In 2006, Renee visited her gynecologist. With a slightly protruding belly, she wondered if she might be pregnant. “‘Either you’re pregnant or have fibroids,'” Renee Brown Small, Co-founder and CEO of The Fibroids Project recalled her gynecologist saying. Renee wasn’t pregnant but, at the time, she was also not familiar with fibroids—the source of her symptoms. Little did she know her diagnosis set the stage for the conception of an international fibroid organization that would be trusted by women everywhere.
Fibroids are common benign tumors that grow in the uterine wall and affect 20-80 percent of women. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, fibroids can be as small as an apple seed, while others can grow to the size of a grapefruit and, in rare cases, even larger. Uterine fibroids can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and in Renee’s case—abdominal extension that resembles pregnancy.1
“I didn’t know what a fibroid even was,” Renee said. “I asked my doctor and she just continued to tell me I had to get a Lupron shot that would put me in a menopausal state to shrink the fibroids and then surgery to take them out. It went from, ‘Renee, you have fibroids,’ to all the way down the rabbit hole! It all seemed so drastic for something that wasn’t cancerous.”
Like many women diagnosed with fibroids, Renee was confused and didn’t understand why surgery was her only option. After hearing the gynecologist’s treatment plan, Renee decided to walk away from that situation in order to investigate all her options. “I started doing my own research,” Renee explained. “There was a lot of information out there but what I found was there was no central hub where women with fibroids could get information on all treatment options available. That was the catalyst for The Fibroids Project.”
Launched in 2010, The Fibroids Project has been an online community empowering women with knowledge. Here they can find the latest research, read about every fibroid treatment option available, and receive support—all with the goal of becoming fibroid-free.
With a dynamic team made up of Renee and co-founder/CIO Nnamdi G. Osuagwu; Chief Medical Experts, Ayman Al-Hendy, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACOG and Ngozi Osuagwu, MD; Editor-In-Chief, LaShieka Hunter; and Chief Health Coach, Hilary Beard—The Fibroids Project offers a 360-degree view of fibroid treatment, not only for women affected by this condition but for physicians who want to become better informed.
“Our flagship program is a monthly teleconference featuring various experts discussing all aspects of fibroid health,” Renee emphasized. And so far, public response has been tremendous. “It’s phenomenal. People are praising it and saying how much this information is needed. Many of our speakers have had fibroids themselves and this really resonates with our audience.”
The Fibroids Project’s vision is to be a leading uterine fibroids resource by leveraging technology and connecting women to experts in all aspects of fibroid health. But Renee’s vision goes a little deeper. “We still don’t have a cure or a reason for why women get fibroids,” Renee stressed. “Research shows that 80-90 percent of black women and 70 percent of white women will get fibroids by the time they’re 50, which is unreal to me. Clearly, this is an epidemic and something is drastically wrong.”
Being diagnosed with fibroids can be overwhelming and, because of this, it’s imperative women are provided with every piece of information to make an informed decision. “I remember feeling at odds when I was diagnosed with fibroids,” Renee said. “My advice to women is to review all their options prior to making a decision about their healthcare and to not feel intimidated by their doctor. Ask a lot of questions and always get a second opinion.”
Because of trailblazers like Renee and her drive to bring trusted information to women with fibroids everywhere, the secret physical and mental toll of this condition is finally being brought to light.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. (2015). Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet. Retrieved August 4, 2015, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/uterine-fibroids.html