Talk show host, author and playwright Amber Ruffin is known by many for her sense of humor (as well as the eclectic blazers she wears while hosting The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock and the versatility of her dreamy natural hair), but she can get serious when seeking to spread the word about topics that have impacted her and many others. Like fibroids, for example.
July is Fibroids Awareness Month, and Ruffin, like as many as 75 percent of women in the U.S., has experienced the abnormal growths. She has teamed up with Hologic, the medical tech company that is a “global champion of women’s health,” to increase awareness and understanding of the condition.
“I found out I had fibroids after I woke up in a pool of blood in spite of wearing a tampon and a pad,” Ruffin tells ESSENCE of the heavy bleeding she dealt with. “That prompted me to go to the gynecologist and she let me know that I had two softball-sized fibroids.”
Fibroids can come in all different sizes, from very small to very big (as big as a melon in fact). In addition, where they are located in or outside the uterus can dictate what types of issues you deal with, from an enlarged abdomen to infertility issues. Everyone’s experience with them is different, but as Ruffin notes, not enough women open up about their fibroids with each other. Such conversations can be of great help for those who could be living with fibroids and not know it.
“You know what’s crazy? The amount of people I knew who had fibroids! There’s like a billion of us and no one said a frigging word!” she says of the people in her life who ended up being fellow fibroid warriors. “The only way I found out is I told everyone with ears and I’m not exaggerating when I say a third of the people I talked to had had it. Many had surgery to get them removed. But I knew almost nothing about fibroids when I got them, which is odd because it’s so common.”
While some make it work, for others, the symptoms are too much to handle, and as Ruffin noted, they seek out surgery. Myomectomies, the surgical procedure to remove fibroids, are becoming common, with around 65,000 done every year in this country. But also offered as an option is a hysterectomy, the complete removal of one’s uterus. They are very common, with around 600,000 taking place in the U.S. each year according to the CDC. Ruffin opted to undergo the latter to be rid of her enlarged fibroids.
“I have always wanted a hysterectomy,” she admits. “I’ve known since time began that I did not want children. So every period, I spent four days trying to figure out a way to make it my last period. In fact, I asked my gynecologist if I could have a hysterectomy and she said, ‘No! You can’t just have one for no reason!’ So when she told me about my fibroids, I was like ‘Can I have one now?’ and she said yes! It was probably the only time she got to tell someone that as good news.”
“I was thrilled,” she adds. “To this day, every time I see a tampon, I laugh. I feel so frigging lucky.”
And while a hysterectomy was a (very) happy ending for Ruffin and her fibroids, she just wants other women to know what’s going on in their bodies so they can make the best choices for their own health and overall comfort.
“Black women are more likely to experience fibroids. So, let’s talk about it,” she says. “Our silence surrounding gynecological issues is a result of the patriarchy. And as it dies, so do all the things that prop it up. So now is a great time to talk about women’s health.”
Ruffin advises women to write down every symptom experienced if unsure about whether or not you have fibroids and take it to you gynecologist to discuss until you obtain the answers you’re looking for. And despite what you’ve heard, a period so bad that you have to call out of work and bail on things you want to do (as well as those you don’t) is not normal. The same goes for trying to deal with uncontrollable bleeding.
“You have a right to not feel like you’re dying once a month,” Ruffin says. “And if your period starts to change, tell your gynecologist. If she doesn’t care, get a new one! Your health is worth it. And if you have or have had fibroids, open up about your experience. You’ll get a lot of support.”
For more information, visit KnowYourU.com and GynSurgicalSolutions.com.