance, but it made sense to me.
What are fibroids and how common are they?
Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop in the uterus, a womxn’s womb. Although our medical industry has yet to determine a root cause of fibroids, it’s believed that the hormones estrogen and progesterone, products and chemicals that we expose to our bodies, and stress are significant causes. Statiscally, up to 70 percent of womxn across the globe within their baby-bearing age, 15 - 50, are affected by uterine fibroids. Of this group, up to 80 percent are Black womxn and other womxn of color. Black womxn are 3 times more likely to develop uterine fibroids than womxn of other ethnicities.
Up to 70 percent of womxn across the globe within their baby-bearing age, 15 - 50, are affected by uterine fibroids. Of this group, up to 80 percent are Black womxn and other womxn of color.
Your doctor told you that you’d need a hysterectomy, but instead you did your homework and took care of your fibroids another way. Can you share more?
I scheduled an appointment with my then OBGYN, let’s call her Dr. Smith, of over 12 years for a routine visit to replace my IUD. She was unable to locate the IUD by way of a vaginal exam, so she sent me to ultrasound. The ultrasound tech was able to easily locate the IUD through a vaginal ultrasound. Through what seemed to be small talk, the technician asked how my fibroids were coming along. Up until that very moment not only was I unaware that I had uterine fibroids, but I didn’t know what they were. Based on my response, she quickly realized that I was unaware that there were fibroids on my uterus. She nervously instructed that Dr. Smith would discuss it further with me. I gathered my things and headed back into Dr. Smith’s office. She skimmed the ultrasound, viewed my chart, provided the official fibroid diagnosis, then immediately suggested that I undergo a hysterectomy. I was overwhelmed, confused, and extremely scared. As a tenured Employee Benefits Consultant, I often see patient hospital bills so I knew that a hysterectomy was a major surgery. Dr. Smith downplayed it and reassured me that I’d be back on my feet in no time. I was over 40 years old, so my recovery time likely would have taken 8 - 12 weeks. As a single parent, and having little to no details, I did not have the luxury of taking that much time off.
To make matters worse, Dr. Smith didn't really give me much information to go on, other than the fact that there’s no known cause of uterine fibroids. In her words, based on her decades of experience, she explained that fibroids are “like kudzu. You cut them out, and they’ll just grow back.” I was very explicit in telling Dr. Smith that I did not want to get a hysterectomy. To add fuel to the fire, one week later I received a call from Dr. Smith’s office wanting to schedule the hysterectomy. To say that I was appalled is an understatement. That very moment started my quest to find fibroid relief - vegetarianism, veganism, eating for my blood type, and hardcore exercise were all instrumental in maintaining my health over the next year and a half. After rigorous research, I finally settled on uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
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How did your diagnosis change your perspective on women’s health and inspire you to found The Fibroid Pandemic?
In all honesty, the way in which I received the official diagnosis of uterine fibroids really left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt as though my voice was not heard by someone whom I considered my advocate. I lost confidence in doctors as a whole. I felt as if my body had betrayed me. Once I decided to get back into the driver's seat of my life and take my womb back, that’s when things started to shine brighter for me. After going through my experience with fibroids, I’ve decided to dedicate my life to helping other womxn. In 2020, The Fibroid Pandemic was born. I created this organization to help womxn make informed decisions as they embark on their journey to healing uterine fibroids, whether it’s to have a minor non-surgical procedure, major surgery, or even go the holistic route by way of incorporating exercise, healthy food choices, and minimizing stress and chemical exposure.
I felt as though my voice was not heard by someone whom I considered my advocate. I lost confidence in doctors as a whole.
What stigma(s) in women’s health or fibroids do you wish to lift the veil on?
This is such a great question! For starters, I’d like to lift the veil that womxn with fibroids are unclean or have bad personal hygiene. Womxn who suffer from uterine fibroids oftentimes have very heavy and/or prolonged menstrual cycles (menorrhagia) to a point to where they either cannot get out of bed during the first two to three days of their menstrual cycle, or even has to resort to wearing Depends. Because of menorrhagia, womxn tend to have “accidents.” It’s hard to understand how an adult womxn who seems to “have it all together” can be so irresponsible to the point of where she bleeds out. Newsflash! An “accident” can be brought on by a simple cough, sneeze, laugh, standing up from a seated position, or by nothing at all! One can only imagine how detrimental this can be to a womxn’s self confidence.
Secondly, I’d like to lift the veil that womxn with fibroids are divas. It’s helpful to understand why people are wired the way they are. What makes them tick? What’s the method to their madness? Consuming certain foods, such as dairy and/or fried foods can cause severe bloating, pressure and pain in the abdomen area especially for womxm with uterine fibroids. Do not assume that she’s being a diva because she doesn’t want pizza for dinner, or if she turns down a scoop of ice cream at your daughter’s fifth birthday party, or if she doesn't want to gulp down a glass of white wine during a girls night out. Have an open dialog to get to understand her better. Lending a listening ear can go a long way.
I’d like to lift the veil that womxn with fibroids are divas.
Lastly, please do not assume a womxn is vain because she wears a lot of makeup and/or hair extensions. There’s a chance that she may suffer from anemia that’s caused by uterine fibroids. Anemia tremendously affects hair skin and nails.
Tell us about your journey to motherhood.
I had my son at the tender age of 19, so fibroids had no impact on my motherhood.
Last question: what advice do you have for someone who is newly diagnosed with fibroids?
- Get to know your body and pay attention to any changes. IE: Increased menstrual cycle, acne, hair loss, pica, constipation, sudden urgency to use the restroom, pain during sexual intercourse, etc.
- Familiarize yourself with your family medical history. It’s very likely that a womxn in your family has/had uterine fibroids.
- Always get a second opinion. If you still do not feel comfortable, then continue getting as many opinions as needed until you feel as though you’ve gathered enough information in order to make an educated decision.
- Act sooner rather than later. Refrain from suffering in silence for years on end. Do your research, decide on the best course of action, then take your life back!
Instagram Handle: @thefibroidpandemic
Other: YouTube channel: The Fibroid Pandemic
Other: Private Facebook Group: The Fibroid Pandemic