The Gift Within: Fibroids and Their Message
Sprinting to the bathroom before I headed out the door for dance practice, I sighed as I looked down and realized I had started my period. I opened up the cabinet to rummage around for my diva cup, quickly sanitized it, and inserted it.
“That’s weird,” I thought. “It’s not going all the way in. Did I leave a tampon in there last month?”
Knowing that I hadn’t since I rarely wear tampons, and feeling annoyed because now I was really running late, I felt around to see what was creating the block. That’s when I felt it.
A growth. At the back of my vagina, near my cervix.
Tears immediately formed in my eyes, and I broke down. For a minute. Then I got up and walked out the door.
The puzzle pieces slowly started forming a picture. My extremely heavy periods that had begun a year and a half before, though my hormone levels were normal and I didn’t have other symptoms (I had thought perimenopause, but my doc said, “sometimes these things just happen. Nothing to worry about”). Intermittent sleep issues I’d chalked up to adrenal stuff. Sneaky fatigue the last two months that I hadn’t experienced in years (oh, the anemia!). My protruding coccyx that some of my dancers had lovingly begun to refer to my growing tail, taking me towards full-on cat.
Not all of this was clear right off the bat, of course – in the moment I found it, I just thought, “cancer.” It was a few days, phone calls, battling a bit to get into the doctor, and an ultrasound later that I learned it was a uterine fibroid, “relatively large” at 6.2cm according to one of the doctors, and it was on the posterior wall, meaning that yes, it was pushing my spine out of alignment and causing a lot of lower back pain.
Here is where I want to say that:
1. Fibroids are super common, especially as women head towards perimenopause because progesterone drops while estrogen stays higher, creating estrogen dominance, and this is what “feeds” fibroids.
2. They are more common in women who haven’t had children (which is me), but are supposedly most often seen in those that are larger-bodied or have blood sugar issues (not me. And honestly, not any of the women who have contacted me since I put an APB out on Instagram about it). 3. They are not life-threatening. 4. Many women have a relatively unobtrusive surgery called laparoscopic myomectomy and physically heal somewhere between 2-6 weeks.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not the worst diagnosis to get.
But I’m also here to say that:
1. Women’s health issues are constantly downplayed and belittled, made to seem all in women’s heads, and kept quiet for the sake of not making men uncomfortable or other people having to “take any of it on.”
2. Surgery is a big deal, no matter how “relatively small.”
3. A fibroid, and really any reproductive issue, is a symptom of a larger cultural issue around expectations of women to carry the heavy load emotionally, and to uplift and protect all of the people around her in the process. And I believe that load has been passed down from the experiences of generations of women before us, doubling the impact on women in their 20s-50s today, who are also expected to carry the physical and financial loads as well.
So now is not the time to be silent and say, “well, we’re lucky it’s not worse.”
* * * * *
I believe there is a Middle Way that’s a little bit different than the Buddhist approach. My Middle Way is about health, and healing, and really about where any of us finds ourselves in life.
On the one hand, there is a chorus of voices that scream “look what has been done to me!” In this place, everything that has happened in a person’s life is always something or someone else’s fault. They’ve always had things done to them, they’ve had disadvantages for a whole host of reasons, and they lack because of bad luck, bad timing, or bad “other people”.
On the other hand, you have a chorus of voices that scream, “take full responsibility for where you find yourself in your life!” So if you are sick, that’s your fault. If you are poor, that’s your fault. If you can’t get where you want to be in life, it’s all because of your shitty mindset and you just need to be more positive. Forget any truths of a patriarchal society that inhibits any person of color, low socioeconomic status, older age, disability, or women from even having access to the gold-plated doors of mindset and positivity.
Thing is, there is truth in both sets of voices, however annoying or empowering that might be.
If you aren’t privileged, you have to work 3, 4, 10 times as hard and may never get even halfway to where a privileged person is in life, work, or healing. That’s real talk. AND, part of where each of us is in life, work, or healing absolutely has to do with choices we’ve made and responsibilities we may not have taken. That’s also real talk.
Where each of us finds ourselves on the spectrum of where we want to be in life has to do with a mix of self-honesty, responsibility taken, cultural and societal oppression, timing, mindset, and karma. It’s up to us to figure out which is which, and how to navigate it all with as much grace and ease and possible.
From that perspective, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned (so far) about my fibroid.
* * * * *
I came across this article pretty early in my research on “spiritual reasons for fibroids” (yes, of course I went there). I felt like I could have written this paragraph:
When I first found out that I had fibroids, I went through a gamut of emotions: anger, shame, impatience, hope, stubbornness, surrender, you name it. Considering that I am a healer by trade, I had initially judged myself for not having avoided this. After some time, however, I realized that I was thankful to my body for bringing it to my attention that certain important things were not being acknowledged/paid attention to/released, in a non-malignant way, and that, in coming face-to-face with what I’d created, once addressed, I would never allow it to manifest again.
