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Susy Oludele

Hair artist Susan Oludele, founder of the popular Hair by Susy salon in Brooklyn, has styled everyone from Beyonce to Solange to Zoe Kravitz. Even more impressively, she’s managed to do it all with no less than seven fibroids. The Nigerian American artist talks about being dismissed by her doctors, the healing power of nutrition, and the gift fibroids gave her: a mindset more focused on self-care.
by Sollis Health

What are fibroids and how did you get diagnosed?

Fibroids are noncancerous tumors located in your uterus walls or in your uterus area. Even though this is non cancerous, it is mentally draining. I remember when I had my first stomach ache. I thought I had eaten something I was allergic to or something I’m not used to. I tried to self-medicate and I realized the pains kept getting worse. I went to the hospital and they said I was fine; I went to a couple of docs and they all kept telling me I was okay. That is when I realized something was wrong. The tests said I was okay but I felt terrible and this was in month six with a stomach ache. Imagine having a stomach pain for six months with everyone saying you are okay but you are really not. I then went to another clinic and they did a sonogram, and that’s when I discovered I don’t just have one or two fibroids but seven!

What has been the hardest part in the journey? Have there ever been times you’ve tried to get help and haven’t felt seen and heard?

The hardest part of this journey was when everyone kept saying you are okay when I was constantly in pain. They kept on telling me to take Tylenol or pain meds, but I wanted to get to the root of the problem. As a woman of color, it’s tough navigating in the health area due to the fact we as women can take a lot of pain, causing people to think we are just not that bad. That’s not true—we need help just like any other patient and pronto.

“Fibroids can grow larger, causing you to look pregnant. One day I was walking down the street and someone thought I was seven months pregnant! It was terrible. I had to start covering my tummy.”

How has living with fibroids affected your work (negatively or positively!)?

Fibroids not only affected me negatively but also positively. I’ll tell you the negative first: when I had fibroids, the pain was so severe that I would wrap my tummy in heating pads just to get through work. I’m a hairstylist, so my job involves me standing for long hours and working with a lot of people. The fibroids drained my energy, I was unable to stand for long hours, and I was unable to be very interactive with my clients like I’m used to. Positively, it put me in a mindset to take care of yourself and take time to rest. Hairstylists are so used to keeping moving, so the fibroids reminded me to take a break.

Can you describe any moments of humor or embarrassment that have happened because of it?

One day I was walking down the street and someone thought I was seven months pregnant. Fibroids can grow larger, causing you to look kind of pregnant. It was terrible, everyone thought I was pregnant, and I had to start covering my tummy. I was wearing oversized clothes and wearing waist purses to cover my stomach.

What sort of treatments have you tried—from the most basic to the most experimental—and what’s been the most helpful?

I tried taking pain meds as recommended and it just didn’t help. I started to drink alkaline water, eating plant-based, eating organic fruits and vegetables, and it helped so much more! I was shocked how relieved I started to feel as I changed my diet. When I drank alcohol, white rice, starch, and sugar, my fibroids at the time started to rupture and cause so much pain. It felt like a volcano in my stomach, and eating better and drinking better helped.

What do you wish more healthcare providers knew about your condition?

I wish there was more comfort coming into fibroids. Some of us are in tons of pain and sometimes giving your patients more empathy and comfort helps. I wish more healthcare providers would do everything in their power to help patients instead of always turning into temporary solutions. I wish more health care providers would find out what really causes it instead of not knowing too much information on fibroids.

What have you learned about yourself through this journey?

I learned that I have a lot to celebrate! I can’t believe I made it this far to the point where I am 100% healthy. I am so thankful to myself and my willpower. It was a lot of dark days and a lot of sad days and pain days, but I took it and made it a part of my story. I can face anything—since I have come out of this, I am stronger!

“It was a lot of dark days and a lot of sad days and pain days, but I took it and made it a part of my story. I can face anything—since I have come out of this, I am stronger!”

If there’s been a silver lining, what would you say it is?

There isn’t. Research fibroids and try to understand where we as patients stand. We are humans, we are people, we are someone’s sister, wife, friend, aunt. We want to live a healthy and happy life, not in pain.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about fibroids, and what do you wish you could help people understand better?

The biggest misconception is when people don’t think it’s painful but it is indeed very painful. Not everyone has pain, but there are a lot of us that do. Another misconception is that just because you have fibroids doesn’t mean you can’t have children. You can still have children and you can still bear children. Another misconception is thinking you have to remove your uterus. You can still have the fibroids removed and still keep your uterus.

Any good words to live by?

Be strong, God will never give you anything you can’t handle. You are on this journey for a reason and no matter what, you will come out of it strong and happy. Situations will change and not break you, and you will use this to empower yourself and motivate others.
The views and opinions expressed in this campaign are those of the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sollis Health.
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