In April 2009, my doctor discovered that I had fibroid growing on my uterus. At the time, the ultrasound indicated that it was about the size of a grapefruit (oh, yes, doctors do seem to love equating growth sizes with types of fruit). I was definitely a bit shocked and nervous when I first found out. What the heck was a fibroid? Why was it growing on my uterus? And how would this impact my ability to have children? My head filled with questions, which my family physician didn’t seem too keen to answer her self. Instead she referred me to a specialist. In Alberta, that process sadly means that you wait about a month before finding out if you’ve gotten an appointment somewhere, and then wait another 6-12 months for the actual appointment. I was so severely disappointed by all of this. My family physician assured me that the fibroid, which is a type of tumor, is very, very, rarely cancerous and that was supposed to comfort me during my 6-12 month wait to see someone who could tell me what was going on and what my options were.
Of course, the worry about cancer still clung in the back of my brain, but what I was most concerned about was how this would affect my chances of having children. Would the fibroid continue to grow during the long wait to see a specialist? And if so, would that put my fertility at greater risk? My husband and I had finally reached the stage where we were excited to start trying for children. We’d spent the six months before my diagnosis moving back to Calgary to be closer to our families, getting good jobs, buying our first house, all in preparation for starting a family. Beyond all these things, we were both finally truly looking forward to having children and having them soon. It had never occurred to me that we might run into obstacles with that. Of all the things we’d struggled through, surely getting pregnant would be the least difficult. This strange fibroid discovery de-railed all my preconceived notions of easy or straightforward childbearing.
During the anxious wait to talk to a specialist, I hit-up Wikipedia for information and took out books from the public library about fibroids. I learned about all the various types, the symptoms, and treatments. I tried to educate myself as much as possible and kept a list of questions to ask the specialist when I finally had my appointment. Without getting into too much complex stuff, basically, a uterine fibroid is a type of tumor that grows from the tissue of the uterus. They are not sure why they start growing in the first place, but they do rely on the presence of estrogen and progesterone and often grow rapidly during high estrogen states (like pregnancy). They can be quite small or quite big. You might have just one at a time, or you may have several. They can be completely asymptomatic, causing no problems, or they can cause a whole assortment of problems (pain, heavy bleeding, extreme bloating, miscarriages, etc.). Through the course of all of this learning and trying to adjust, I decided that my fibroid needed a name and so for what ever reason (I can’t even recall) I began referring to it as Nancy. Nancy and I didn’t get along all that well, but I was stuck with her and she with me for the time-being.
Eventually, my appointment date arrived (sooner rather than later with persistent calling). Accompanied by my loving hubby, we sat and discussed the issues, the options, and the worse- and best-case scenarios. The main concern the specialist had was that the fibroid was a fairly large for someone my age (28 at the time) and also I hadn’t had children yet, which we did want to do. So we formed Plan A, which was to start trying for children. With luck, I’d get pregnant and we’d just have to monitor the fibroid throughout the pregnancy. However, if I didn’t become pregnant within a few months, we would start doing some testing to ensure that everything else health-wise was good with both my husband and myself.