Today, I present to you a story from one of my sweethearts from high school. Yaa Amanua Osafo gives us all the deets about her journey with fibroids; from diagnosis to medication to how she got rid of these headlessheartless babies. If you’ve been taking notes from here, then bring out journals because Amanua goes in!!

Amanua’s story

When Lisa started her blog on fibroid awareness, I had been living with fibroids for about 3 years. I knew I had them but up until then they hadn’t really affected my life significantly or so I thought… but before I jump into my story, shout out to Lisa for the blog post on how to prep for the fibroid surgery. It came in handy.


Circa 2017, at a random check-up at a private hospital in Kumasi, Ghana I was diagnosed with fibroids. I wasn’t too surprised because I knew a bit about fibroids based on my family history. The three he measured were all around 2-3cm I think. To me, that wasn’t a big deal so I decided to eat extra healthy and exercise with hopes that they would shrink and I could continue with my normal life. Looking back, I remember that my periods had become really heavy around that time, changing the thickest pad I could find available every two hours. Apart from this inconvenience that happened once a month, everything else was fine so I forgot about it.

Managing the fibroids

Later that year, I relocated to the United States and that is when my quality of life began to decline. I blamed it all on the change of environment, rigorous schoolwork, and homesickness. While these were contributing factors, I soon realized that my loss of blood was the main culprit. I had started to crave eating chalk and ice. I knew about the disorder called pica, so I decided to do a blood test and this time, I was surprised that my hemoglobin levels were very low. I was at 7.1 grams per deciliter. The normal range for a woman is somewhere between 11.7 and 15 grams per deciliter to give some context.

Now, I would like to pause here for a little analysis and pep talk. Don’t play superwoman when it comes to your health, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are constantly feeling tired and unmotivated, it is good to push through but it might be your body telling you that you need to stop and get some help. How was it that I was by this time using the largest Always brand pad every two hours and thought this wasn’t a big deal? (This pad I am talking about is the largest there is and they claim it’s supposed to last for ten hours while you sleep). But if you are anything like me, you prefer to focus on the task at hand and take care of your body later. Stop, don’t do that. It could cost you your life.

Treating anaemia

Okay, so back to the story. From the advice I was given by health experts, I chose the temporary solution to go on birth control for three months and take iron supplements during this time to build back my blood. It worked, by the third month, my hemoglobin level was back up to 13.4. A few lessons I learned here is that it is important to learn about what medication you are given by doctors. I know birth control and iron pills are commonplace but here are a few things I realized.

Some birth control can make you act crazy because they mess with your natural hormones. They could make you cry for days straight or make you really angry at things that don’t matter. For these reasons, I stopped taking the pills even before the three months had ended. The other thing is that the doctors prescribed 65 mg of iron a day for me. The amount of iron a woman without iron deficiency anemia needs is 18 mg a day. While I know that I had some catching up to do in the blood department, I also recognized that pushing so much iron into my body within such a short time would strain whatever organ was processing it so I slowed down on the iron after about 6 weeks and started taking it every other day. I started making green smoothies and eating lots of iron-rich food as well. So now, the anemia had been solved but the fibroids remained and kept growing bigger. Once I got off the birth control and reduced the iron pill intake, the anemia returned. Take your iron pills if you are anemic, I wasn’t diligent in taking them because they smell terrible, are hard on the stomach and I generally prefer shots to pills. Yes, that’s my excuse. So, I kept managing the situation for a while by eating iron-rich foods and taking iron pills when I remembered to take them. I had some checkups throughout this period and my hemoglobin levels were generally around 8.0. I figured since I had survived on 7.1 at a point in time, all I had to do was take the iron pills again and I would be fine. Do not be like me because I was just one period away from death. My body had gotten to the point where it was losing much more blood than it could make even when I was taking iron pills. 

