On today’s episode, I am so pleased to share my conversation with Leeanne Young, who bravely discusses her health journey from fibroids to hyperthyroidism and a thyroidectomy to an ice crunching obsession and back to fibroids. Leeanne’s story is really powerful and I really encourage you all to have a listen.
Leeanne shares her matter of fact approach to her first period and how she learned about what was happening to her body. We talked about the classic Judy Blume book, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Leeanne talked about the impact it had.
We talked about Leeanne’s very early endometriosis diagnosis. After a laparoscopy and medication didn’t work for her, she was given the choice of having a hysterectomy at 25 years old. She opted against this and said this taught her how to really listen to her body and tune into the signals it was giving her.
Leeanne bravely shared how she first discovered she had a 10cm fibroid after a miscarriage. She was led to believe that it would be difficult for her to have more children. Leeanne went on to have a daughter, who is now 12.
Leeanne become unwell again and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and eventually went on to have a thyroidectomy. Listen to hear the symptoms that made Leeanne realise that something was wrong.
Fast forward a few years, Leeanne felt that everything was going fine. She had started a new job and life was good. Her periods then started getting so heavy that she became scared to leave the house. Listen to hear how Leeanne was able to persevere and get a diagnosis of increased fibroid growth after everyone kept telling her everything was fine.
Leeanne says that we know our bodies best. Our bodies are whispering to us, giving us signs that we need to listen to and I completely agree!
Leeanne is a people person and classic obliger that operates with integrity and a sprinkle of sass.
She graduated from the school of hard knocks – and is essentially a grafter and thankfully, it paid off. She’s built a solid career in health and safety, specifically, within the utilities industry – which she’s spent the best part of 14 years in. She was recently promoted to Occupational Health and Wellbeing Manager for Morrison Utility Services – a leading utility service provider in the UK and Ireland.
She’s extremely proud and passionate about her current role as her main responsibility is to cultivate and sustain a culture where people are happy, energised and engaged at work – both physically and emotionally.
She’s spent the last two years delving deeper into health, wellbeing and behaviours that enable people to thrive. As such, she’s helped her employer ‘raise the bar’ in regards to increasing the awareness of health and wellbeing topics, dispelling common myths and reducing the stigma around mental health. They’re now embarking on a ‘step change’ that moves them from promotion (which is now fully embedded) to introducing a holistic approach for the effective management of occupational health and wellbeing.
Outside of work, she is responsible for raising a little queen with her extremely patient husband – he deserves a medal, maybe several. Eva is 12 and is her everything. She has been using some of her learnings to help her daughter build resilience through these uncertain times.
Last year she started working with a community organisation called Bro&co – which through food technology, science and mentoring, provides education and leadership opportunities to young boys of colour. She’s very excited about this work and for the forthcoming Sis&co.
Leeanne is also dedicated to her faith, and says without it, she’s nothing. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time, it has given her the space to pause and reflect; to practice gratitude, be more connected spiritually and think about how she wants to show up in the world in the future.
What’s on the horizon for Leeanne? She plans to study Social Sciences through the Open University later this year and then move onto Psychology. She wants to find out why we do all the weird and wonderful things we do in order to tap into how to really help get the best out of people and enable them (and her), to live their best lives.
Le’Nise [00:00:00] Welcome to the show, Leeanne.
Leeanne [00:00:01] Thank you for having me.
Le’Nise [00:00:03] So let’s start off by getting into the question I ask everyone. Tell me the story of your first period.
Leeanne [00:00:09] Yes. So it was not eventful. I’ve been trying to dig back into the vault going back around 30 years. And I just remember that it was one of those events that, oh, okay, this has happened. I was very matter of fact about it, switched into autopilot, went to the shops, bought some sanitary pads, got home. And then I think I told my mom, I remember her being in the kitchen and I told her. And again, very matter of matter of fact for her. And then I think a few hours later, I remember my dad almost saying to me, “oh, so your mother has told me about your, um, you’ve started your menstrual cycle”, a very formal. And I just felt I just felt like I wanted to die. And he said to me, “Right, Leeanne. So you’ve got to keep your room tidy now and shower every day.” And literally, that was it. That was the extent of my first period.
Le’Nise [00:01:15] How old were you?
Leeanne [00:01:16] I think I was 12 or 13 years old when I first started. So, yeah.
Le’Nise [00:01:22] You said you were very matter of fact about it.
Leeanne [00:01:24] Yeah.
Le’Nise [00:01:25] Well, you went to the shops on your own. How did you know what to get?
Leeanne [00:01:31] I think it was just through ads on TV. I knew that. I remember actually looking in the chemist at tampons and I thought, well, can’t do that. Don’t really know how any of that works. So I’ll just buy sanitary pads, that’s safe. That’s easy. And that’s what I did.
Le’Nise [00:01:51] And then you have the conversation with your parents separately. And how did you learn more about what was happening to your body?
