bethenny frankel health

Open Letter: Getting Real About My Health

While shooting Real Housewives of New York, a recurring health issue of mine reared its ugly head. As a woman in my forties, I’ve experienced my fair share of girly problems.

I suffer from endometriosis and had laparoscopic surgery in my early thirties to alleviate unbearable cramps and excessive bleeding. This was helpful, and ultimately, becoming pregnant really subsided this medical issue. Endometriosis is tricky because it is challenging to get pregnant if you have it, but pregnancy can help to cure it. That’s certainly what you can call a gynecological catch 22.

Later, a few years back, I experienced bad cramping and spotting, and, through a sonogram, discovered cysts and fibroids on my uterus. I was told these are common, and that surgery was not necessary. I had experienced a miscarriage before that time, and I realize now that the fibroids were likely the cause of that miscarriage.

When I lost the baby, I was surprised to hear how common miscarriages are. Understandably, people don’t shout this painful info from the rooftops, but hearing from other women and being open about it was healthful. What a sad and lonely experience.

Next stop IUD. Once separated, I decided to have an IUD inserted which I had in for several years.

More recently, during the past year, increasing dramatically in the past few months, I started to experience bleeding. I am often on the go, and I actually thought I lost track of time, and it felt as if I was getting my period every two weeks. It just didn’t seem as regular as before. It seemed like erratic bleeding.

My doctor and I decided to remove my IUD to start eliminating causes. The removal was challenging, so when I started bleeding an immense amount for days to follow, I assumed this was an after effect of the removal.

To say that there was a lot of blood would be a massive understatement. Because I assume only women are reading, I will be detailed in explaining that I ruined my rug, my linens, bled all over my car and through dozens of pads and tampons. Not to be too graphic, but to hopefully help someone, it was literally clumps of blood.

My poor daughter witnessed one incident. Oddly, this was later helpful for her to understand why I was in the hospital.

Now I got scared. I constantly felt freezing and weak and had black circles under my eyes. This heightened during a three-day period of filming the Housewives, so I rushed out of a scene we were filming straight to my OB/GYN with cast mate Dorinda.

The fibroids from a few years back had grown rapidly, doubled the size of my uterus and I lost almost ten percent of my blood. I was a mess.

I was offered three choices: a Myomectomy, a Hysterectomy and a procedure that only gets rid of approximately 30 percent of the fibroids using foam particles. The word hysterectomy really scared me. I felt like a young woman I no longer was.

I opted for the Myomectomy yet really still had no clue what was going on. When I heard “three days in the hospital” and “6 weeks of downtime” and “make sure you have a living will” I panicked. I was told we would go through my C section scar, and then….

My MD said not to travel, so I had to cancel a trip and became so confused. I literally thought I could leave the office, go on a Housewives trip and just book the surgery for our return. He put me on iron, and a very intense progesterone to control bleeding. He said this drug was no joke and not to use for an extended period.

That’s when all the birds started chirping. People were telling me I needed a second opinion, that I only needed to attack the big fibroids vs all of the ones we could see by sonogram. My MD told me there would probably be many more once he got in there to see. It seems like fibroids are like roaches. If you see one there are five you don’t see.

I was told to try a homeopathic route, a bioidentical hormones route, so I met someone who specialized in female hormone issues. I was told by my OB/GYN that my IUD had held my fibroids under control because it contained progesterone (which stops bleeding) in it and once removed, the dam broke.

One MD said we might be able to shrink them and that I should take natural iron, Vitamin C and natural progesterone, multiple vitamin IVs and not to rush to surgery and that travel shouldn’t be a problem.

This was when I took a turn. I postponed the surgery until a time that I didn’t have my daughter and tried the female hormone route.

I was relieved to not rush into surgery, I was taking pills all day, and felt overwhelmed but hopeful and confused.

I traveled to Aspen with my daughter for winter break and the wheels came off… I underestimated the altitude. I didn’t want to disappoint her, I vowed to stay in the room while she skied and go to bed at 8:00pm and make the trip all about room service and girl bonding.

On arrival to my hotel, I began gushing blood, went to the hospital, had a sonogram and was told exactly what my OB/GYN said, only by now the fibroids had grown more.

This was a wakeup call. That is when I booked the surgery.

I rested in between, kept taking my supplements, got well enough to have surgery and finally took the plunge.

I told my MD to take a picture of what came out of me, and it was insane how large the fibroids were. The days in the hospital were challenging, the week after wasn’t a picnic, the scar seems a little worse than from giving birth, but, getting up and moving around a week later made my recovery way quicker than ever.

My MD said he once had a patient up and about after three weeks and I felt pretty decent after about 8 to 10 days. I’ve maintained a much healthier lifestyle with green foods and drinking water, and I am still on the mend.

I was horrified while filming and hated seeming weak and like a complainer but now I’m happy I went through it with the audience and some of my cast mates because it possibly will raise awareness and help women be better patients. A few things I’ve learned in the process:

– Find a doctor you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions
– Bring a friend, family member or loved one to your consultations, so that they can advocate for you (sometimes too much medical information is confusing… it’s good to have a friend there to take notes!) I tend to zone out
– Listen to your body. If you need rest, REST
– Don’t feel shame. Other women are going through the same issue and it’s okay to talk about it

A special shout out goes to Dorinda and Carole who came to the MD with me and Ramona who reached out to me every day for over six weeks asking the same question “how’s the bleeding?”

They were so sweet and supportive.

The biggest shoutout goes to Dr. Gold, the best OB/GYN ever.