Growing up in a broken home I always wondered what it would be like having a family of my own. Seeing your mother persevere through all the curve balls life threw at her helped shaped the image of the strong black woman that I wanted to be. I never thought that somewhere down the line the gift of bringing a life into this world would someday not be my reality.
I was about 17/18 years of age when I first got diagnosed with fibroids. For those that do not know what that is, they are the most frequently seen tumors of the female reproductive system. They are firm, compact tumors that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus. Back then they were the size of a dime. I was told to keep an eye on them. But there was nothing to be alarmed of.
In the beginning of 2017 I became depressed. My passion for photography started to fade. I felt as though my career had plateaued. I started to feel not good enough in the eyes of my peers. I gained weight. I didn’t feel pretty enough. I put a lot of pressure on myself. During this year my fibroids grew tremendously. I remember going to the doctor and the the physician saying that I had a very large mass. What startled me was her lack of concern. She didn’t take any other measures to make sure it wasn’t anything severe. She asked if I was aware I had fibroids and I was. But I was aware of what they told me when I was 18 years old. That I had them but they were small so it was nothing to be too concerned about. It wasn’t until I switched doctor offices that the next visit I had this lady seemed more concerned. It started off as getting tests done, blood work, ultra sounds. Then escalated to MRI’s and talks of getting surgery. “Your uterus is the size of a woman 20 weeks pregnant”. I will never forget hearing those words. “If we continue to let this grow months from now this large mass will take over. Your uterus will be ruined and you will be looking at getting a full hysterectomy”. Wait, what?! I’m 28 years old this can’t be right. I’m to young to be worried about this. I haven’t even had children yet. I always thought I would be a great mom. My heart sunk. After a couple weeks my condition worsened. These large masses where causing me to have other health issues, to the point that each morning was a gussing game. Will I make it through today with out sharp shooting pains in my stomach? Will I make it out of bed today? The only way I was comfortable was laying in bed with a heating pad and poppin Motrin like skittles. After a brief visit to the emergency room one night. I knew what had to happen. I need to get these fibroids removed. When I returned back to the doctors office she became uncomfortable about my procedure. She couldn’t tell me that they wouldn’t take my uterus and I wasn’t going to take that. She referred me to the specialists at south jersey fertility center. There I found Dr. Sawin who was specialized in the removal of fibroids. I refer to him as God sent. I can’t stress to you the importance of feeling comfortable with the person who has your whole life in their hands. From the moment I stepped in his office he made me feel secure and safe. In no time I was in the hospital getting ready for surgery.
The surgery I had was an abdominal myomectomy which is a major surgical procedure. It involves making an incision through the skin on the lower abdomen, known as a "bikini cut," but in my case it was a vertical cut bc my fibroids were too big, and removing the fibroids from the wall of the uterus. The uterine muscle is then sewn back together using several layers of stitches. There is a 6-8 weeks recovery time. (more information here) the first couple days I was hospitalized. Walking was a nightmare. They stressed how much they wanted you walking so that you wouldn’t get blood clots and it made it easier for your digestion and using the bathroom. In order to walk they give you a pillow to press against your stomach to support yourself. Imagine being reduced to baby steps and your an adult. Imagine going from being a fully functional independent 28 year old to fully dependent on family members and friends. To the point you need help showering and using the bathroom. Not to mention this huge scar I’m going to have. I have to wear underwear up to my belly button and I’m restricted to loose fitting and over sized pants. Not like I already wasn’t self conscious. My life did a complete 180. If it wasn’t for my faith in Jesus Christ, my mom who slept in the hospital room with me and wouldn’t leave my side, my stepfather, and my close friends & some close relatives I don’t know how I would have made it through. But we are in the clear! These tumors were removed. They weren’t cancerous. Guess who still has an intact uterus? This girl! That means babies are definitely in my future. God willing. So All I have to do is focus on healing. As much as I cried and suffered. I still wouldn’t change anything. Going through this really helped me see who I am, what I’m capable of, who has my back.
I say this to say ladies and gentlemen, it’s up to you to pay attention to that bump that doesn’t feel right, or that weird feeling in your arms or legs, or that migraine that won’t go away or in my case that hard lump in my uterus. Times will be hard. They will be down right unbearable. But YOU have the choice to fight and not let the battle defeat you. When it is all said and done you will look back at what you have over come and hold your head high. You are a survivor. God said no weapon formed against you will prosper. He didn’t say there won’t be any battles. At the end of the day, He has the last say. This experience helped me grow in more ways then one. It helped build my character, it challenged me, it made me strong when I thought I was weak, it made me view life with a larger lense, it made me fearless, and most of all it gave me a testimony. That is what I share with you today.
If you have any questions or comments reach out via IG : @_artofrayy
*All photos taken by Breana Newton
*All photos edited by Brielle Liverman