Leeanne [00:02:03] I didn’t learn anything about periods via my parents. I learnt all about it at school and in magazines. And I think Judy Blume was quite significant in my life and taught me everything that I needed to know about relationships, boys, periods, etc.. So that was it. I know, obviously, you know, the standard class that you have in high school when the teacher stands in front of 30 kids or an assembly and says this is what happens to girls. This is what happens to boys. That’s it. I actually remember being in an assembly and we were talking about periods. It was actually quite bizarre. And this boy said, “Miss, my mum said that she bleeds a bucket load. Is that true?” And it was that was the point where I learnt that actually you don’t bleed a bucket load. I remember her that saying that a woman bleeds probably half a, the entire time of that period sorry, can fill up like half a teacup of blood. And I thought, oh okay, I could deal with that. That was it, that was all I learnt at school. The rest was with my peers.
Le’Nise [00:03:28] Go back to Judy Blume. Yeah. What was your favourite Judy Blume book?
Leeanne [00:03:33] Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret.
Le’Nise [00:03:35] Oh, that is my favourite too.
Leeanne [00:03:39] She was quite significant in my upbringing and amongst, you know, my my friends at the time. We read to all, you know, all the naughty bits and the things that you can’t talk to your parents about. And it was it was really quite nice, isn’t it? And it’s nice to talk to your friends about things like that. And you all are sharing the same experience, aren’t you? All the same time and. Yeah. It was very systematic. No issue, no trauma. That was it.
Le’Nise [00:04:06] When you think back now to the conversations you’re having with your peers. Do you think about things that you said and think, wow, that was totally wrong? Or did you feel like you generally got it right?
Leeanne [00:04:20] I think that I generally got it right, actually. And it was when I think back now to my childhood, I, I think back very fondly because I, I sound really old saying this, but life was a lot simpler back then. I’m only 41, but actually it was. And we spent so much time with each other and outside away from our parents. And I remember I went to a friend’s house and I used to live in Bristol when I was quite young and we were going to go swimming in Henley’s Lake. And I said, “oh, I can’t go swimming because I’m on my period.” And my friend’s sister said, “oh but Leeanne, you can go swimming.: And I went, “how can I do that? My pad’s going to get soggy or something” and it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But she said, “oh, no, if you tried these.” And I was like, “no, I’ve never tried it.” It was a tampon. And she said, “look, this is what you do.” And she she was the older sister. Right. And she showed me the tampon and she said, “this is what you do. Blah, blah, blah. And it will be fine. And we can all go swimming and it’ll be great.” So I was like, okay. And I remember feeling really nervous and thinking, oh, God, I’ve got to get this right. But then also I can go swimming. So I went to the bathroom, tried to figure it out, clearly did it wrong because I could feel it. Yeah. And I went I went swimming in the lake and I daren’t cough or anything, just in case the damn thing popped out. But, you know, it plugged me plugging it for a while and. And everything was okay. And then after that point, that’s when I started to use tampons a little bit more because I wasn’t scared of them. Somebody had introduced them to me and I thought, okay, here’s another option. So over the years, I just started to, I suppose, build my confidence in terms of what’s out there and what, you know, could suit me, how I could continue to live the life that I was living. Whilst I’m on my period.
Le’Nise [00:06:23] So, yeah, to you, that was a real turning point for you, that that moment with your friend’s sister. And then as you as you got older, did your relationship with your period change?
Leeanne [00:06:39] Yes and no. So like I said, it was never really a huge deal for me when I was younger because the environment was very supportive, as I said with my friends. I felt that I was part of a club. Everyone was going through the same thing. It was fine. Things started to change for me when I got diagnosed with endometriosis. I was 21 years old when that happened. And prior to the diagnosis, I thought, oh, this what is this tummy cramp? And I thought, well, as it’s down there, it must all be related to obviously my my, um, my reproductive system and periods and whatever. And that’s when I started to resent, I suppose, having to go through all of this, you know, being a woman, you know, what’s all this about? And then, you know, from dealing with excruciating pain and not understanding what that was to then quickly being diagnosed with endometriosis, to then being provided with options, which obviously at first was medication, just to see, you know, what happened with the meds, which was a variation of the contraceptive pill. And then that didn’t work. It didn’t work for me because I was very aware of how my how I was. I was acting differently, though the hormonal changes changed me as a person. I didn’t like it.
[00:08:14] I felt like I wasn’t in control of me. So I said, no, I can’t get on with that. And so then to go from that to. Okay, well, a hysterectomy and I thought, hang on a minute, I’m 21. I was quite, um, quite pleased through my upbringing actually that there were certain things that I just think, well, hang on a minute. No, that’s not quite right. I don’t agree with that. So I did feel like what was happening to me at the time was awful. I hated it and I blamed it on, you know, being a woman. Why? Why me? It was definitely why me. I don’t want to have to deal with this. So that’s when things changed for me. But then when I got the endometriosis more under control, I didn’t have a hysterectomy. What I actually did was I started to that’s when I started to really listen to my body and try to tune in to the signals that it was giving me. And so what I did was I controlled my endometriosis. And I’m not saying that, you know, everybody else can do this through a more holistic approach. Breathing techniques, yeah, to breathe through the pain. That’s what I did. And that’s what worked for me. And so the endometriosis didn’t go away. It’s still there. However, I’ve managed it. I managed it.
