GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — “I looked like I was six months pregnant. I was 176 lbs.,” said Bethany Strong.

At 38-years-old, Strong had developed a bulge in her mid-section — something she chalked up to growing older. She called her doctor when she realized this was more than just a few extra pounds.

“I went to my doctor because it was mobile, I could move it,” said Strong.

Her doctor diagnosed it as a fibroid tumor, a non-cancerous growth in her uterus. A diagnosis Dr. Jaclyn Friedman, a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgeon at Spectrum Health, wishes more people knew about and talked about.

Bethany Strong (Sept. 27, 2022)

“I think a lot of women have them and don’t recognize they have them … They’re actually extremely common. Seven out of 10 women have them,” said Friedman.

With looming medical bills and not being granted the time off work to recover, Strong put off having the surgery she needed to remove the four fibroid tumors growing inside her.

“Sometimes you just get used to the pain. So that’s what I did for eight years,” said Strong.

Strong endured eight years of painful, heavy periods, low energy and weight gain.

“Her fibroids were getting larger and were noticeable from the outside. When I operated on her, I myself was eight months pregnant and I don’t think we looked too different,” said Friedman.

Strong had her four fibroids removed in April through a minimally invasive procedure done laparoscopically.

“Just being able to completely inhale and exhale or to sit back in a chair like this, instead of having to sit like this because I have this big belly. OMG. Amazing. I am a completely different woman. Completely different woman,” said Strong.

Dr. Friedman said a lot of women put off seeking medical care because they fear surgery. She said not all fibroids require surgery. There are medications that can help.

For more information, visit the Fibroid Foundation website.