Like many women, Nischelle Turner spent years believing that the “debilitating” pain she was experiencing was a result of being a woman.
“I’ve had incredibly tough periods my entire life, very heavy, very painful. But in not knowing better, I always thought this is how it’s supposed to be, this is what women go through,” the 47-year-old Entertainment Tonight co-host, tells PEOPLE. “But what I know now is that’s absolutely not the case. So it’s been since I was a teenager that I had ‘symptoms’ but I just never knew.”
“When I was 35 years old, my stomach had grown to a size that looked like I was three months pregnant,” Turner shares. “And that was because the fibroids had grown so big and were protruding and pushing out my stomach. It was almost like an alien because I could move them around and I knew it wasn’t right so I went and got checked.”
The cause of her pain was fibroids, something that many Black women know all too well.
According to a report from the University of Michigan, nearly a quarter of Black women between the ages of 18 and 30 have fibroids, while that’s true of just 6% of white women. And by age 35, 60% of Black women have fibroids.
To confirm that she had fibroids and determine which treatment would be best, doctors performed a transvaginal ultrasound. From there, doctors recommended major surgery, a procedure called a myomectomy, to remove them. A myomectomy is an operation to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus.
After spending about six weeks recovering, Turner believed she was moving forward fine. Unfortunately, at the age of 40, she would need to have another surgery to remove 13 fibroids. Then, when she was 45, the fibroids returned again.
For Turner, the experience wasn’t an easy one.
“It’s tough because you start to question yourself as a woman,” she admits. “You start to ask, ‘What is wrong with me that this keeps happening?’ You don’t really know other people to talk to about it.”
She had little information on fibroids and was unable to figure out why they kept coming back, however, she knew she wanted to