By: Jean Johnson for Fibroids1
Pamela Green moved to Las Vegas when she was a child, and the 43 year-old woman has been there ever since. The dusty roses and silvery hues of the desert speak to Green so sweetly that were she to move anywhere else it would be Phoenix. “Yes,” she said with an easy laugh. “Another desert.”
For a good two years prior to having a uterine fibroid embolization procedure, however, her laughter didn’t come that quickly and the desert colors seemed to have lost their vibrancy. When even walking hurts, life that is otherwise enjoyable can turn into a highly-unpleasant experience.
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It all started back before the Green’s son, who is now 14, was born. “I noticed a heaviness back then. It was well before I got pregnant. Also I had cramps in the bottom of my stomach. I knew at the time that I had fibroids and that they needed to be monitored to see if they were getting bigger,” she said. “But I wasn’t having any heavy bleeding, though, so for that reason I didn’t make the connection between the other symptoms and the fibroids. I just thought I had gas.”
Green says her problems weren’t that bad during those early days. It was during her pregnancy when the increased blood supply caused her fibroids to grow, however, that the fibroids in her uterus first became particularly problematic.
“There was a lot of pain because as the baby grew, the fibroids did too,” said Green. “The doctor explained that as the baby got bigger, the fibroids would get larger too, and that’s what happened. There was a lot of discomfort.
“I knew they were getting bigger – I had several fibroids and one grew to the size of an orange – because when I was lying down on my side or back I would have to keep moving. If I stayed in one spot too long, my legs would get numb.”
Once her son was born in 1992, Green explains that the fibroids started shrinking down as the blood supply to uterus returned to normal. Still her Obgyn monitored the benign growths each year, ultimately informing Green in 1994 that the fibroids were starting to get larger again.
As far as symptoms during this time, once again for Green is was not the classic scenario of heavy bleeding that keeps so many women with enlarged fibroids from enjoying activities they might otherwise.
“Basically I just dealt with it because I wasn’t associating my problems with the fibroids. I wasn’t having heavy bleeding, only sporadic periods. Instead I had bloating, a heaviness in the bottom of my pelvic area, and was cramping badly. Along with that I did have frequency of urination and constipation, but I just didn’t know why – and didn’t relate it to the fibroids at the time.”
|Learn more about Dr. Weidenfeld and his work with fibroids patients here.|
It was 2002 when things began to escalate. “The uterus was getting so large that they thought I might have to have a hysterectomy, I guess,” Green explained. “That’s when I started having to have an ultrasound each year to get the fibroids measured – so they were monitoring from 2002 with the idea that I might be able to avoid doing anything if the fibroids didn’t keep growing.”
It was about a year after the ultrasounds started that she began seeing her symptoms increase in severity, particularly with constipation and problems with walking. Still, because she associated the bloating with gas, she did not realize the growing fibroids were the cause of her distress.
“There was a gradual escalation over a two-year period,” Green said. “Some days I didn’t want to go out at all. I’d just have to sit on the toilet even though with all that pressure on my intestines it was difficult to defecate. Only later when I talked to Dr. Weidenfeld about having the embolization done did I realize that since my uterus was the size of what it would be if I were four months pregnant, it was what was causing all my other troubles. My stomach was distended so much by then that my clothes weren’t fitting, with things a little tight around the waist.
“Also walking was very hard toward the end – it was really hard. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, there was all that pressure in the bottom of your stomach. The weight of it was unbearable every time you put your foot down,” she said. “I really was getting into bad shape there.”
It was a year ago in 2005 that Green’s Obgyn finally told her she would have to do something about the fibroids because they were getting too large.
“I did not want a hysterectomy,” she said. “I did not want any of my body parts taken out. I had seen pictures of what it looks like. In the past year I had known many women who had hysterectomies, and it seemed excessive to me. I didn’t want to go that extreme. I just felt that was too drastic, so they gave me some other options including the embolization.
“It was great when I went to see Dr. Weidenfeld,” Green said. “It was what I was waiting to hear. At that time I still didn’t know the pressure in my stomach was associated with the fibroids, so when he started explaining things to me, I said ‘Wow. That’s exactly how I feel.’ I knew then I would have the surgery with him. I said to myself, ‘if it’s good for Condoleezza, it’s good for me!’”
It all happened within two months after Green’s initial consultation with Weidenfeld. “First he sent me back in for another ultrasound and an MRI, and then we scheduled a date for my treatment.” Green’s husband chauffeured her to the hospital for the out-patient procedure in the family’s Pathfinder.
“I was a little afraid but they reassured me and I said a quick prayer, so I felt safe. Then I woke up, and it was over – they used a twilight anesthetic with me, but I really don’t remember much.”
As far as recovery, Green’s husband helped out there as well. “Recovery was great,” she said. “My husband took care of my son, and he cooked too – fried chicken. He’s good at fried chicken,” she said. “I took about five days off from my desk job, but after the second day I didn’t really need any more pain pills. So I just took advantage of being pampered until I went back to work the following week.”
Since embolization cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids, patients do not get immediate relief, but instead have to wait while the fibroids gradually shrink over time.
“It was about two months for me,” said Green. “I noticed it in the second month. I was not having any pressure or that gassy feeling the way I did in the first month. I knew it would be gradual, though, so I just waited. Now I have none of the pressure. No cramping. Periods like clockwork.
“Before I was having the cramping all the time, but now I have no symptoms whatsoever. I so want to emphasize that the procedure was life changing for me. I would highly recommend it to other women who have fibroids.”