Le’Nise [00:09:45] I want to go back to your original diagnosis. So you were 21 and you said that you were diagnosed quite quickly. Yeah. You quite lucky, I have to say, because it it takes an average of between 7 – 10 years to get endometriosis diagnosis. Yeah.
Leeanne [00:10:04] Wow.
Le’Nise [00:10:05] But what I find quite interesting and actually very shocking is that at 21, the doctors are saying that you needed to have a hysterectomy.
Leeanne [00:10:13] Yeah. Yes, that’s right. Yeah. And I had. Oh, no, it wasn’t at 21. Sorry. But that’s when I got diagnosed. And then, when did I get married? I got married when I was 25. So actually from diagnosis through to having a laparoscopy through to the, you know, the hormone treatments or whatever. So that will happened over a period of five years. And then because nothing was getting any better really. They said, well look here, here, here are your options. And I said, well, I’m just gonna keep going as I am then, because I’m not going to have. I’m not going to have a hysterectomy at such a young age. And it was between the age of 21 – 25.
Le’Nise [00:11:05] That is I find that really shocking that that they would suggest that, because what I see a lot is that doctors typically want to preserve fertility and then it’s more when women are in their mid forties and beyond that they start suggesting hysterectomies for conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids. And then it becomes a conversation about, well, you’ve already had your children or you’re past childbearing age. So you don’t need your these organs anymore, which we know is completely wrong. So it’s yeah, it’s very it’s very interesting that you have that conversation quite early.
[00:11:54] I want to talk a little bit about the techniques that you use to manage your endometriosis, because it is something that I certainly talk about it with my clients a lot.
[00:12:05] The idea that you’re you can you can reduce the pain, control the pain through breathing, but through different nutrition and lifestyles techniques. How did was it a case of trial and error for you to find the breathing techniques that worked for you?
Leeanne [00:12:24] Yes, it was. I laugh because when when I got the pain and it is excruciating pain which stops you dead in your tracks and you just can’t do anything.
[00:12:39] Your body tenses up everything, tenses and you and you’re just, you know, like a solid brick. And I just thought, well, I’ve seen on on TV, I you know, I’ve seen women give birth and they are doing they are breathing and they are breathing, doing the, you know, that kind of breathing. So I just thought, well, if if a woman is able to give birth and use this breathing technique and she’s obviously suffering, suffering with a lot of pain, then how about I try that? And that’s what I start I, I started doing. So I would I I’m just trying to think now whether I get any kind of initial signs, I think I kind of know when something’s going to happen. And as the pain sort of hits me, I then just start that and, and then get slower and slower and slower until it eases and it goes. And I try as much as possible to not tense, to keep my body tense. I tried to just let it go and just almost work through it. Yeah.
Le’Nise [00:13:50] There’s so much so many interesting things in what you’ve just said there. So firstly about breathing, we know that if we think about a practise like yoga, where breathing so the pranayama is a core part of the practise. And what we know is that when you regulate your breathing, so your the the inhale and exhale that can shift your nervous system and calm down so many different areas. So mentally but also physically. The other the other thing you mentioned, which I see a lot with my clients with endometriosis, is the tensing. Yeah. And you see that they often physiotherapy is really powerful for women with with endo because of that, that tensing and the that the effect that that has on the pelvis, but also on a biological level, because when you’re tensing, your body is using a lot of calcium. But then when you relax, you start to use more magnesium. All right. So that tensin, that process of magnesium and calcium doesn’t happen in the body. So what you’re saying is just it’s your, it aligns with so many other conversations I’ve had.
Leeanne [00:15:12] Oh, thank God.
Leeanne [00:15:14] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s very common with with women endometriosis. They they tense alot, but you then might introduce something like magnesium and other and some physiotherapy techniques that help unwind the body a little. You can make a massive difference.
Leeanne [00:15:36] Yeah. Yeah I’m sure. I’m sure it. I’m sure it can. Yeah. Pretty sure it can.
Le’Nise [00:15:41] So you got you got your diagnosis and then you use these various techniques to manage the pain and then. And then what happened next.
Leeanne [00:15:51] Right. So I got married and me and my husband lived in a lovely little marriage bubble for four years, which was great. And then we decided that we wanted to have a baby. So we fell pregnant. I fell pregnant very, very quickly after we started trying. And again, that was fantastic news.
[00:16:16] We were in a really lovely, happy bubble. But then I suffered a miscarriage. I woke up one morning and I just knew something wasn’t wasn’t right because I had a blood in my, um. In my underwear. Yeah. We went to the to the hospital and that’s when they told us that we’d lost the baby. And so that was obviously a really awful time. I remember that when they did the internal scan, they said that I had a 10 centimetre fibroid in my way and I was shocked, didn’t know anything about fibroids.