Although my judgement of myself was less than it would have been in the past, I certainly jumped to “what have I been doing to make this happen?”
And therein lies the grace and ease question – could I ponder how this happened, my role in it, and yet also know that there are larger issues at play that were out of my control?
I looked to the physical aspects: I primarily eat a Paleo diet, which is supposed to diminish the likelihood of fibroids. I also rarely drink coffee, and many days no caffeine. I started on bioidentical progesterone about 10 months ago as I intuited that it was high estrogen that was causing the excess bleeding when I menstruated. My liver has had issues on and off for the past couple of years, and if Phase 1 or Phase 2 liver detox is hindered in any way, estrogen isn’t processed properly and can cause estrogen dominance. So that is certainly probably part of it.
But beyond the liver part, I physically don’t fit the “type” that will encounter a 6.2cm (about the size of a tennis ball) fibroid. That means I needed to look to the emotional/energetic/spiritual components. According to Caroline Myss:
Fibroid tumors represent our creativity that has never been birthed. Fibroids may also result when we are flowing life energy into dead end jobs or relationships we have outgrown. Fibroids are often associated with conflicts about creativity, reproduction, and relationships.
Further, Dr. Lisa H. Upshaw suggests in her piece, Medical Mom: Uterine Fibroids and the Second Chakra:
Ask yourself, are you happy and fulfilled in your work? With your finances and in your interpersonal relationships? What would it take to get there? Do you exercise regularly? Do you offer your body food energy every three hours? Do you make healthy food choices? Are you living your passion, contributing your unique gifts to the world? Have you healed from past hurts from a lover or bad work experiences?
I admit to struggling to let go of the past. I read somewhere recently that from an astrological perspective, Venus in Scorpio will keep all their past relationships inside their heart, and I think that’s true (and I would now add, inside our reproductive system). I often don’t feel supported in the ways that I feel I need or want – it feels like I’m out there on my own. There has been a lot, lot, lot of doing in the past few years, without enough receiving. The conflicts that arise where on the one hand I have an ability and gift to create, and how lucky I am to walk this path, while on the other hand, having had to give so much up, are palpable. The imbalance of give and take within both work and romantic relationships has been at the forefront.
I see where my clients repeat their patterns, and gently guide them in breaking what’s no longer working. I even see and know my own patterns, but I’ve wrestled with surrendering, and what that truly looks like for me.
My deep sense is that I don’t feel safe in the past, or the present. During an Akashic records reading I had back in December, she said, “you have an immense amount of faith. It’s the trust part that you find hard.”
* * * * *
My go-to is researching what foods I can eat, what supplements I can take, what energy practices I can employ. Youtube and Insight Timer have been getting a workout from me ordering up sacral chakra healings and fibroid meditations. I’ve had some realizations. I’ll have many more over the coming months, I’m sure.
I go back and forth between the agitation of not knowing when the surgery will happen (my first consult with the specialist is next week), weeping for what the fibroid represents, what I will do about upcoming performances and classes, being ready for this thing to be out of me (yes, I actually do want the surgery, which has surprised some people. I learned long ago that to disregard allopathic medicine in times of need is just as closed minded as those people who believe thousands of years and millions of patients who have used traditional medicine means nothing. Allopathic medicine does surgery well; I will use alternative medicine for the before and after), fear about how long recovery might take on both physical and emotional levels, faith that it means some BIG beautiful shifts, that it is a learning tool for me to know myself even more deeply, working at that core wounding with more care and compassion than ever before, to understand and bring to light a plight that MANY women (so I’m learning) face, that intense healing of our sacral chakra and reproductive system is what we are being called to do right now.
The energy that resonates the most is that this IS Sensual Magic – it’s going into the depths of womanhood and removing those blocks that are personal, cultural, and ancestral so that I may live more deeply in my powerful feminine, weaving it into more balance with my masculine. I’m honoring my body on the daily even more than before (and I previously thought I did a lot!), thanking it, loving it, being in awe of its strength, resilience, sensuality, passion and purpose. I’m listening more, and demanding less. We’re weaving a more intense love affair.
And in that way, it’s all worth it.
**Addendum**: I have received a lot of emails over the past few years asking me about how I took care of my body before and after fibroid surgery.
Though I don’t want to scare any of the women who contact me, considering most already have their surgery booked, I would be remiss to not share the tragic experience I had with my fibroid surgery.
Although my case was extreme, bowel perforation is a known risk with abdominal surgeries and should be a part of informed consent from your doctor. Please consider other avenues of working with your fibroid(s) before deciding on surgery.
If you would like to learn more about how to work with your fibroids from a natural standpoint, and also all the allopathic and surgical options for fibroids, I offer an intro class called, So You’ve Learned You’ve Got A Fibroid, and a more in-depth program, Fibroids 101, at my hormone school.