“I just wanted to let you know that Dr. Oz is doing an episode on fibroids today, so be sure to record it!” I cringed at the message my oh-so-helpful mother left on my voicemail last Friday, as I was getting ready for work. She is forever giving me all kinds of advice I never asked for about how I should be living my life, according to Suze Orman, Dr. Phil, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Gupta, among others, so I was more than a little skeptical that Dr. Oz was going to offer any life-changing advice on fibroids for me or anyone else. But after watching the recorded episode last Saturday morning, I was surprised at how touching the episode was, and while it was not as informative as I would have liked it to be, I was relieved and overjoyed that this problem that affects so many women is getting some much needed publicity.
The episode was actually entitled “The #1 Surgery You Don’t Need: Hysterectomy” and it featured an OB/GYN who presented a 36 year-old woman who had one large fibroid with some alternative options to the hysterectomy or abdominal myomectomy her own doctor had recommend. Dr. Oz mentioned how many doctors will only recommend or inform women about the procedures they perform themselves, rather than giving them all the options that are out there, and while I did appreciate his bedside manner and empathy for the women in his audience who had suffered with fibroids, I did not appreciate the fact that Dr. Oz himself neglected to mention the newest and least invasive of treatment options, MRI Guided Focused Ultrasound. Perhaps it was because this treatment is not yet covered by most insurance companies, or maybe Dr. Oz’s legal staff was worried about liability, since not many long-term studies have been done, etc. Whatever his reasoning was, EVERY woman has the right to know that this treatment is out there, and it is frustrating to me that most women who suffer with fibroids are completely in the dark about it.
Dr. Oz mentioned that the word “hysterectomy” itself is indicative of the medical community’s view on female organs, as the root word “hyster” refers to the womb and is derivative of the word “hysteria” based on the assumption that the womb itself caused uncontrollable, emotional behavior. He apologized, as a member of that community, acknowledging that many doctors’ views on the value of the womb hadn’t changed much since the 1800’s. This was corroborated by the story of one 49 year-old woman, who began to cry when she talked about how her doctor recommended a hysterectomy based on her age. It seems that once a woman is no longer able or no longer wants to reproduce, her uterus has no value. Dr. Oz was gentle and sweet, reassuring the woman that it was okay to cry. By this time, I was a mess of tears and snot, and had to pause my recording to run to the bathroom for a box of tissues.
The fibroid segment of this episode was only about 20 minutes long, but I found myself incredibly drained afterwards. I realized that I have never really been able to talk openly about the emotional toll that dealing with my fibroid has taken on my psyche. Fibroids are not generally spoken of in public. They are not deadly like cancer, and are not a condition that gain much sympathy from people in general at all. Women are not supposed to discuss things like menstruation or reproductive organs openly. I believe that attitude in today’s society is partly to blame for so many hysterectomies being needlessly performed.
My name is Erin. I am 36 years old and I have been suffering from a large submucosal fibroid since I was 32. This is my first blog entry, and with this and future blogs, I hope to become a part of the movement to increase awareness of this problem, to promote the government and the private sector to begin funding studies for better solutions, and to create a discussion among other women who suffer with fibroids so they will know that they are not alone.