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"Fibroids Made Me Look Six Months Pregnant"
Karen's* story
"I used to have really heavy periods. It was so bad that sometimes I would get through a whole pack of 'heavy-flow' sanitary towels in a day. At the worse, it would be a pack and a half. On top of that, my bed would be soaked overnight.
 
I was also very anemic and used to feel tired all the time. It was only after going to the doctor to find out why I was feeling so tired and run-down that the fibroids were eventually diagnosed. I had some blood tests done and they told me about the anemia. I mentioned that I had heavy periods and asked if there was anything the doctor could prescribe. He gave me some medication to reduce the flow of my periods.
 
At first, I told myself that the medication was working and things weren't so bad but in truth, the periods were still really heavy. I mentioned it to a couple of friends and they suggested I might have fibroids and told me to go back to the doctor's. I did and he sent me to the gynae clinic at the hospital.
 
They did some scans and confirmed that I had large fibroids, the largest of which were about the size of tennis balls. I was so shocked but I was relived to know what was wrong. It explained why I looked six months pregnant!
 
The gynaecologist asked me if I had children and I said no, although I was 34. He said if I was planning to have kids then I should get on with it quickly because I was leaving it late and the fibroids would be a big hinderance if I did try to conceive. 
 
 "No pressure!", I thought, especially as I wasn't in a relationship. He added that I could just leave the fibroids alone as they weren't causing too much trouble and said I could also take iron tablets. I then tried to find out as much as I could about fibroids but there wasn't much information available.

 It was humiliating to have people asking me when the baby was due! That the straw that broke the camel's back because I was just so angry all the time. I wanted the "aliens" out of me so I went back to see the gynaecologist.
 
FIBROIDS FILM
Black Stock Media, in association with The Lois Project, is making a film about fibroids to raise awareness.
To share your story email: blackstockfilms@gmail.com or theloisproject@gmail.com
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By now I'd found out about different operations for fibroids. I decided to get the fibroids removed through surgery. They cut out the fibroids and took out 18 from my womb. Some of them were huge.
 
I felt as if I had been through a near-death experience when I came round but I was so glad that they took out the fibroids and left my womb. Some people had told me that sometimes they take out the whole womb but I still want to have children so I told them I didn't want a hysterectomy.
 
I was able to go back to work after about six weeks, so that was alright. It really made me question my priorities and I have decided to look at my stress levels and my lifestyle to make sure I don't take on anything that's going to make me get too stressed out.
 
My periods are back to normal and although my tummy isn't exactly like an ironing board, it is a lot better than it was and I can fit into some of my old clothes. Some of my old panties had to be chucked out because they looked like old granny bloomers: two people could fit into one pair!
 
My advice to any woman with fibroids is to get as much information as possible. Remember, you are not alone and you don't need to suffer in silence."
 
Interview by Nia Reynolds
* name has been changed to protect privacy.
 
Living with Fibroids
 
 Fibroids are non-maligant tumorous growths within the womb which can cause pelvic pressure, severe pain, bloating, heavy periods, painful sex, problems with conception and miscarriage. They can be stressful to live with and lead to physical and emotional problems for those living with the condition - and also for their families, friends and loved ones.
 
At their worse, they are a major risk to fertility, but there are now advances in the treatment of fibroids.  Operations like a myomectomy for the removal of uterine fibroids can remove the fibroids and leave the womb intact for women who wish to conceive. It is important to note, though, that fibroids can come back once they have been removed.
 
There are also claims by herbal medicine practitioners that certain herbs, healthy lifestyle changes to diet (for example, eliminating dairy and animal products), rest and exercise can help to shrink small fibroids and diminish their growth.
 
Ras Daniel Babu, a herbalist and practitioner of macrobiotics says, "If fibroids are below the size of 6.5cm, women may not need an operation as certain herbs may be able to shrink and destroy them. Above that size, an operation may be the best treatment."
 
Ras Babu recommends certain herbs to boost blood circulation and in some cases even break up the mass of tumours, including dried prunella, logan berries, cinnamon twigs, black cohosh, safflower, angelica and tumeric.
 
A "good blood booster" recommended by Ras Babu is blending callaloo or spinach, carrots, ginger and beetroot and drinking as a health drink. He claims this is especially beneficial to women several days ahead of, during and after their periods because it will help to build and replenish blood, as well as boost its circulation.
 
He also cites lifestyle changes like: getting good rest and sleep, more exercise and overcoming a sedentary lifestyle (sitting in front of a computer screen all day long, for example), becoming less stressed, angry and depressed, and cutting out meat and dairy products because they are too often packed with hormones which feed the growth of fibroids.
 
* The Lois Project Women's Health Education Network is conducting research about women's experiences of fibroids. If you have an experience to share or examples of useful therapies and treatments, get in touch. Email and join our forum.
 
* Look out for our forthcoming publication about fibroids.
 
* The British Fibroid Trust is holding a Fibroid Patient Support Group event every 3 months on Wednesday evening. The aim of this meeting is to bring together women with fibroids to support each other and share information about living with the disease.
Meetings take place at:
3rd Floor Seminar Rooms
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing (Entrance on Grafton Way)
University College London Hospital.
 
Contact for the British Fibroid Trust:www.britishfibroidtrust.org.uk