For most women, the chance of developing uterine fibroids at some point in their life is very likely. In fact, up to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids by the time they turn 50. Crazy right?
But if you thought those numbers were startling, uterine fibroids have a disproportionate impact on Black women. So much so, that Black women are about 3 times more likely than white women to develop fibroids, and they tend to develop them at a younger age than other women.
There are a number of social and biological factors that come into play. And though fibroids are benign tumors that reside in a woman’s uterus, one study even concluded that Black women who have fibroids also face a 40 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer. So when it comes to testing for and treating them, it’s imperative that Black women make it a priority.
Xina Eiland, owner of X+PR, learned the hard way. Her encounter with fibroids not only resulted in years of pain, but also impacted other organs within her body. When finally treated (for the second time), she had not one, but thirteen removed.
Despite this, Eiland is one of the lucky ones. She recognized the problem, and her doctors instantly put her into resolution mode. But not all women practice the same diligence. When it comes to fibroid treatment, one study noted that 42 percent of African-American women wait four or more years before pursuing treatment for fibroid symptoms. That’s compared to 29 percent of white women that wait longer than four years to seek care.
In this interview, the DC native shares details on her life-threatening battle with fibroids, and shares advice for Black women everywhere.
When did you first discover that you had fibroids?
I had fibroid surgery in 2005 and they reappeared in November 2017. That’s when I suddenly became very nauseous and started throwing up nonstop for hours. I think I passed out and woke up on my bathroom floor. That’s when I knew something was wrong and made an appointment to see my doctor(s) right away.
At what point did it become life-threatening?
I had three large fibroids that were taking over my body. One was functioning as my bladder, it had wrapped itself around it, which caused me to frequently use the bathroom. The second one was pushing against my spine. And the last one was pressing against the bowel area. When I finally had surgery the following month, I had 13 fibroids removed from my body.
Why aren’t more Black women talking about this?
I think Black women are scared and fearful that they will not have children as a result of having fibroids. It doesn’t come up in conversation until one of friends mentions they are having surgery to have them removed because of heavy periods. Although my periods became increasingly heavy over time, it wasn’t to a point where I had to change my tampons every hour as with most women I know who suffer from severe fibroids.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
Stop eating sugar, salt and soy (S3) as well as drinking too much caffeine. Fibroids feed off of S3 and caffeine and I was very much addicted to caffeine. I love coffee but I had to give it up last year. I own a PR business that keeps me busy 24/7. I needed the coffee to keep me up during the day and night. Caffeine also helps me to focus better. It was harder to give up coffee than S3.
Why is this a Black woman problem?
I think it is because of the food we eat. In the U.S. I don’t consider our food “pure” and clean. Our meats, fruits and vegetables have been genetically modified. Also, there is too much sugar and salt in so much of the foods we eat. Now, I am paying attention to my diet by decreasing S3 by cooking at home. Instead of guessing what is in my food, I know what is in it by looking at the ingredients and calories. I also buy my fruits and vegetables from a local farmer. When I went to Paris in 2012 I saw how food should really look and taste. In other countries, they don’t pasteurize the milk or change the genetic makeup of the foods they eat. That is why the french can eat so much bread because it is real bread not manufactured.
What advice do you have for Black women when it comes to their fibroids?
Pay attention to your diet. Watch what you eat. I exercise at least four times a week but it still was not enough to keep the fibroids away. It really is what you are is what you eat.