[00:16:55] And they said that that was what had caused the miscarriage. So I we said, okay, well, what do we do? What do we do now? And the I remember, this is quite a number of years ago, I remember the doctors saying, well, we have to, I don’t know, do some kind of investigation or or something. And we said, well, does this mean that we can’t have. Is it going to be difficult to have children, more children? And obviously, the stock answer, well, we don’t know. But it may inhibit or reduce the chances of a viable pregnancy. But anyway, I think I don’t know what happened. Me and my husband just decided to just crack on and fell pregnant again.
[00:17:43] And we had a viable pregnancy because I now how we have Eva. But I do remember again, having, well not again, but I had a very significant bleed quite early into the pregnancy and I thought again that I’d lost the baby I’d lost Eva. But luckily I hadn’t. And and we now have a beautiful twelve year old daughter. So yeah. So what happened with that, with that fibroid. I don’t know, but I’m sure we’ll get back, come on to that in a minute.
Le’Nise [00:18:20] So what’s interesting about what you said is that a lot of women get told who have fibroids is that they won’t be able to have children. And you, unfortunately, had a miscarriage due to the fibroid. But then you had a viable pregnancy. So it’s really interesting because they you can have different outcomes with fibroids. Talk a little bit more about what happened with your fibroids after you you gave birth.
Leeanne [00:18:53] So at that at that time, I, I gave birth to Eva and then I forgot about it. I didn’t do I didn’t consider it because I had my baby. I won’t go into it. But quite frankly, I don’t think it was the fibroid that was the issue. I think it was something else.
Le’Nise [00:19:12] OK.
Leeanne [00:19:13] And anyway, no, I won’t go into that because it would make me very angry. But I don’t I don’t think it was the it was the fibroid. So I left it. I left it for years and years and years continues just to live my life. But then I, I got unwell again. And this time it was my thyroid. So I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.
[00:19:39] And my options at the time was to have oh, I can’t remember it now, but a radioactive ingredient that goes in that you ingest or to have the thyroid gland removed. So I was really suffering with the hyperthyroidism. For a number of years, I didn’t know at the time that why I was, you know, the symptoms I had and didn’t realise they were related. So it was, you know, extreme sweating, mood changes again, really quite extreme, you know, loss of memory, just erratic sort of behaviours. I was eating like a rugby player, but I was losing significant amounts of weight. I was never putting any weight on. It was it was quite ridiculous, actually, when I think back on it. But the worst thing was how it affected me emotionally. My mental health, I was really struggling at that time. And so, again, presented with an option to have the thyroid gland removed.
[00:20:48] And because the years before that were so hard with me and my husband, we thought that this was the best option for me. I had the surgery, but again, prior to that, they try a load of medication and whatever I did all of that, nothing worked for me. So I had a total thyroidectomy. Surgery went a bit Pete Tong. I had to I went in to had to be put into. Well, actually, the surgery didn’t go wrong. It was the after bit. Luckily, I was put straight into intensive care. That’s what my surgeon does routinely for all her patients after a thyroidectomy, I essentially started suffocating when they took out all the breathing apparatus. And so they had to intubate me and I was in an induced coma for four, five days. And and then obviously I came round and then dealt with after that sort of coming coming to terms with all of that and what happened, potential loss of life. I mean, my husband and my daughter went through maybe two, three years of trying to get our heads around all of that. And that’s when I realised, because then afterwards I was told that my parathyroid glands were damaged. So not only did I have to start taking thyroxine, I have I had to start taking a calcium replacement as well.
[00:22:19] And this is something that I have to do now for the rest of my life. And in terms of the the thyroids as well, it is very, very difficult. It is a long journey to get the balance right. To get the balance of thyroxine right. And I, you know, just completely exhausted by it. And again, that whole. Why me sick of this? You know, this is horrendous. So I forgot about everything else that was going on in my life because I had to focus on that because that was the biggest thing that was happening. I didn’t know what was happening with my periods. Really, I tuned out of that because actually up to that point, I was every 28 days, you know, regular as clockwork. No issue, really. And then I started to notice that my periods were getting really quite heavy, really heavy. But then I thought, well, this must just come with age. This is what happens. And then I started to pin everything on my thyroid issue, my hormones. And I thought, okay, this is maybe just something else. It’s related to that I’ll have to deal with. I’ll just crack on. So if we fast forward a couple of years. So let’s go to 2016.
[00:23:35] Yeah. I started a new job. This is about four years after my total thyroidectomy. Everything was going fine. After a year into that job. My periods were so heavy that I couldn’t. I was scared to leave the house for fear of driving. I’d live. I live in in West London, but I work in Hertfordshire. It’s a 50 minute drive from my house to the office. And in that time period, I would have filled up a maxi pad and also a super plus tampon in that 50 minute period. And it got to the point where I was so scared that I would get to work, get to the car park and I would have come through, that I would just have to turn around and go home. So really, there was no point in me going into the office when I was on my period.
