The first time I bled mid-cycle, I ignored it, thinking it was a fluke.
The second time it happened, I went to the doctor and got a pregnancy test and a pap. The third time it happened, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Here we go again.”
This relentless cycle continued for three years until I realized that I was making myself sick.
I believe the mind-body connection is so powerful, and I know this firsthand. For several years, all of my health issues were psychosomatic—a term used to describe a physical illness (or other condition) caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress.
Throughout this article, I will share how I healed my body by tackling the gooey-ducks in hopes that I can help other women heal, too.
When my results came back negative for the pregnancy test and pap (short for a pap smear, which is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women), I remember feeling a sigh of relief twofold, because if I was pregnant it would be the immaculate conception (and I certainly wasn’t prepared to take on the role of Mother Mary!), and who the heck wants to hear the C-word?
With a clean bill of health from my gynecologist, I went about my business until the following month, when the break-through bleeding came back, which is a term used to describe when a woman bleeds mid-menstrual cycle. I nervously went back to the doctor, all the while thinking the worst.
With my legs in stirrups and a large probe between my legs, I turned to face the sonogram monitor and I saw what the doctor saw: white spots. The doctor marked each spot with a digital X, and by the time he was done, my uterus looked like a tic-tac-toe board.
For clarity purposes, the uterus, also called womb, is an inverted, pear-shaped muscular organ of the female reproductive system located between the bladder and the rectum. Its primary function is to nourish and house a fertilized egg until a fetus is ready to be delivered. The uterus also plays a role in sexual response (arousal and excitement) and can be responsible for the good stuff (aka pleasure).
My doctor, who at the time was my trusted gynecologist for over 10 years, who I actually crashed a wedding with (yep—more on that in another article) tried to assure me that what we were seeing were likely benign masses, such as cysts, polyps, or fibroids. But while we waited to be certain, he ordered a biopsy (an examination of tissue removed from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease), which was not pleasant.
The diagnosis was what he suspected, and the treatment was for a surgical procedure called a D&C, short for dilation and curettage—a procedure to remove tissue from inside the uterus.
The doctor once again assured me that everything would be fine and that this was a routine procedure, and that afterward, my uterus would be “squeaky clean.” He did caution me that they would biopsy the masses once again to rule out any hidden cancers, but this time I wouldn’t feel a thing because I would be under anesthesia during the whole procedure.
I always say that healthy news is the best news, so post-surgery, I celebrated an easy surgery, speedy recovery, and a healthy report.
Side note: Isn’t it ironic that sometimes it takes bad things to happen for us to wake up and truly appreciate the everyday things we may take for granted, such as our health? Well, I vowed to exercise gratitude for each day I was healthy, because, as they (whoever “they” are) say, gratitude changes everything, and I believe it does.
A year after the surgery, I was in Florida visiting my sister and I was feeling great. We had just spent the day at the beach and we had a couple of hours before dinner, so I decided to take a bath. I went to the bathroom, put the bubble soap under the running water, took off my clothes, went to pee, and the blood was back.
I anticipated the worst, so as soon as I landed in New York, I went back to the doctor. Again, the doctor performed all the tests, plus a sonogram, and low and behold the white spots were back.
We scheduled another surgery, which went well, but this time the doctor told me I had several polyps, which are often non-cancerous abnormal tissue growths that most often resemble tiny mushroom-like stalks, and fibroids, which are roundish benign tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue.
The second surgery went well and the post-op results were good, so once again my uterus was “squeaky clean,” and I went back out into the world a few foreign substance-aliens lighter.
They say that good things come in threes, but when I had to schedule my third D&C in three years, I couldn’t make out the good in the situation. At least that’s what I thought at the time. The break-through bleeding started again, which was almost exactly a year to the day after the second surgery, and to the first—so all I could think was WTF?!
Thankfully the D&C procedure went smoothly again, and results were benign again, but I was worried that I would have to endure this nuance for the rest of my life. I was also worried that if the masses continued to grow, I would have to get a more drastic procedure like a hysterectomy, which is an operation to remove a woman’s uterus. I truly feared for my female organs, being that I was hopeful (and still am) to birth a baby (or babies) one day.
At the time, I searched for a silver lining, but I couldn’t find one.
Until I did.
What I didn’t share with you throughout this story is that I was unhappy during those three years. I was living a life that looked great on the outside, but I was struggling internally (a story I may share in a later blog). All while I was suffering, I was either putting on a phony happy persona for my family, friends, and boyfriends, or I was completely isolating myself in fear that people would see the sadness. It was a secret emotional struggle that I battled for a long time, but I couldn’t hide from myself. My body wouldn’t let me.
I knew something had to give, and that was the silver lining. My body was telling me a story. My body was saying you can try and run from your feelings, and you can pretend all you want, but you can’t hide. My body was quite literally producing foreign substances because it wanted me to wake up and make changes.
So I did.
Shortly before the third surgery, I intuitively went on a little solo beach vacation to a place I’ve never been and I fell in love. Santa Monica captivated me right away, but it wasn’t just the warmth, sunshine, and palms that enticed me; it was so much deeper than that. Three thousand miles from home was far, but the decision, rather the calling, was the loudest yes I’ve ever heard, so it was on that spontaneous trip that I decided to move cross-country.
I always had a pretty healthy lifestyle, but it was in Cali that I truly cultivated a mindful lifestyle, which included daily yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, therapy, hiking, and my beloved beach walks. All of which ultimately helped me go within, and heal from the inside out. I also started living a life I loved, so there was a heightened awareness around that, which I believe also contributed to the healing.
In another article called “A Yoga Journey into Self-Love,” I share the full story of what happened when I moved to California, but in short, I found myself and I found self-love—the greatest gift of all.
I have been living in SoCal now for the past six years, and I am so happy to report that I have been healthy, and polyp, fibroid, and D&C free. I have not had any break-though bleeding episodes, not one foreign mass spotting (although the doctor thought she saw one a couple of years ago when I was in an icky relationship, which I quickly got out of, and then the spot miraculously disappeared), and not one surgery.
Amazing, isn’t it?
So you may be wondering how mindfulness saved my uterus?
I did it by tackling the gooey ducks, which is a term I use to describe deep, dark, dormant feelings or emotions, which is similar to its technical term of large burrowing clams that live deep in the muddy darkness. I woke up and started paying attention to my feelings, my needs, my wants, my likes, my dislikes, and I honored the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, slowly but surely, I peeled away at what was plaguing me.
Einstein says it best: If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, then you don’t understand it.
So, in its simplest terms, mindfulness means to be aware.
I became aware of myself, and it was through that awareness that I was able to heal.
My experience has also taught me that the mind-body connection is real. I believe that when we are under emotional stress, physical ailments, or even disease—which in itself spells the word dis–ease—can develop in the body. Stress wreaks havoc on the body (and has proven to cause fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, stomach issues, and, in extreme cases, heart attacks).
I am a firm believer that physical ailments are tied to emotional issues, and, if we deal with the root of the emotional issues, which I did, then we can truly heal ourselves.