I Thought My Pain Was Normal—Then I Found Out I Had a 'Ton' of Fibroids
It took a trip to the ER to discover the real cause of my terrible cramps and constant exhaustion.
I had never heard of fibroids when I was diagnosed with them in the ER one night just a few months ago. I had gone to the hospital because I was in so much pain, it felt like my appendix had burst.
I had also been feeling very tired, experiencing pressure in my back and cramps in my stomach, and bleeding way more than normal during my period. But it didn't occur to me that all those symptoms could be related. At 33, I figured they were just part of getting older. So when the doctor told me I had a "ton" of fibroids in my uterus, I was caught completely off guard. "No one’s ever told you that before?” she asked.
"I haven’t been to the gynecologist in four years,” I admitted, embarrassed. She urged me to see an ob-gyn as soon as possible. My fibroids were large, she said, and my pain and symptoms wouldn’t stop until I treated them.
Of course, I went home and googled everything I could about fibroids. They’re noncancerous growths that tend to develop during a woman’s childbearing years. Some estimates say they’ll affect during their lifetimes. I couldn’t believe I knew nothing about something that was so common.
Before my diagnosis, I was starting to feel like a hypochondriac. But when you have general pain, you don’t really want to talk about it—because you figure everyone's going through stuff, and you don’t want to complain. And as a YouTube host for , it’s my job to be positive and upbeat. (I cover pop culture, beauty, celebrity news and trends.) So I tried to manage my symptoms as best I could.
I felt this pressure inside my abdomen that just wouldn't go away. It was there all the time. And sometimes the cramping—which I chalked up to my period—felt almost unbearable. The worst part was the exhaustion. I’d come home from work and go to bed at 5 p.m. Even when I got plenty of sleep at night I felt tired.
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I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, but I was also scared of what would come next. I went to see a gynecologist who did an ultrasound, and confirmed that I had several fibroids. He said my uterus was the size he'd expect in a woman who was four months pregnant.
The fibroids were pressing on my bladder, which was why I had to pee all the time; and my rectum, causing constipation. The fibroids were also causing the back pain I had assumed was just part of life.
I was presented with two options. I could have a myomectomy, a procedure to cut out the fibroids; or a hysterectomy, to remove my entire uterus. I left the appointment terrified. My husband and I want to have kids some day, and both options threatened that prospect. Plus, with the way my uterus was at that time, full of fibroids, I likely couldn’t get pregnant even if I did nothing. It felt like my choice to become pregnant had been taken away, and that was a really hard pill to swallow.
I fell into a depression for a few weeks after that. It was difficult to talk to my family and my husband’s family about the possibility of infertility. The myomectomy would increase my chances of getting pregnant by removing the fibroids, but it could also cause scarring in my uterus that could make it harder to conceive. I felt stuck.
I didn’t want to have a major surgery, be out of work for weeks, and possibly infertile. But I also couldn’t live with these symptoms any more.
I kept researching. I sought out second, and third opinions. A friend I had met when I was a contestant on The Amazing Race let me know about a doctor who was doing a new fibroid procedure in Beverly Hills near where I live. It’s called Acessa, and it’s a minimally invasive surgery that uses what's called radio-frequency ablation to destroy each fibroid.
Essentially, a scope and a tiny needle go into the uterus; the needle applies heat to the fibroid, killing the blood supply. Once the blood supply is cut off, the fibroid softens, and then shrinks down like a raisin. The body disposes of it, or it remains in place, but without causing any pain. This surgery can lead to scarring as well, but less than a myomectomy. It seemed like the right option for me.
I was so nervous but my doctor was super encouraging and comforting. During the procedure he was able to kill every single fibroid in my uterus. A few hours later, I could feel a difference in pressure. I had no more back pain. I went back to work 10 days later, and was cleared to try to get pregnant after three weeks.
It's likely that I will get fibroids again down the road. But my doctor doesn’t think I’ll have to worry about them again for 8 to 10 years. Right now, I just have to keep getting my yearly exam, and watch out for any symptoms.
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I finally feel like myself again. I have so much energy now, and I can push my body again. We just started filming a new fitness channel for Clevver, and I’m traveling and doing insane workouts, and I can hang!
I hope other women learn from my experience. I put off going to the ob-gyn all those years because I was busy. But it's so important to go to your annual visit.
I also hope my story encourages others to talk more openly about health issues. I realized that after sharing my own story, a lot of my friends were actually dealing with fibroids too.
We live in a time where we want to put our absolute best out there. We want to put filters on everything, and we obsess over how many likes we get. But at the end of the day, that’s not real life. The only way we can encourage and support each other is if we start talking about what we're actually going through.
You can watch Erin’s journey from diagnoses through surgery in her docuseries, .
As told to Kristin Canning