[00:24:37] And that’s when things started to change for me, because I thought, well, hang on. This is starting to affect my my life. This is starting to affect my work. I can’t. I can. How can I phone up my director and say I can’t come into the office because I’m on my period? It sounds utterly ridiculous, but it’s the truth. So I had to suck it up. I had to deal with it. I had to do. I dealt well, I didn’t have to, but I dealt with the accidents, you know, the embarrassment, the. This is this just what what’s happening to me right now.
[00:25:11] And then I started to notice other things. I started to notice a change in my eyesight. I’d be driving and the right side of my eye was which I would almost lose a bit of my peripheral vision, which starts to frighten me. I started to notice that I was extremely tired. I’d go to sleep. I’d wake up and it wouldn’t would I feel like I hadn’t actually slept. And I thought, what the hell? What’s going on? Didn’t connect the dots at the time. Just thought, oh, Leeanne, you know, you’re a mess, but just keep going. Right. So I kept going until I just thought, no, this is probably dangerous. Now, me, me driving, don’t know what’s going on. I started yoga and was loving it. Bikram yoga. Absolutely fantastic for the mind and the body. And then I started to feel really faint in my yoga, in the yoga classes every so I just saw what’s going on. Is it because it’s too hot? But hang on. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but literally feeling like I was just gonna pass out. So I stopped. I stopped going to yoga. I went to the GP. They sent me to I went to the GP, went to the opticians. And obviously everything. Nothing came back sort of conclusive. You know, you’re fine. Everything is okay. But then so I thought, okay, fine. Kept going. Kept going. Things were getting worse. It was worse. I started to speak to my sister when I whenever I speak to my sister in a sign she said, “Leeanne, are you running or something?”
[00:26:51] I said, no. She said, “Why are you so short of breath?” And I said, “Really? I said, No, I’m not doing anything. I’m just walking around the house.” So shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, loss of memory, not able to concentrate. You know, I could list all these things. Classic signs of anaemia.
[00:27:13] So I went to the doctor again and had another blood test. I was used to these because of my thyroid condition. And the doctor said to me, “wow, Leeanne, your iron and your haemoglobin and ferritin levels are so low. I actually need to admit you to hospital, like, right now.” So I said, “what, what? What the hell? What what’s all this about? What’s going on? Why?” And she said, “well, tell me about your periods.” I said, “well, you know, they’re really heavy and blah, blah, blah.” And she’s like, “right, okay. Well, I think we need to do some investigation work to find out what’s going on, because it sounds like your periods are too heavy.” So I thought at that point I’m gonna go via private healthcare. Yeah. Because I’m so privileged that I have this facility. So I thought, okay, look, let’s let’s go down that route and and see what happens, what comes of that. So I saw a gynaecologist and had a scan and the gynaecologist said to me, “oh, you’re presenting four months pregnant. You have about six or seven fibroids in there all the size of a small tangerine. This is what’s causing your heavy periods.” When she said to me, “what are your periods like” and I said, “well, I use a super plus tampon and a pad and I have to change that every hour.”
[00:28:45] And she went, “Whoa.” And I said, “Is that not normal?” She said, “No.” it sounds ridiculous. Well, I didn’t know. I thought that was normal. I thought that’s what we had to go through.
Le’Nise [00:29:01] But it’s interesting because at the beginning of the conversation, you said that you remember this lesson from school where they talked about 1/2 a teacup. So what you thought was normal changed for you.
Leeanne [00:29:17] Yeah.
Le’Nise [00:29:18] Based on everything you had been going through.
Leeanne [00:29:20] Yes. Yes. So I pinned it on the experiences over the last five, six years. Right. So I thought, well, it must be that I’m getting older. I’ve had, you know, thyroid surgery. I’m taking a load of hormone tablets. So I think tablets are affecting my hormones. It must be these things that’s causing, you know, the heavy the heavy periods. You’re absolutely right. I don’t know why I didn’t even think about that. So. So, yeah. So that happened. This was just last year. All of this happened. So the first thing was to have an iron infusion. Yeah, to to actually help me feel better sort of immediately. And then my gynaecologist suggested I should have a Mirena coil fitted. So I had the Mirena, the Mirena coil fitted in November last year. Yeah.
Le’Nise [00:30:19] And what did, the iron infusion I mean, just to give a kind of clinical perspective, to have an iron infusion. You have to have a ferritin level of, I think it’s of below something like eight.
Leeanne [00:30:35] Yeah, yeah.
Le’Nise [00:30:37] I can just imagine how you were feeling at the time. The heavy bleeding, the the extreme fatigue. And I see that a lot with with clients with fibroids. That iron infusion, how did you how did you feel afterwards?
