Stories like yours
Dismissiveness and misdiagnosis that led to years of pain and frustration as Stephanie searched for answers
At age 51, with an adult daughter, the theoretical idea of a hysterectomy didn’t faze Stephanie Burbank.
But when surgery was offered as a solution to the pain and other life-crippling symptoms she had been experiencing from her uterine fibroids, Stephanie surprised even herself by becoming incredibly emotional about the idea that she would be losing her womb.
Unexpectedly, she felt mournful and despondent when it became clear, just two months ago, that hysterectomy was a viable option for her… perhaps the right option.
Stephanie kept searching for a diagnosis… and laxatives weren’t the answer
Looking back, Stephanie is both astonished and disappointed that it took so long to reach a definitive diagnosis.
She suffered through atypical symptoms and just assumed that fibroids were “something women have sometimes,” as gynecologists and other women had mentioned over the years, dismissively. Stephanie sensed that her consistent discomfort was simply a fact of female life.
Year after year, for over a decade, her periods grew increasingly difficult. Over and over, Stephanie reported to her General Practitioner that she felt there was some sort of a blockage in her abdomen. It felt to Stephanie as though there was something in the way, internally.
This persistent reporting only resulted in a myriad of prescriptions for laxatives in an attempt to improve her condition.
Stephanie had chalked up many of her symptoms to years of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), changing her diet repeatedly and methodically, eliminating foods in an effort to feel better. The pain and frustration increased as her symptoms continued, with no relief in sight.
On her own, she recognized that there was a correlation with her menstrual cycle and increased pain. All along, she wondered why nobody could help relieve her symptoms.
Armed with info gleaned from friends, Stephanie became her own health advocate
Even researching symptoms online provided Stephanie no leads. Only tuning in to the scuttlebutt of female company clued her in. Apparently, fibroids aren’t “just fibroids” and no, they aren’t a random fact of life and also no, nobody needs to accept them as “fine”.
Uterine fibroids were indeed causing her discomfort, and she was determined to resolve the problem. Stephanie became her own health advocate.
Eventually, Stephanie decided to look for an additional advice and landed in the office of a young, female General Practitioner who listened and approached her story with a new eye. Stephanie was immediately referred for a scan that finally revealed the source of the symptoms — numerous fibroids, some with a diameter of 7-9 centimeters.
A medical professional measuring the outside of her uterus estimated that it was the size appropriate for a four-month pregnancy. Stephanie was “pregnant” with fibroids.
Stephanie considered her options and chose a plan of action
It was only then that action could finally be taken. The GP referred her to a gynecologist who recommended stopping the estrogen- based Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that was helping Stephanie through perimenopause. Feeling this step may negate the positive quality of life upon which she was depending, Stephanie opted out on this suggestion. It was then that she was asked to consider a hysterectomy.
A friend had just undergone a fibroids ablation to attempt to resolve her discomfort. The friend was conscious throughout the procedure, and it was performed with no anesthetic. Stephanie internalized her friend’s experience as scary and almost medieval, so she adopted a “just take it out” attitude, sure that a hysterectomy would finally solve her problem.
While the surgeon’s consultant did offer some less aggressive medical and surgical options, the only one that looked promising in providing any lasting relief brought Stephanie back to the hysterectomy. She was ready to be finished with the mess, pain and disruption to her life.
Womb Honoring, by BFFs
Given that the UK has a 6-18 month waiting list for laparoscopic procedures, Stephanie’s need for urgent relief dictated the hysterectomy be performed through regular, abdominal surgery.
Having already undergone a previous abdominal operation in her 20s, Stephanie was dismissive of the invasiveness of the procedure, but was surprised by the sudden and profound sadness that accompanied the decision.
Just prior to the surgery, Stephanie’s supportive community threw her a “Womb Honoring Zoom” which featured rituals, sharing of experiences and encouragement, wisdom and femininity. Pictures were drawn, poetry was read, and Stephanie’s daughter attended, too. Stephanie’s uterus had been her daughter’s first home, after all.
It was an event of mourning but also of celebration, community, and possibilities.
Healthy and rejoining the world
Now recovering from her hysterectomy and regaining strength to return to work, Stephanie is already joyfully surprised to feel how her digestive system is actually supposed to work!
After years of being left without proper solutions, Stephanie found the fortitude to advocate for herself, identifying a GP who would truly listen to her and offer solutions.
Today, Stephanie is healthy, developing previously untapped artistic talents, and happy to join her community again, comfortably, in person!
She knew her body and her persistence won it back
If Stephanie’s story rings familiar, it’s likely because most women have been through some vague form of the same misadventure at some point in their lifetimes. Becoming your own researcher and advocate is often our only path to true, whole health.
Here at Women Talking Fibroids, we enthusiastically applaud Stephanie for taking charge of her health, and encourage our entire community to turn to their local doctors to do the same.