"I didn't even know I had this one-pound growth inside of me," said Chicago resident Renée Greene.
She might never have known until it was too late, since she was free of pain, heavy bleeding or other symptoms. Luckily, Renée is close with her gynecologist, Maria T. Tam, MD. Dr. Tam is the medical director for minimally invasive gynecological surgery at Ascension Saint Francis in Evanston, IL, a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology (COEMIG). She also sees patients at Ascension Saint Joseph - Chicago in Lincoln Park and Ascension Saint Mary - Chicago in Bucktown/Wicker Park.
Renée and Dr. Tam have built their relationship on more than a decade of trust. It served them both well in 2020 when, during a routine annual exam, Renée's Pap smear had an abnormal result. Dr. Tam did a biopsy and a physical exam, during which she observed that Renée's uterus felt larger. An ultrasound exam showed a fibroid. A very large fibroid!
Symptoms of a uterine fibroid include heavy or abnormal bleeding, pelvic cramping and pain during sex. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, find an Ascension Illinois women’s health specialist near you.Find a specialist
Years before, when Renée and Dr. Tam first met, during unfortunate circumstances. Renée had just been to the Emergency Room after suffering heavy menstrual bleeding with blood clots and bad cramping. These ER visits had become an all-too-frequent occurrence for her.
Despite the risk of anemia from the bleeding, Renée wasn't ready for surgery yet and Dr. Tam respected her wishes.
"I always keep an open mind and present them with a choice of treatment options rather than focusing entirely on surgery," said Dr. Tam. "She didn't want surgery, so we continued to try medical options."
Dr. Tam has earned a reputation from referring doctors for this kind of compassion, as well as her expertise in minimally invasive surgery, successfully taking on some of the most challenging gynecological surgical cases. As a result, patients come to her from all over the U.S. and from as far away as Australia and Europe.
Dr. Tam and Renée tried several alternatives. Unfortunately, none worked well enough to reduce her heavy bleeding. Through it all, Renée was the ultimate decider in her care plan.
"Eventually Renée told me, ‘I think it's time,'" said Dr. Tam. "And that's when we proceeded with her surgery."
In December 2010, they both agreed that Dr. Tam would perform a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a myomectomy, the surgical removal of one or more fibroids. The entire procedure only required a few hours in total, including pre-op preparation, the procedure itself and post-op recovery. Renée went home the same day.
"I felt fabulous. It was a night and day difference. My life was back to normal," Renée said about her recovery.
After that experience, Renée made Dr. Tam her primary care doctor. Their relationship only grew from there. Flash forward to 2020, where Renée reported feeling recovered, rejuvenated and excited about the future after the removal of her one-pound fibroid. As of 2023, Renée continues to see Dr. Tam as her primary care provider.
"Dr. Tam is family," said Renée. "When I meet the man of my dreams, Dr. Tam will be invited to our wedding."