Why I Told Everyone I Had Uterine Polyps

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I was in the chair for my routine annual exam when my trusty ob/gyn pressed a bit harder with the ultrasound wand and muttered, “Hmm.” Nobody ever wants to hear their doctor say “hmm” during an exam — or ever.

The “hmm” turned into a conversation about my anemia and the amount of blood I was losing during every cycle. The next thing I knew, she was performing a sonohysterography (a long fancy word for an ultrasound with water), which allows the contents of the uterus to be seen more clearly. This test confirmed what she suspected: I had polyps in my uterus. She immediately recommended outpatient surgery to remove them. Surgery?! "No, thank you," I said. Can’t I invite them to leave via acupuncture and cleaner eating, instead? My doctor tried to calm my fears by telling me the surgical part of the procedure would take roughly 10 minutes and was incredibly common. I pointed out that it takes more than 10 minutes to get your eyebrows shaped well, so I wasn’t sold.

I convinced her to give me a few months to get them to dissolve, and if they hadn’t lessened then we’d go the surgical route. I could tell she thought I was wasting my time, but she also knew a few months wouldn’t kill me. I should mention that my aversion to surgery was justifiable: I’d had a surgical procedure every year from age 14 to 21, and had made a vow not to have anymore, unless of course it was truly life-threatening. Well, we all know what can happen to the best-laid plans.

I Immediately started acupuncture, upped my exercise, cut down on meat, and cut out foods with hormones or substances that the body processed like hormones. And since I’m a Buddhist, I also chanted my butt off. When I went back for a follow-up, I didn’t expect the polyps to be all gone, but I was certain there would be some improvement. Instead, they had tripled!

I was shocked and discouraged. What was happening? I immediately got a second opinion. That doctor echoed everything my doctor said: that they should be removed, and that they were very common and almost never cancerous. She also assured me that I was in great hands with my own doctor.

I agreed to the procedure and asked my mom to come with me for moral support. I also received Buddhist guidance from a couple of seniors in the faith who encouraged me to take it all positively and to stop being so dramatic — both things seemed impossible to do. However, since I trusted them and I do believe that all things inherently have a positive and negative function, I focused on bringing the benefit of this situation to the forefront. As for not being dramatic, I’m a writer — I enjoy drama!

Anyway, as soon as my prayer shifted to seeing the positive aspect of the situation, things started moving. Although at first it seemed like they were moving in the opposite direction.

My ob/gyn sent me to an internist for the pre-op tests, and she recommended that I have a colonoscopy and endoscopy. Mind you, I was more than two decades away from the designated age for a routine colonoscopy. Plus, there was no known colon cancer in my family. To be honest, I was beginning to wonder if this was all an elaborate insurance scam. But I was on the path of taking it all positively, so I scheduled those procedures, as well.

"As I started sharing my story, I found out that two other friends had also had polyps that led to miscarriage, but they hadn’t told anybody."

The uterine polyps were removed, and I learned that they are a leading cause of miscarriage and usually go undiagnosed until after a woman has suffered one or two pregnancy losses. In fact, it turns out that one of my half-sisters had multiple miscarriages due to uterine polyps, and once they were discovered and removed, she was able to successfully conceive and deliver triplets. Since I very much want to have children, I considered myself lucky that my polyps were discovered without the trauma of a lost pregnancy. As I started sharing my story, I found out that two other friends had also had polyps that led to miscarriage, but they hadn’t told anybody.

I also learned that the polyps contributed to my heavy cycles, and my ob/gyn’s concern about my low hemoglobin was well founded: Being chronically anemic taxes the heart, which could lead to problems down the road. No one had ever explained that to me before.

Often women suffer in silence or are made to feel that whatever discomfort we’re feeling is par for the course of being a woman. Or their doctor might just be focusing on their area of specialty rather than treating the patient holistically.  

For our part, sometimes women keep things to ourselves that really need to be shared, especially gynecological issues. (Although I understand, after all, there’s nothing sexy about polyps.) Also, many cultures are embedded with the belief that female genitalia and our cycles are inherently shameful or dirty. I completely reject that and see our cycles as a connection with eternity and the divine. On a more earthbound level, the truth is that none of us would be here without a period.

So it turns out that those uterine polyps saved my life. Although the ones in my uterus were all benign, they did find one in my colon that was pre-cancerous, which means I might not have lived until I was “due” for a colonoscopy, since I still haven’t reached that age and that little intruder would have had years and years to grow and possibly even colonize.

Our bodies are in conversation with us at all times, but are we listening or having those dialogues with other women? By sharing our experiences, we gain the wisdom of the collective, which means we might more quickly get to the root of our own problem, while also helping another woman in the process.

Tags: Cancer, wellness, Pregnancy Loss & Miscarriage

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Written By

Simbi Hall

Filmmaker Simbiat Hall graduated with honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a double major from the Institute... See Full Bio

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