All month long, we’ve been sharing personal stories about fibroids, a condition that impacts the lives of nearly 80 percent of Black women in this country by age 50. As someone currently living with fibroids, this story is deeply personal to me. That’s why I was beyond excited to talk to comedian, writer and talk show host Amber Ruffin about her experience with fibroids and why she’s telling everyone who will listen to check out Hologic’s Hey,U page to learn more about their uterine health.
Amber Ruffin lived with fibroids. And like many women of color, she ignored the signs that something was wrong until the symptoms became almost too difficult to bear. “I ignored all of the symptoms because of a history of horrible doctors,” she said. “I was also more interested in working than taking the time I needed to make sure my friggin’ uterus didn’t fall out. That’s crazy behavior that will surely put you in danger. But I did exactly that.”
It’s not uncommon for women to leave their fibroids untreated and instead accept symptoms such as heavy periods, constipation and pelvic pain as just a part of life. And Ruffin blames that on the minimization of Black suffering as a larger issue. But she adds that when it comes down to it, people just aren’t willing to talk about their periods. “Let a guy be actively bleeding and see how quickly he brings it up,” she laughs. “No one is ashamed of their knee replacement, so why should we be ashamed of such a normal thing? And the more we talk about it, the more normal it gets.”
And talk about it, we did. For the next ten minutes, we shared our personal fibroid horror stories that were painfully embarrassing at the time. But somehow, at that moment, pretty damn funny.
“It got to the point where, because of the size and placement of the fibroids, I could not poop. So every Friday, I would take a laxative and poop all night,” she laughed. There were just too many things going on in there, so the poop couldn’t come out. Isn’t that horrible?”
Not to be outdone, I added, “For me, it got to the point where I knew on the first day of my period, I’d have to go to work in those awful granny panties they give you in the hospital after you have a baby and just pray to God I didn’t bleed out all over my desk!”
When we finally stopped laughing, we talked about the ways Black women can advocate for their uterine health in the doctor’s office. Ruffin suggests making a list of questions or topics you want to cover that you read to your doctor during your appointment. “When you ask [your doctor] what’s causing your pain, and they say ‘I don’t know,’ you ask, ‘How do we find out what’s going on?’” she said. “I can’t come here with pain and leave here with no answers.” And if you don’t get answers, Ruffin says that’s a clear sign that you should see someone else. “A good doctor will want to know the answers.” She also suggests taking advantage of websites like Zocdoc to read reviews of doctors before you commit. “And don’t just look at the first review. Scroll down to the last review. That’s the bad one,” she said.
Ruffin’s fibroid story ended with a hysterectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the uterus. “I asked just about every gynecologist, ‘Can you just take out my uterus and throw it in the garbage?’” she laughed. “I’ve never wanted children, so I’ve felt like there was no point to every period I’ve ever had. Finally, when I got fibroids, I was like, ‘Can I have a hysterectomy?’ It was probably the only time [my doctor] could deliver that news and have someone be happy about it.”
The comedian says life without her uterus is better than ever because it was the best decision for her lifestyle. “Living with no period is the absolute best,” she laughed. “It’s so great over here, man. I tried to get her to take the ovaries too. But she wouldn’t.” But as she shares her story, Ruffin wants women to know that a hysterectomy isn’t the only option. The best decision should be made by a woman and her doctor.
Ruffin says she wants to do her part to normalize the conversation around fibroids and get people talking about uterine health. “I talk about every last bit of it all the time. When I woke up in a puddle of blood, I told everyone with ears,” she said. I’m an over sharer times a million. I mean, I had something the size of 2 coconuts inside of me.”