Leeanne [00:30:57] So the haemotologist said to me, he was a great, great guy. I’ve actually met a load of really great doctors and nurses throughout this this crazy process. I’ve been through a crazy journey, should I say. He explained to me that I would feel I would start to feel different after, you know, two, three weeks, because essentially I was I’d be making new blood. So that would then be oxygenised. I don’t even know if that’s a word, in my body I would just start to feel the benefits then. One of the things that I noticed so I have suffered from anaemia throughout my my life, I suppose, since I started my periods.
[00:31:49] And it’s always been up and down. Yeah. And I have been going to GPs and saying, “oh, I’m feeling tired.” Not as bad as as, you know, what I’ve experienced recently. Really tired. Oh yeah. Yeah. You you have anaemia. You need to take some iron tablets. And I keep on, I kept on saying to them, these iron tablets really aren’t agreeing with me.
[00:32:12] I am getting really bad cramping pains in my stomach. I feel nauseous. It’s just awful. Is that no alternative? No. Here’s another alternative to an iron tablet. Okay, fine. I’ll take them off you, but I won’t take them. Yeah.
[00:32:34] So I tried to introduce iron rich foods into my diet. However, you know, those will only take you so far. Yeah. For me again, in that whole time I used to crunch ice. I used to eat ice. Yeah. All the time. And it annoyed my entire family. Right. And I thought what I do when I want it just felt like the most normal thing for me to do. I’d, you know, go into the freezer, get a load of blocks of ice, sit down and just go on eating all this ice. Right. And the most significant change that happened to me after that iron infusion was I stopped eating ice. I can’t even begin to explain to you how huge this is in my life. Right. Whenever you see Leeanne in ber comfort, you know, in her comfortable space, you see Leeanne with a glass of ice. Right. The ice went. I didn’t know that was a symptom. It’s one of the symptoms of of anaemia. Right. One of the weird and wonderful symptoms. That was the biggest thing that I noticed and stopped eating ice.
Leeanne [00:33:47] And then slowly but surely, I started to get some energy back, which is quite remarkable. I was able to go for walk to the park with my daughter. Without me, you know, feeling like I was going to pass out. So, yeah, it was quite significant, significant change.
Le’Nise [00:34:04] So this symptom that you mentioned, it’s something called pica, where you want to eat things that are non food related because your body is just has this intense need for this for whatever the mineral is. In this case, it’s iron. So it’s interesting. I don’t see that a lot. But that’s very interesting that you had that. So you had the infusion and this is all last year. Yes. And then what did they say to about the six or seven tangerine sized fibroids? And I just actually, for listeners who don’t know what fibroids are, they are non-cancerous growths that can be in the uterus, within the muscular lining of the uterus or outside of the uterus. And they can be as small as a cherry and they can be as big as a watermelon. So for you, what what was the next step with addressing the fibroids?
Leeanne [00:35:04] So the next step with well, the next step was addressing the bleeding. So that’s why we opted to go to have the Mirena coil fitted. So the gynaecologist were recommended having that procedure first and actually seeing if it would stop the bleeding because or reduce it significantly, because obviously then that’s what was causing the anaemia, which then was why I was getting tired of blah, blah, blah. The fibroids have never caused me any pain. So my main issue was the heavy bleeding. So that’s what we thought we’d treat. So we have that. I had that done in November. In so I have the Mirena coil fitted, she said. The gynaecologist also said that if she could, whilst she was fitting the coil, she would also try to remove any fibroids that were in the cavity of the womb. Yeah. And I thought, brilliant. Yeah. Double whammy. Excellent. Let’s go with that. Came round after the surgery and she said we couldn’t. None of them were in the cavity. It was just too difficult. They’re all in the lining, as you said. Subserosal, submucosal. Yeah. It couldn’t be got got to in that way anyway. So she said, let’s just see how you go. And we’ll just keep an eye on it. So I did just that immediately after the surgery. They give you medication, transexamic acid. I was taking to stop you from bleeding too much so that you don’t so that the body doesn’t distort the shape, you know, the the embedding of the of the coil. I stopped taking that in at the start of this year and I thought that everything was OK. I thought, okay, I can deal with this level of bleeding. It was every day. But I knew that there was a certain period that I had to go through whilst the coil embedded in my body. So I went to see the gynaecologist in February this year and I said, “look, everything seems okay. So far, so good.” She said, “Great, fine. Off you go. We’ll just continue to monitor.” And then what I noticed was at the end of April. I. So I was bleeding every single day. Yeah, every single day. Not really heavy, but every single day. But I thought that’s okay. But this is what’s supposed to happen for about six months. Or it could could happen for about six months.
[00:37:54] This is what I was told.
Le’Nise [00:37:56] You were told that you would have daily bleeding for 6 months.
Leeanne [00:37:59] Yes. So I thought, okay, that’s that’s fine. I’ll I’ll keep going with that. But then towards the end of April, the bleeding got really, really heavy. And I don’t want to put anybody off their meals if they’re having meals at this time. But I started to pass blood clots the size of my palm.
