“In 2001, my husband and I were trying to get pregnant and, after about six months, we realized something was wrong,” recalls Gessie Thompson, a fibroids and fertility coach, author and co-founder of the Hope Beyond Fibroids Elimination Program. Upon visiting her doctor, Thompson learned she had fibroids and that they were causing infertility.

Research further shows that 8 out of 10 African American women will develop fibroids by age 50. These are generally benign tumors of the womb, but have been called “fireballs” by women experiencing severe symptoms ranging from heavy bleeding to severe pain.

Course of action

Fibroids are generally located in the wall of the uterus, but can also grow inside the uterine cavity, or on the outside of the uterus. Thompson decided to have a myomectomy; to remove the fibroids and leave her uterus intact.

But the fibroids came back four more times. “It was a ten-year journey battling infertility,” Thompson recalls; a journey that included ten surgeries, five IVF cycles, and over 100 days in the hospital. “After the fourth IVF cycle, I didn’t know if I could do it anymore.”

Her fifth IVF cycle finally proved successful.

AGAINST ALL ODDS: After a miscarriage, many days spent in the hospital and several different procedures, Gessie gave birth to her daughter Nia, who she calls her “miracle child.”

A miracle unfolding

“We had a miscarriage during my first IVF cycle, so we had trepidations,” Gessie recalls. “And then, 21 weeks into my second pregnancy, we learned that the baby had a condition called fetal growth restriction and we were advised to consider an abortion.”

Today, she considers her daughter Nia to be her miracle child. “It was the most life-changing experience,” she glows. “I cannot imagine my life without her.”

'“It was a ten-year journey battling infertility … After the fourth IVF cycle, I didn’t know if I could do it anymore.”'

A viral message

ESSENCE magazine published Thompson’s profile, “My Fertility Journey,” in 2014. The piece took on a life of its own via social media. It was then that she realized how many women suffer from fibroids and grew determined to be a part of a solution.

Thompson became a spokesperson and board member of The White Dress Project, a nonprofit committed to raising awareness and funds for research to fight fibroids. Later, Gessie partnered with two naturopathic doctors from the Aboriginal Medical Association, Dr. Amsu Anpu and Dr. Amun Neb, to launch the 90-Day Hope Beyond Fibroids Elimination Program, which helps women overcome fibroids and infertility without surgery. From diet to stress management, the program encourages lifestyle changes that have resulted in MRI-documented cases of women eliminating up to 50 fibroids without surgery.

“The stress of life — our fast-paced culture — has affected our bodies,” she explains. “Stress and diet are the two major drivers of reproductive diseases.”

Marching forward

Thompson is currently working to form a coalition to advance fibroids from marginalized to prioritized on the national agenda, through initiatives such as working to declare July National Fibroids Awareness Month.

“My passion and work is inspiring, educating and empowering the [over] 110 million women suffering from fibroids with the information, resources and support needed to heal and protect their wombs from the tyranny of reproductive diseases.”