My Name is Maimuna Garba and this is my Fibroid Story. During my university days, almost towards my final year, which was around 2011, I started experiencing heavy bleeding. At first, I took it as a normal thing, I tagged it to stress, because anyone who was in the final year in the university knows how stressful it can be. Not only did the flow become heavier, but I also started experiencing cramps and clots during my menstrual period. My period days increased from 3 days to five days, to 7 days. I didn’t take it to be anything. It must be stress, I thought.
I went on with my normal activities but dreaded seeing my monthly cycle because it turned into a scary experience. I rarely go out any time it was that time of the month. Even if I had to go to school, it was with a full bag of sanitary towels, toilet paper, extra underwear, and if possible a change of clothes because one could never predict the flow.
I decided this was not a normal experience, I had to see a doctor. At first, I didn’t know which hospital to go to in Jos who might have a good gynecologist. I asked around and some people gave recommendations. On that faithful day, I set out to go to the hospital, I told my mom I was going to the hospital, she asked if I was ill, I told her I needed to do a check-up because I didn’t understand the symptoms. I got to the hospital, did the necessary procedure of registering and getting a card. I was nervous and afraid.
All sorts of ideas had crossed my mind, was I dying, was it cancer? My name was called and I went into the doctor’s office, he asked the usual questions, when I saw my period last and all. I told him about all the symptoms I have been experiencing and he asked me to lay down so he could do a physical examination.
As soon as he placed his hands around my pelvic area, I felt a very sharp pain, the doctor looked at me and said, ‘do you know you have fibroid?’ as soon as he blotted those words, the world stopped, I was trying to process what I had just heard. The doctor asked again and I got jolted back to reality, I said fibroid how come? He said as he touched my pelvic area, he could feel it, but to further get a confirmation, he said he will do a scan.
The scan confirmed my fears, it was indeed fibroid. I was perplexed, my thoughts were racing all over the place. The doctor asked a couple of more questions like if we had a family history of fibroid and all, I answered in affirmative, I told him I thought these things do not occur except in women in their 40s (I was just 27 years old). He told me he had operated on 16 years old who had a fibroid. I was shocked. He gave me a pep talk reassuring me that having fibroid does not mean I won’t be able to conceive and it could be treated with surgery. Two types of surgery were required to treat fibroid. One was uterine myomectomy which was the removal of the non-cancerous cells know as the fibroid and the other treatment option was a hysterectomy, which was the complete removal of the uterus.
He suggested I take the former treatment plan because I was not married and had not had children. The latter treatment option was for women who had had kids and didn’t need their uterus anymore. The doctor gave me some medication to help with the pain and the excessive loss of blood. He told me to go home and think about when ill want the surgery to be. I thanked him and left the hospital.
It was the longest drive of my life that day, I thought of all sorts; how could I have this, where did I go wrong, what did I do? The questions were endless. I got home, I told my mom, called my sisters who were in school, and told them too. It’s was an emotional moment. We were all crying. My mom told me she will support whatever decision I made. My sisters were also supportive.
I managed the symptoms with the medications, but it didn’t help, I had a terrible habit then of taking fizzy drinks (I didn’t know I was doing a lot of harm to myself) the fibroid kept growing. In my first visit to the doctor, the biggest size of the fibroid was about 6cm, after 6 months when I went for another scan, the size of the biggest of the fibroid grew to 11cm. Unknown to me, the fizzy drinks and dairy products were feeding the fibroid and making them grow at a faster rate. I had to do a test called HSG to know if my fallopian tubes were blocked (that test was a test from hell) it was so painful, it was like my whole insides were tangled and were trying to untangle. It took me 4 days to recover from that test.
After I graduated, the symptoms grew more severe. One morning I woke up and decided I couldn’t take the pain anymore, I was going in for the Fibroid surgery. I informed my mom, she was her usual self, very supportive, and calm. We went together to book the appointment for the surgery, I told some of my family members. Some believed I should not do the surgery, but my mind was made up. I couldn’t deal with the pain any longer.
The surgery was scheduled for the 21st of March 2014, that was almost after a year of discovering I had fibroid. I had done extensive research on the fibroid. I prepared my mind for the worse (which was death). Before the surgery date, I had bled the whole month of February into March. When I went to see the doctor for a final check-up on the 20th of March, I was still bleeding. He told me if the bleeding didn’t stop, they couldn’t carry out the surgery, because it wasn’t a life-threatening situation.