[00:38:20] And I started to get really scared because I thought, I don’t know if this is if this is if this is meant to happen. And the bleeding wouldn’t stop. And it was like I was a leaking tap, but a very quick leak. So this was nothing like I’d ever experienced before. And all that I kept on thinking was, you know what, thank God we’re in lockdown and I’m forced to stay at home, because that would be absolutely no way in the world that I could go to work or do anything right now.
[00:38:54] I called the hospital. Obviously, we’re in lockdown. I did not want to go into hospital, but I had to call them. And I said, this bleeding is really bad. It’s not stopping, I’m passing these clots. I don’t know what to do. They said call, they said call, you might be better off contacting,the you know, your gynaecologist, the person that fitted the coil, whatever. I obviously explained all the history, contacted the gynaecologist. And I said, look, I just want to know if this is to be expected or if if something has gone wrong here. So she arranged for me to have some and some scans, internal scans. I went and had the scans and the fibroids had changed. They had grown more. And I looked at the lady that did the scan and though she had a mask on her face, I could tell that she thought, well, I really don’t think anything’s worked here. Don’t think you’re going to stop bleeding. And I thought, oh, for goodness sake, you know. I was really upset.
Le’Nise [00:40:00] Yeah.
Leeanne [00:40:01] So I then had a follow up with my gynaecologist. And then was presented with some options. She confirmed that my fibroids had changed. They’ve grown even more. I now developed polyps in my womb. And so she said, we can do a hysterectomy, again. A myomectomy. And she also mentioned to me, taking an injection that would reduce the fibroids. So these injections every once once a month for I think a period of three months, something like that. However, they would bring about menopausal symptoms. So I thought, I don’t want to do that because, you know, my history now, I can’t be dealing with any of that. So the decision was between the myomectomy and the hysterectomy. And because everything was just horrendous, I at the time we discussed I discussed it with my husband and said, “I’m done with this. I want this over. I don’t want to deal with any more issues to do with periods, fibroids, further surgery.” If I opted for the might for the myomectomy, they would remove the fibroids, but then they might grow back. So there might be more surgery that follows. And I thought, I can’t be doing with that. I’ve done enough. So I said, I want it over. I’ll go for the hysterectomy. As soon as she wrote that down, I knew that actually maybe no. But she wrote it down. I left the hospital. Me and my husband spoke aloud at everything to settle. And I think I just needed a bit more time. I started to think about my options. Is this really what I want to do? And luckily, you came into my life and you suggested something that I’d never heard of, which was the UFE, uterine fibroids embolisation. I emailed my consultant and I said, is this an option for me? We discussed it. She said that it could be, however, because I have multiple fibroids. I might not be the ideal candidate for that. So where are we today?
[00:42:36] I pressed pause on everything. I said to the consultant. I need more time. I actually just want my body to settle because it’s been through a lot. I had another iron infusion. I had that two and a half weeks ago because obviously I know the symptoms now in terms of anaemia. So I knew I mean, you imagine if I’d been bleeding since the start of the year. And then, you know, sort of mid to end April. It was a very, very heavy month.
[00:43:06] I spoke to my mum. I spoke to my mum. And I said, “Mum, this is what’s happening.” And she said, “oh, yes, I remember, you know, so and so”. One of her friends suffered with fibroids and she would be bleeding like a slain mule. Right. Slain mule. Oh, my God.
Le’Nise [00:43:25] A graphic image.
Leeanne [00:43:26] Right. And I’m thinking, oh, my God. But. But. Oh, my God. Yes. That is exactly how I was bleeding. Yeah. No one should have to deal with that. Yeah. Okay. So but then what’s really interesting. So.
[00:43:42] So at the moment what I will say, is I’ve pressed pause on everything I feel I’m starting to feel much better because I’ve had the iron infusion. And it seems like my body is starting to settle down. Yes. Significantly. Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen in in a month’s time or even in a week’s time, but at the moment, I think I’m okay with where I’m at right now. Having a hysterectomy is a major decision. Even at 41, having any kind of surgery. And and that’s the reason why I don’t. Although I said I want it over. I don’t actually take these things lightly. I’ve had surgery. And now I know when you have significant surgery, you remove a part of your body. It doesn’t just affect that part of the body that it’s being taken from that’s being impacted. It impacts your entire body. Yeah, it impacts your mind as well. And for me, having gone through what I went through with my total thyroidectomy and knowing that these tiny little glands are massive and I wish to God that I knew more about it at that time because I don’t think. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I don’t think that I would have opted to have that surgery if I knew more about it and the impact it would have on the ongoing impacts they would have on my life. And, well, what I will say as well is when I did go back to my to my GP at one point and I said to her, I asked her, I said, “Look, in terms of anaemia, so do I. Do I have any other options here? What are my options here? You tell me more. Don’t tell me about medication. Is there. Is there anything else? Can I do my own. Can I take my own stuff? I’ve done a load of research and I know that. And I know that everyone keeps on talking about it now. But, you know, sea moss and bladderwrack and dandelion and Burdock and all these things, I said, you know, can I can I take all these things and will they give me what I need?” And she said, “Leeanne, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know enough about that.” Yeah. She said, “I don’t know enough about it to advise you, on it?” She said, “By all means, yes, do that.” But she said because of the stage that you’re at right now, I can’t recommend that for you. Yeah. You need to have you need to have something now. And I thought, okay, I hear you.
