Insert disclaimer here. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I’m not making any proven claims. This is my story that I’m just sharing anecdotally. If you are considering making any medical decisions, seek the counsel of your physician. Thanks for coming to my legal Ted Talk.
Okay, so “this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down… And I’d like to take a minute.” Try not to shiver. I’ll tell you how I had a softball-sized tumor removed from my liver. (I promise that’s the last time I’ll ever butcher a nostalgic song for my own gain. Thanks, Fresh Prince.) But seriously, buckle up… you’re in for a wild ride. Here’s how birth control hurt my business (and life)…
Max the Mass
Let’s address the hepatic adenoma that I’ll lovingly refer to as Max the mass (Max for short)… It’s May 2019. My husband and I are driving home from visiting family when all of a sudden, I’m feeling the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced in my shoulder. The pain is crippling and I’m in tears.
Matt exits to take me to the ER because now the pain is radiating to my side. Since we were just in Greece, the natural thought was that I was suffering from a pulmonary embolism. They do the necessary tests, see nothing, and send me home with muscle relaxers for the “spasms” I’m experiencing.
The pain is dulled enough to sleep, but two days later, is still persistent and at this point, I know something is wrong. These are not muscle spasms and I need to go back to the ER. A few hours and a couple of CT scans later, we find out that I have a softball-sized mass growing on my liver.
The ER doc’s eyes are filled with sympathy as she announces I have a tumor and gives me the cancer spiel. Naturally, I panic, start sobbing, and think the worst. I call my parents, hug Matt, and start exploring my options with the doctor. We settle on a biopsy and then find out I need to be transferred to a different hospital.
Upon arrival to that hospital, they tell me I’ll be undergoing a liver resection surgery in the morning. They’ll cut out the tumor and part of my liver through a five inch incision in my abdomen. Yay! Despite my fear, I feel oddly at peace that the pain from the tumor would finally end and my healing journey could begin.
At this point, I’m in pain from the surgery, but relieved they were able to remove it all. It’ll be two weeks before I find out whether or not the tumor was cancerous… Longest two weeks of my life that ended in great news! The tumor was benign, but that lead to my next question… what the hell caused it in the first place? And how didn’t I know it was there?
When I Learn What Caused It
Turns out (from some research and meeting others with stories similar to mine) it’s not all that uncommon for hormonal birth control to lead to tumors. While they won’t directly say birth control causes the tumor, my doctors / surgeon informed me that the birth control had basically been acting as food for Max for the past nine years.
For nine years, I took birth control at the recommendation of my doctor, not for its intended purpose, but to help with my suddenly excessive periods (due to another condition I was later diagnosed with). No one explained that I could go back off of the meds now that that condition was under control, so I kept taking the pills (unnecessarily) for almost a decade.
You know how they say hindsight is 20/20? Well, here’s what I learned quickly after going off of my birth control after my surgery…
Anxiety & Overthinking
In college, shortly after going on birth control, I developed anxiety. It got worse and worse until it damn near consumed me. Within a few weeks of going off my meds, my anxiety was noticeably better. In fact, despite running a new business while recovering from a major surgery and getting buried in medical bills, I was less anxious than I had been in years.
Quickly, I noticed how much less I overthought everything. This allowed me to stop “planning” so much and start taking actions to grow my business. I didn’t have to predict everything that was to come or question whether or not I should take a step, I just started doing.
I felt like I did back in high school – ambitious, confident, productive, and didn’t second-guess everything. It felt freeing and thankfully, stuck around. It was like a cloud was lifted from my life. Anyone who’s ever run a business knows how important action-taking is. When you’re stuck overthinking every decision, you can’t take action. I firmly believe my birth control-induced anxiety held me back for years!
The meds (and tumor) also made me feel terrible physically. I had very little energy, dizzy spells, episodes of over-heating, and a growing list of foods my body couldn’t tolerate without vomiting. (TMI? Sorry.) Truth is that my tumor was pushing on my stomach, causing acid reflux.
For years, I took every stomach med I could get my hands on to find relief, but even water made my stomach hurt occasionally. Doctors couldn’t figure out why it was so bad, so we just kept popping Tums & Prilosec. Since my surgery two years ago, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had issues from food.
And perhaps the craziest symptom of all… Remember how I said we had just gotten back from Greece? While in Santorini with our friends, I literally couldn’t keep up with them climbing the stairs / hiking. I was out of breath to the point where I thought I was developing asthma. I hated cardio for years. Turns out it’s hard to breathe when you have a massive tumor pushing on your diaphragm, preventing your lungs from expanding fully.
Long story short? My energy is back (most of the time – haha). I don’t get dizzy spells. Panic attacks are minimal. My libido is back. I feel like a woman in her 20s should feel. I am free. All of these ailments lifted allow me to show up better for my business. Instead of naps, I can make plans. Instead of worrying how something I eat for lunch might make me feel, I can serve my clients. And instead of missing out on creating memories, I can be more spontaneous knowing I won’t feel like garbage every five seconds.
I Got My (Life &) Business Back
I can’t even express in a blog post how much I got back after going off of birth control. I’m not saying it’s the best solution for everyone by any means. Again, consult your doctor. But, for me… it was so freeing that I sometimes feel grateful for my tumor. Without it, I might still be on birth control, suffering all of the side effects (none the wiser).
My business has boomed, my confidence has soared, my clients are better served, and I’m SO much happier feeling like my old self again off of my hormonal birth control.
While some of my confidence might have come from the experience itself, I urge you to talk to your doctor if you don’t feel like yourself. You don’t have to be anxious. You don’t have to feel lack-luster. If they don’t listen, find a different doctor. This is your health and whether this helps your business or your life in general, I just want to share my story for those who may not know (like I didn’t for so long) what these hormones are capable of.
This concludes my TedTalk about how birth control hurt my business and life. Want to read more about cleaning up your health? Going through a similar experience with your own health? Send me a DM over on Instagram. I’m happy to cheer you on however I can.