I went back home and I prayed, I was tired of all the physical and emotional pain. My mental health was also suffering. By the mercy of Allah SWT, the blood stopped on the night of the 20th. On the 21st of March, I packed my bags with my mom in tow and went to the hospital. I tried to remain calm because my blood pressure could not rise beyond a certain level, if not the surgery will be canceled.
Surgery was slated for 2 pm. I had my family around me. The situation was tense, but I tried to make jokes so everyone could relax. By 1 pm, the surgery team came in and gave me some talks again, asked if I wanted to be put to sleep or I wanted to be conscious.
I chose the latter. At 1:30 pm, it was time to go, I hugged my mom, my family members and told them, I’ll see you all later in shaa Allah. Some of them had tears in their eyes, I braced up and walked out of the room (I didn’t let them wheel me into the theatre). I walked in myself. I said my prayers and laid down waiting for the unknown.
The surgery took almost 3 hours. I was wheeled out at about 5:00 pm. The anesthetic was still in effect, but I could feel the pains. They sedated me and I fell asleep. I woke up at about midnight with very severe pain crying and weeping. I asked for water and they said I couldn’t drink anything. The pain was unbearable. The cryings and shoutings increased.
The nurse on duty that night was the sweetest nurse I have ever met (we became friends to date) I started vomiting, I vomited blood like puke, all on the nurse. I was apologizing to her and weeping at the same time. She told me not to worry, that it’s okay, she sedated me again and I went back to sleep. It was an ulcer that was making me vomit. In the morning, the pains were more severe. They had to call the consultant who then said they didn’t have to wait for me to fart, they could give me Lipton to drink because I had an ulcer.
I stayed for five days in the hospital. Recovery was painful and very slow. I was in and out of the hospital for two months. At one point I just wanted to die so all the pains could end. My mom was there every step of the way. My family was also there every step of the way. For 2 months, I couldn’t eat anything. Nothing will stay down, everything I ate, I vomited. My blood level was low (17%). I had to have a blood transfusion in that 2 months of gruesome pain. I felt like I was carrying a stone in my stomach, I couldn’t walk upright.
The doctors had scanned, they could not figure what was wrong, but I was in pain and wasn’t eating. In one of the check-up, the doctor said if they couldn’t find out what was wrong, I may have to go back to the theatre, be opened up to see what was happening inside of me. The night before the scheduled second surgery, I went into the bathroom to pee, after peeing, I stood up, I felt a liquid coming out, I thought I was still peeing, but it wasn’t pee, it was pus from my operation site. I screamed for my mom, the whole house was in pandemonium.
I was rushed back to the hospital. They had to open up the stitches a bit to suck out all the pus, they did that for 5 days. It was after this that I started to fully recover. It was a scary and painful experience.
After surgery, my period went back to normal, it lasted 3 days, the flow wasn’t heavy. I was happy… But that didn’t last long. After 3 years, the heavy periods were back, the period went from 3 days to 7 days, the clots were bigger. I was back in the hospital. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong because the scan wasn’t showing anything, they suspected a lot of things like adenomyosis. I was asked to do another HSG to determine what was happening.
I did another HSG, this time it was less painful because the doctor gave me some injections and medication on the day I went for the HSG. Because of fear, I didn’t want to go through another experience of pain. The HSG results came out and my worst fear was confirmed, the fibroid was back. This time around, I was calm, I prayed, I said oh Allah, I do not know why you are giving me all these trials, but I know it’s for the best and you are never wrong.
I was expected to conceive after the first surgery to eliminate the chances of the fibroid reoccurring. I wasn’t married, so there was no way I could have conceived. Nevertheless, I made up my mind I did not want surgery, I was going to manage it to the best of my ability. I did further research. Found some supplements online that claimed the could shrink fibroid without surgery, I bought a whole lot of them, I drank, but nothing changed. I stopped buying it.
This time around I knew I had to control my diet, so I don’t have the fibroid growing at a fast pace. I had stopped taking fizzy drinks and all dairy products. To the glory of God, the fibroid didn’t grow bigger, it remained the size it was when it was discovered again. I also tried to control my stress level, because, in the course of my research, I found out that stress made the fibroid symptoms worse… I’m still managing it, I have learned to live with it, I have learned to not let it dictate my life. Some days I feel overwhelmed by the pain and the bleeding, other days I just try and be happy and LIVE.
One thing I noticed is, I didn’t find support groups for people living with fibroid, because there were days I wanted to talk to someone who was experiencing what I was experiencing, but I couldn’t find any.
If anyone is going through this, you can reach out to me, we can start our support group for women who had/have a fibroid.