[00:46:19] But the learning from that is if you allow yourself time, if you tune into what your body’s actually doing, there are alternatives. Yeah, I do. I wholeheartedly believe that there are alternatives. And I think those alternatives need to be explored.
Le’Nise [00:46:38] What you’ve gone through is is quite a journey. And what’s really interesting is throughout, as you’re describing it there is this what you just described as you just had to get on with it. You kept going. You kept going. What do you think you would say to someone who is going going through something similar?
Leeanne [00:47:01] I would say talk to talk to as many people as possible. But experts, I think. If talking about it helps because there are things that other people may be going through that you could probably learn from. I wouldn’t have known about the UFE had my best friend not had a conversation with me about a period podcast. And then, you know, your introduction and then you were so brave to come forward and say, but have you considered this. Right. Um, I think that it’s about time, isn’t it, that we had open conversations. I’ve just said to you that I learnt everything that I knew about period through the conversations that I had with my friends in the playground when I was young. Yeah. And reading Judy Blume books. Why is it that that conversation stops as we grow up?
[00:48:03] Yeah. Why does why do we stop talking about it? Why do we feel shame or embarrassment? We shouldn’t. As soon as I started talking about the coil. Right. Everyone. Well, most people. Oh I have that. Oh, I have that. Oh, is it, really. What was your experience. Yeah. Oh, it changed my life. Oh, there’s this is really awful period that you’d have to go through where everything is embedding. But actually, when you get past that, it changed my life. These are the conversations that people were having with me almost after the event. If I had those conversations prior, I think they probably would have helped. Yeah. I probably would have done a little bit more digging. Would have been more informed. Yeah. Probably would’ve felt a bit more comfortable about what was happening at the time as well. So I think it’s important to have those conversations with people. Yeah. Yeah.
Le’Nise [00:48:59] What’s one thing that you want to leave listeners with? You so bravely shared your story today. And I know that my listeners will take a lot out of what you’ve shared. What if you kind of had to distil everything that you’ve said into one thing? What would what would you want that to be?
Leeanne [00:49:19] I think it’s that we know our bodies best. Yeah. And I remember somebody it might have been a yoga teacher saying something about your body is whispering to you all the time. Yeah. And you just have to listen to it. And as wishy washy as that might sound to some people, it’s actually very profound because your body is telling you it’s giving you signals and it’s giving you signs. And what I’ve learnt is and this is the way that I’m trying to have this conversation with my daughter. I’m trying to get her to understand her body, understand it, you know it best. So don’t have people tell you, oh, you, you need to do this or you need to do that. No, you pose some questions. If I do that, what’s the impact? Yeah. What do other people do? What are the alternatives? Is this the only way? Is this the only method? If you know your body and you do your research, you’ll be able to have very informed discussions with experts. And I say that in inverted commas about stuff. Yeah. So I think that’s the one thing that I would I would say to people.
Le’Nise [00:50:39] You know your body best. I, I think that’s really powerful and that really helps helps women understand that they when they’re going into these situations with healthcare professionals and they feel like they’re being dismissed or diminished that it gives them the impetus to push on.
[00:51:02] Because if your body is whispering to you. And my yoga teacher said that to me as well. One of my tutors when I was training, your body gives you whispers and you need to listen to the whispers. And that’s where how we’ve gotten to the situation where there’s pain and this bleeding that so many women experience has become normalised. And we need to change that and go back to the idea of listening to your body. But really listening. And really taking those learnings.
Leeanne [00:51:35] Yeah. Can I tell you one really quick thing?
Le’Nise [00:51:39] Yeah.
Leeanne [00:51:39] I remember the first time I had a conversation about periods with a group of older, older women. Yeah, I was with my group book club friends. Yeah. And I don’t know how we got on the topic. We were reading the most horrendous book at the time. I won’t tell you what it was called, because it’s so embarrassing.
[00:52:02] And I actually brought it to the table. But anyway, it got us talking about periods and what not. And one of my friends said that she lost a tampon cord and she couldn’t bloody, you know, get the tampon out and she had to get a partner to come and find it. And then somebody else spoke about a cup that they used rather than using tampons and stuff. And you know what? We were laughing. We were laughing. We were joking. And we were having very honest conversations about what is the most normal everyday thing. How about we do more of that.
Le’Nise [00:52:40] Thank you so much for coming on the show. I again, thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your honesty. And I really hope that you find the healing that your body needs. So thank you again.
Leeanne [00:52:53] You are most welcome. Thank you for having me.