While the reproductive system has the capacity for so much magic, it also has the potential to cause debilitating physical pain and emotional suffering.
A common source of this pain and suffering is uterine fibroids. According to a study done by the Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Birmingham, 20-40 percent of women will develop uterine fibroids during their reproductive years.
Erin Robinson, entertainment host at Defy Media’s Clevver brand, became part of this statistic after unknowingly growing 13 uterine fibroids, some ranging in size from golf balls to softballs, over a period of five years. She finally discovered these tumors after being rushed to the emergency room with excruciating pain.
The journey that followed is portrayed in Clevver’s new docuseries, It Got Real.
The series follows Erin through being faced with the very real possibility of needing a hysterectomy and having the prospect of pregnancy swept away. At times, she said she felt “broken and useless as a woman because so much of our identity and worth is tied to our reproductive organs.” Despite the depression this caused, she went all in exploring options that would allow her to keep her uterus and future motherhood plans intact.
Erin’s determination to find a better way took a fortuitous turn when, on a whim, she called her past Amazing Race competitor, Scott Fowler. As an MD and FACOG, Scott knew what to research and unearthed a doctor who had created an innovative procedure used for removing fibroids without needing to cut out pieces of the uterus.
This FDA-cleared procedure is called Acessa and the doctor, Bruce Lee. That’s right, Bruce Lee. Erin laughed, “If you have to go through a procedure, you want your doctor to be named Bruce Lee.”
According to Dr. Lee’s website, the procedure involves “creating just two small incisions in the uterus, inserting a needle into the tumor and using radiofrequency energy to destroy it while leaving the uterus intact. The tumor is then reabsorbed into the surrounding tissue and is not likely to return.”
Five weeks on the other side of this procedure, Erin says she feels like she found herself again:
“I had no idea I had even lost myself. I was like, oh here I am, this is who I am. This is who I am without pain; this is who I am without exhaustion. It’s a miracle.”
As riveting as Erin’s story is, entertaining people with the drama of her journey isn’t the primary reason she wanted to create the docuseries.
Erin says, “I was ashamed that night in the ER when the doctor did a vaginal ultrasound and looked at me and said ‘You are full of tumors, you had no idea? When was the last time you went to the doctor?’ And then I lied, I lied to the doctor. I said ‘uh, recently.’ I was so scared to answer her truthfully.”
After this stressful and shame-filled experience, Erin realized she needed to own her truth. She was a busy working woman and hadn’t given her health the attention it deserved. While exploring this topic with female friends, Erin discovered many had not seen an OB/GYN in five or six years, and some had never received this care. She then made it her mission to advocate for women’s health.
Erin’s findings aren’t rare. As a childbirth preparation educator and birth doula, I’ve had clients who saw an OB/GYN for the first time (ever!) after discovering their pregnancy. Most of these women had never discussed questions or concerns about their reproductive systems, all because they were too ashamed to talk about, as one woman put it, her “lady parts.”
In my early 20s I too was guilty of shunning thoughts and talk about my reproductive system. I’m young and have zero current desire to become pregnant; I don’t need to think about that part of my body until my 30s! I had a dismal track record in scheduling my annual exams.
Luckily, that mentality shifted during my pregnancy with my son when I became comfortable receiving regular gynecological care. This comfort recently landed me in a doctor’s office where an ovarian cyst was found. I received prompt treatment and am on the mend. You better believe I’ve been talking about that cyst to anyone who will listen and encouraging all my ladies to get that pap.
“Talking about it” is exactly what Erin wants us to do. She believes that if women start talking to girlfriends about reproductive health, and even (gasp!) talk to men about it, the stigma around this intimate topic will begin to lift, making it easier for women to receive the information and support they need.
Erin is walking her talk as an ambassador for National Women’s Health Week, which began Sunday, May 14.
Oh, look at that! It’s time for me to schedule my next annual exam.
‘It Got Real‘ is available to stream now.More On