Healthcare in the US

Long story cut short, I had to be taken to the ER where they found out that my hemoglobin level was at 5.6. I was given two pints of blood which jumped me up to 8.6 and that’s when I decided to get the surgery. Why had I avoided the surgery up until now you ask? America Healthcare system entered the chat. Okay, here me out before you say I am too frugal for my own good. The American Health care system is a blur. You never know the cost of treatment even when you have insurance. The hospital isn’t obligated to let you know the cost. They simply treat you and send you the bill later on. Even with good insurance, you may end up paying huge amounts of money. Allow me to explain the system by ranting a bit. For example, take my first trip to the hematologist, yes, the nurse practitioner sent me to the hematologist because she wanted to be sure what I had was anemia and not some type of cancer (very diligent of her to try to rule out other options but given my medical history, surely it would have been easy to test out the iron pills first?) I’m no doctor so I followed her guidance because she is the expert. I am just mad that the initial blood test the hematologist did cost me $565 and it was a normal CBC (full blood count test), nothing fancy. Imagine if they had decided to run other tests as well! Granted, I was a broke student on wacky insurance so that may have contributed to the cost. Come on Amanua, so you’re saying that you’d rather be sick than pay $565? No, I am saying that at some point I was contemplating going to Ghana for the surgery and paying the $2000 -$3000 surgery out of pocket, travel restrictions just hadn’t allowed that to happen yet. Do you know why? Because it cost $127,000 for the 11 fibroids they removed. Typically, my insurance would pay 80-85% and I would take the remaining 15-20%. But on a serious note, after I was taken to the ER, I decided that I needed to have the surgery because I was not managing the condition well. Sometimes, when you have operated at a dysfunctional level for so long, you forget how it feels like to be at your optimum. You forget what normal feels like and so you settle for less than ideal. So, I chose to treat my body right even if it meant going into debt. I prayed and trusted that God would take care of me and the bills. And he did! In a strange turn of events, I did not pay for a dime for the surgery, which isn’t always the case even if you’re on good insurance (I was working at this point so my insurance was great – if you are in the US, always get the high deductible plan that comes with an HSA). I did pay for 15% of the $18,000 ER visit though but that’s alright.

Prepping for surgery

So, enough about money. I chose to go back on the birth control pills because I wanted to build enough blood before the surgery. I also ate iron-rich foods. This time, I looked for Ghanaian iron-rich foods. I know a friend whose girlfriend’s aunt knows a Jamaican that grows turkey berry (Kwahu nsusuwa) in his house. Lol. Well, so she gave me a bag full of turkey berries and I ate it with any meal that I could eat it with. Most people lose blood during surgery and I didn’t want to lose any more of what I already had. Also, I had signed documents that said that I was aware that the risk of getting HIV was 1 in a million with every blood transfusion and the risk of Hepatitis was 1 in 4,000. So, you do the math. It turned out to be a good decision to do the iron pill-turkey berry-birth control combo because I ended up losing some blood and was given 3 and a half pints of blood after the surgery. Imagine if I had not tried to build more blood. So, I would definitely recommend building your blood before the surgery even if you have enough blood. I live alone, which is why it was so dangerous that my blood levels had dropped that low. I could have passed out and depending on the time, it would have taken no less than 10-16 hours before my family or work colleagues started suspecting anything fishy.  For the surgery, thankfully my sister flew into the states to take care of me for two months, pausing her life for mine. What would we do without siblings? You must have someone there to take care of you after the surgery. You won’t be able to do it alone and the emotional support that they’ll give you will help you recover faster than you know. Dealing with fibroids is as much of a mental battle as it is a physical battle but you can do it. 

Post surgery

After the surgery, I slept a lot but tried to walk around whenever I was awake. I restrained myself from doing lots of physical activity (although I drove myself to the follow-up appointment at the hospital a week later, hey it was a just 6-minute drive 12). However, generally, I tried to not do strenuous activity and returned to work almost a month later. I was working from home so not having to commute and having the ability to nap easily was great. I feel so much better now that the fibroids are out. I have lots of energy and I can think clearly. I know a myomectomy is not a permanent solution to the issue of fibroids but for now, my outlook is to enjoy this healthy body I now have. We’ll cross bridges when we get to them!