Fibroids- Tumors that grow in women’s uterus. They are basically growths that get so large their sizes are referred to as melon or grapefruit sized which can cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. I referred to my heavy periods as – Chronic Menstrual Blood Loss.
The need to change a pad with a tampon at least 2 times an hour. Gushes of very large blood clots and the frustration of multiple outfit changes per day put my life on hold every month while on my period. Echoing the words of migraine commercials on television- my period was so bad that it began affecting my quality of life, causing me to miss out on so many social events and spending time with my family. Speaking of migraines, I had such a tremendous amount of blood loss that I became severely anemic, my body had come into a state of panic mode resulting in chronic iron deficiency which caused migraine-type headaches. For years I had been treating migraines when all this time it had been the symptoms of fibroids.
Dizzy spells, pelvic pain shooting down to my legs, inexplainable fatigue, weight gain, and of course the pregnant-looking bulge. Finding clothing capable of flattering my figure had become intensely frustrating. While I absolutely loved being pregnant, looking pregnant, and being asked whether I was expecting when I was not, usually triggered feelings of depression. It’s easy to get lost in the negatives, anxiety, and stress of it all.
These days there are many options for treating Fibroids, from minimally invasive removal of the fibroids to major surgery involving the removal of the uterus. In my case, after further examination and a heartfelt discussion with my doctor and partner, I decided the best treatment for me would be a hysterectomy. I chose this option because subsequent tests revealed that my uterus was very diseased. Not only were there Fibroids, but Uterine Polyps, Endometriosis, and Adenomyosis. My uterus had also become more than twice its normal size.
Having to choose this option was difficult because it meant I would not be able to have any more children, and as a Muslim woman, with South Asian roots deeply influenced by the blurred lines of culture and religion, being infertile was frowned upon – fruitfulness is in procreation. –
The strongly opinionated elders would be quick to remind me that in Islam, it is impermissible for a woman to have her uterus removed as the result is sterilization.
With this weight on my shoulders, second-guessing my decision, I prayed and searched for guidance. I admit I am not “religious” but I do seek guidance in my Quran whenever conflicted about consequential life choices. In my search, I was reminded that like its’ guidance on abortions, Islamic principles are such that: “Necessity makes something prohibited permissible”.
He has explained in detail to you that He has forbidden you, excepting that to which you are compelled. [Quran 6:119]. This means that if there is a concern of real or prevalent harm to the woman’s health, or it is feared that it could cause her death or bring about considerable hardship beyond her ability to endure, if according to the advice of reliable and experienced doctors to ward off such harm, then it is permissible.
In the weeks and days leading up to surgery, as the nakedness of my stomach would reflect in the mirror after a shower, it reminded me that while I was able to grow, nurture and bring life into this world, this same body part was now taking mine away. I was becoming unable to care for the child and family due to the lack of quality of life which all of these Uterine complications were causing me. A hysterectomy was not just for my benefit, but for my family’s as well.
I prepared for surgery and decided to have a Laprascopic Supracervical Hysterectomy
I am very grateful that I was given this option. It was the best one for me and it absolutely saved my life.
I began openly sharing my story about my experience as I have been surprised to learn that while many women in my close circle were suffering similar symptoms, their cultural and religious beliefs were blurring their course of action to care due to misinformation and lack of female reproductive health education and awareness. There is a surprising number of women I spoke with who are young mothers themselves who have no idea what a Fibroid is, many never followed up with routine exams OBGYN exams after giving birth, some of whom admitted it was due to not being able to find a female gynecologist.
The role and effect of environment is not limited to cultural and religious perceptions of woman’s reproductive health. Economic, political, and psychosocial aspects are factors as well, nor is it limited to Islam or South Asian communities.
With this in mind, I hope my experience can inspire at least one person to get the healthcare they need to address any symptoms they have. Our bodies are good at talking to us, we just have to listen. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Ask questions and demand thorough explanations from your healthcare providers so you can understand your body. We are our own advocates and remember, Prevention is always better than Cure.