For nearly three years, 40-year old Bridget Taylor suffered from heavy periods, tiredness, bloating, thinning hair and generally feeling unwell.
Despite visiting her doctor on several occasions to convey her concerns, Bridget was told she was probably just run down. It was when a blood test revealed low iron levels, that Bridget began to realise something was wrong.
After admitting herself to A&E in desperation and subsequently being referred to a gynaecologist, it was revealed that Bridget had two fibroids, one of which was the size of a six month old foetus, the other pea-sized.
She had to undergo major surgery, during which it was discovered that Bridget had a further twelve fibroids. Instead of the standard 30 minutes, the operation took five hours to remove all the fibroids and nearly took her life.1
Explained Bridget, who was 28 when her problems began; “I was getting very tired even though I eat well and don’t smoke or drink, and my hair began to get very thin and my skin just didn’t look healthy. My periods were getting heavier and heavier and there were clots of blood in them and my stomach was bloated.
“Over a few years I kept going back to my doctor to say I didn’t feel right but she said it was because I was run down. In the end she gave me a blood test – I think this was more to shut me up than anything else.”
Bridget explained how it was only a chance conversation with the receptionist at the doctor’s surgery that caused alarm bells to start ringing.
“I spoke to the receptionist over the phone and she said the results were all fine. I was just about to put the phone down and she said that ‘maybe my iron was a bit low’. I’ve always had very high iron levels of around 12 to 14 and yet the reading was nine, which was very low for me.”
Added Bridget, a Freelance Events Manager: “Not long after this I was getting ready to go on holiday and I noticed how swollen my stomach was. I just knew something wasn’t right so I walked myself into Kensington and Chelsea Hospital. They tried to do a smear but they couldn’t get the equipment in because something was blocking it. The doctor at the hospital said I needed to get this looked at.
“Fortunately, at the time I had private health care with work so I got an appointment for the next day. When I had the ultrasound scan that’s when they saw the first fibroid that was the size of a six month old foetus.”
Uterine fibroids – benign (non-cancerous) lumps that develop in the womb – are common, with around 40 in every 100 women developing them at some time in their life.
They most often occur in women aged from 30-50 years old, but can develop in women younger and older.
Fibroids are two-three times more common in African-Caribbean women and they also tend to be larger and more numerous.
Many women are unaware that they have fibroids because they have no symptoms. However, around one in every three women with fibroids experiences some symptoms that may include heavy, long and painful periods, bleeding between periods, feeling ‘full’ in the lower part of the stomach, pain or discomfort during sex, problems getting pregnant and miscarriages.
Because of the severity of Bridget’s fibroids, they could not be removed by laser and she had to undergo major surgery, which could have resulted in a complete hysterectomy.
“I was so shocked as I was only 31 at the time. I had just started a new relationship and I was worried that I would not be able to have children. Because of the operation I was having – a myomectomy – there is an increased risk amongst African-Caribbean women like me that you can ‘bleed out’, so they may have to do an emergency hysterectomy. I had to sign the consent forms to say I would allow this to happen if there was a complication.
“I was told that I would need at least three months off work to recover and would be bed bound for several weeks immediately after the operation. I wasn’t self-employed at the time and my employers were amazing. If I’d have been freelance I don’t know what I’d have done.”
Bridget was told that the operation would take about 30 minutes. However, due to the extent of her fibroids, she was in theatre for five hours.
“After the operation, the next morning the surgeon came in to see me and gave me a big hug and said ‘Miss Taylor, do you believe in God? In 9 out of 10 cases you would be dead.’
“He said that when they started the operation and took the large fibroid out, they found 13 more behind it. I started to ‘bleed out’ and they were about to carry out a hysterectomy but for some reason the bleeding stopped and they could get the fibroids out.
“The consultant said no one has ever had that number of fibroids and managed to avoid a hysterectomy or blood transfusion.”
After a long, slow recovery from the operation, Bridget has since had no further problems with fibroids but she urges other women to learn from her experience.
“Within 18 months of my diagnosis, five of my friends were also diagnosed with fibroids as they got checked-out after seeing what had happened to me.”
“My advice to any woman who may have a problem is to push for that blood test and an ultrasound, as that is the only thing that will show you’ve got fibroids.
“For nearly three years I kept going to see my GP but was ignored. If the fibroids had been diagnosed earlier I could have had other treatment options but because they had grown so big I had no choice.”
“In the end I was very lucky but it could have been so much worse. Not everyone will be as lucky as I am.”
For further information about fibroids, including the causes, symptoms and treatment options, visit the patient website fibroidsconnect.com , the British Fibroid Trust at www.britishfibroidtrust.org.uk or NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk
 NHS Choices 1, Fibroids, at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Fibroids/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed February 2015)
 BFT British Fibroid Trust, What is Fibroid?, http://www.britishfibroidtrust.org.uk/whatis.php (accessed February 2015)
 Fibroidsconnect.com was fully developed and funded by Gedeon Richter