Of flat abs and fibroids
Friday, April 04, 2014
Some of you know that one of my big goals this year has been to try to use diet and fitness to avoid surgery to remove a bunch of fibroids that have been causing me trouble in recent years. My ferratin and hemoglobin levels (iron) were dangerously low after years of hemhorraging with every TOM due to two clusters of fibroids that are literally pushing into my uterus (apologies for TMI here, what can I do), and I was suffering from the kind of deep, ongoing, relentless exhaustion that starts to look like other conditions, from depression to problems with attention.
Last year my ferratin level dipped down to 3, which is the point at which lots of people wind up getting blood transfusions and/or iron infusions. At this point my doctor said enough is enough, put me on megadoses of iron (600 mg/day), and recommended surgery to remove the fibroids. I found a new OBGYN who is well-known in Toronto for doing non-invasive laproscopic fibroid removal while preserving the uterus, which is what I want, and when I met with her, she agreed that I needed to have the fibroids taken out. During that meeting, though, we got talking about Sparkpeople, and I told her about my program, the weight I had lost already, and some of the details of my fitness regimen. She was quite excited by this and encouraged me to think that losing weight and getting fit might actually help with the fibroids, in part by reducing pressure on the area where the fibroids are digging into the uterus. That pressure is a major reason for the uncontrolled bleeding that depletes my iron every month, and she reasoned that if I could strengthen and trim down my abs, I might be able to release some of that pressure and lessen the bleeding. We agreed that I would go away for six months, get as fit as possible, keep taking my iron, then come back for a reassessment.
I had that appointment on Monday, and unfortunately it didn't go well. Although I am lighter and much fitter than I was 6 months ago, and well into my healthy BMI range, both of the fibroid clusters have grown, to the point where my uterus is now literally wrapped around one of them, the bleeding has remained about the same, and my iron levels have only come up to the minimum values in all of the different ranges for healthy blood functioning. As the doctor put it, I am basically just keeping my head above water with my iron levels, and am losing so much blood every month that even if I were to keep taking megadoses of supplements, I probably won't get any further into the healthy range for ferratin or hemoglobin or CBC for a long time (until I'm all the way through menopause, which could be another 8 to 15 years, given my family history).
There are drugs you can take to stop the bleeding, but the side effects includes things like stroke and aneurism, and I have a superstitious feeling that I could be a candidate for either of these events, so I don't want to take a chance. There's also a non-surgical procedure that involves shooting styrofoam into the area around your uterus to block off the blood flow to the fibroids, but, well, yuck! I do not want to know that I'm walking around with packing peanuts inside me for the rest of my life. Some people might be fine with this, but I actually don't like styrofoam outside of my body, let alone inside it. It is squeaky and strange and I avoid it.
So my only 'attractive' option at this point is to get the darn things out. I am not afraid of the surgery, but I am worried about the recovery, since my OBGYN says I will be unable to have a strenuous workout for 6 weeks. After transforming my body and getting into a solid routine of working out almost every day, and having basically become addicted to the feeling of getting a good sweat, I am dreading being inactive, and am worried that my 'old', much less active self will take over and win.
I came up with an idea to write a letter reminding myself of how great I felt when I was exercising regularly, and ask my husband to send it to me about a month after the surgery. It sounds strange, but when I am off the wagon, I really do seem to go into another psychological place where I 'forget' about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. I may also need to give my private email address to a couple of you with a request to pester me directly if I seem to have disappeared from SP for too long. I just want to build in some strategies for getting back to where I am now, minus the one thing that is dragging down my otherwise good health right now. What I have achieved here is too positive to let go of, and I may need some help in making sure that does not happen.
Thanks for listening. I have not set a surgery date and this doctor is busy enough to need 6 months notice. I am going to ask for mid-November, so it's not happening right away.