For years, South Fulton resident Adrienne Woods suffered from fibroid symptoms that affected her quality of life. This week, in recognition of Fibroid Awareness Month, she joined legislators, medical experts and women affiliated with The White Dress Project during a press conference to urge members of the Georgia General Assembly to address women’s health seriously and advocate for common sense healthcare options.
The press conference was called by State Representative Park Cannon. During the address, Reps. Valenica Stovall and Donna McLeod both shared that they’d had hysterectomies to combat issues due to fibroids, a solution that’s not uncommon, but often inappropriate.
“Georgia is one of the states with the highest incidents of inappropriate hysterectomies,” said Woods. “We also rank among the top states for the highest maternal mortality rates. Both of these issues disproportionately affect black women. So our representatives are fired up about making change concerning these issues.”
Like Reps. Stovall and McLeod, Woods, age 37, was once told that the only solution to her fibroids was a hysterectomy. She’d experienced painful periods and heavy bleeding since the age of nine. At 16, she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and told she’d never have children. In college she was diagnosed with fibroids, and continued to suffer for years.
But more recently, she met Dr. Sovini Hawkins who introduced Woods to Acessa, a minimally invasive, uterine-sparing solution. Woods agreed to have the procedure and relief was overnight. Intermittent bleeding, cramping, nausea, bloating and other symptoms that she’d dealt with for decades vanished. The size of her fibroids have decreased by 50 percent.
“The change didn’t dawn on me until I was leading praise and worship one Sunday on the first day of my period in all white,” said Woods. “I would have never worn white on day one or any day of my menstrual week and to top it off, dance and sing. I’d usually be laid up, bent over or racing to the bathroom with my pouch in tow.”
Since having the procedure, Woods has used her social media platforms to share her experience and provide women with helpful information and resources. She’s also emphasized the importance of affordable healthcare. While she had a competitive health insurance plan, she paid $4,000 in out-of-pocket costs to have her fibroid procedure, an expense many women might not be able to afford.
Woods hopes to also work closely with the White Dress Project and Acessa to help break the wall of silence around the discussion of fibroids. And she’s calling for officials that represent South Fulton residents to join the movement to bring about positive changes in healthcare for women.
Congressman David Scott is one of the lawmakers who’s listening. He, along with three congresswomen, introduced H.Res. 488, designating July 2019 as Uterine Fibroids Awareness Month. Congressman Scott represents the 13th district which includes a significant portion of South Fulton.
“Thousands of women in Georgia and over 11 million across the United States are affected by uterine fibroids, which represent one of the most prevalent reproductive health problems in our nation,” said Congressman Scott. “In fact, by age 50, 70 percent of white women and 80 percent of black women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids. The White Dress Project, CARE About Fibroids, and other advocacy organizations have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about this condition and support women seeking treatment.”
“Although this issue is directly linked to the maternal mortality crisis, research and awareness programs on uterine fibroids have not received the attention or funding they deserve,” he continued. “I am promoting July as Uterine Fibroids Awareness Month this year to support efforts to educate more women about their treatment options.”
Advocacy efforts at the federal and state level are critical to secure funding and influence policies on women’s health, but just as important, the efforts help women to find their voice and find help. While Woods and other women have focused this month on appealing to elected officials, their most important message is to other women who share their experiences.
“If you have fibroids, which black women in particular are three to five times more likely to experience in their lifetime with severe symptoms, you don’t have to stay silent,” she said. “Speak up, speak out, know your options, become your own best advocate and reach out to a community of women who can help you on your journey. You are not alone and hysterectomy is not your only option.”
Photo: Leanna Harrison, Patrice Love, Adrienne Woods, Tammy Heyward (Credit: Shonu Ghandi, Acessa Health)