By Paola Sacerdote
PaSean Wilson-Ashley, actress, documentary filmmaker, and owner of MamaAunties Vegan Goodies chats with us about her documentary The F Word, (a film about fibroids) and her personal experience with the disease. Wilson-Ashley is known as a mega commercial actress having appeared in Yoplait Yogurt commercials series as well as tons of other commercials. After being diagnosed with fibroids, she has taken the role of a women’s health advocate, expressing the importance of fibroids and women’s health. Several celebrities have added their voices to The F Word including supermodel Beverly Johnson, jazz singer Ronda Ross, Tony award-winner LaChanze, The Cheetah Girls author Deborah Gregory and world-renowned poet Sonia Sanchez. “Scientifically, we wanted to explore in the documentary why certain ethnic groups who have a history with oppression and of not being in control of their bodies suffer from fibroids more than others,” Wilson-Ashley states. During our chat with her, we gained a deeper understanding of what fibroids are and the importance of bringing more awareness toÂ preventing, treating and curing this condition.
Bronze Magazine: What is a fibroid?
PaSean Wilson-Ashley: The medical definition of a fibroid is a benign smooth muscle tumor of the uterus in which estrogen causes it to grow and flourish.
BM: What has your journey been like with fibroids?
PWA: When I first got diagnosed, I was told to “Watch and wait.” A few years later, I went back and was told I needed a hysterectomy. After that, I started holistic treatments which helped with the symptoms but ultimately did not get rid of the fibroids. I was still bleeding heavily, suffering from unbearable cramps and I had large blood clots the size of my hand. I decided to undergo a myomectomy because I heard about an OBGYN in Beverly Hills who successfully treated a woman by removing her fibroids but leaving her uterus intact.
BM: What inspired you to speak about the fibroid epidemic and create a documentary?
PWA: After my surgery, my husband and sister told me they overheard a doctor telling a woman that he gave her 25-year old sister a hysterectomy for removing her fibroids. That’s what put me on the journey towards creating the documentary; because hearing that a 25-year old woman in the same hospital as I was but with a different doctor received a hysterectomy as opposed to a myomectomy for removing her fibroids, I realized that it was important to let women know that there are other alternatives to treating this condition, especially if you want to have children. Even if you’re past childbearing age, I believe you should still have the choice of whether or not you want to keep your uterus. Each of our organs serve a specific purpose and once you remove one organ you can throw your whole system out of whack.
BM: How common are fibroids?
PWA: I think the condition has always been there, but people just didn’t talk about certain things such as this back in the day; and now, especially in the age of social media, everyone shares and talks about everything. Back in the day, I can remember family members talking about it, but they would never say fibroids. I can recall aunts or grandparents’ conversations that went like this, “Where’s grandma?” “She had to go to the hospital, she had a lady surgery.” I know now that lady surgery meant having a hysterectomy. Getting a hysterectomy back then was almost like a rite of passage. So, by the time you were 50 years old you knew it was time for your hysterectomy because your mother had it or your aunts had it, your grandparents had it or your great grandparents had it, and it was ultimately okay.
BM: What could be the cause of fibroids and what can women do to prevent the disease?
PWA: There is definitely a genetic component. It does run in families, but just because you have a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean you’ll manifest it; unless you do the same things that your ancestors or family members did to bring it out. We as women must start paying attention to our bodies, knowing what our dietary and environmental stressors are, as well as learning about preventive measures that help the body from producing fibroids.
BM: How can a woman’s partner support her after she is diagnosed with fibroids?
PWA: By being cautious and aware of what the stressors are in her life and helping to relieve them. By supporting and joining her on dietary changes, helping her to discover nontraditional methods and by doing research. These methods of support will help take some of the load off and help ease the stress in her environment.
BM: When will the documentary be available to the public?
PWA: Currently you can check a short clip of it on Vimeo. It will be available worldwide on streaming platforms following our re-editing process.
BM: What are your hopes with spreading awareness about fibroids?
PWA: I’m looking forward to the day where July is Fibroid Awareness Month in all 50 states, then a national movement similar to the pink ribbon movement, where there is always attention on fibroids.