When I heard that Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls was having surgery, my first thought
was not how to get this story into print. So, take away my Connie Chung Investigative
Journalism Card. I like this woman, and I was hoping it wasn't serious.
My second thought, a craven one, was that this probably would make a pretty good column.
Even a useful one.
Since Roxanne Qualls was elected, she has proved to be a gracious public spirit, a clever
infighter, a tough negotiator, a wise leader, a good referee. She has rescued lost dogs and
She is not, however, a blabbermouth.
Surgery, anybody's surgery, is personal, private and mostly none of our beeswax. So, I
thought I might have a pretty hard time getting her to talk to me and a worse time getting her
to let me report back to you.
But she agreed to let me tell you about it. On Friday morning, the mayor will undergo a
hysterectomy to remove fibroid tumors in her uterus. A fibroid is a benign, non-malignant
tumor that attaches itself to the outside of the uterus, in the uterine cavity or just under
the inner lining of the uterus.
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and sometimes the cervix, ovaries and
fallopian tubes. (I know you'll be proud that I didn't ask which kind she was having.)
About 40 percent of white women older than 35 experience fibroid tumors, and the number
is higher for African-American women. That's why the mayor is talking about this personal
matter with the likes of me. She's not doing it to collect greeting cards, flowers and helium
''I was surprised at the reaction when I began to tell my friends,'' the mayor said.
Smart women were asking dumb questions. Or, as Ms. Qualls puts it, ''They were clueless.''
Symptoms include heavy menstrual periods, abdominal pain and iron deficiency anemia. The
mayor hastens to add that ''none of this is debilitating,'' and she experienced symptoms for
two years or so.
Meanwhile, she points out, she has run two successful elections, painted her house and
put in crown moldings, reorganized city council and represented Cincinnati in Russia and
''Roxanne is a prime example of somebody who can't just take it easy,'' says her surgeon,
Dr. Jennifer Thie of Crescent Women's Medical Group.
Well, she will take it easy for a week right after her surgery. Then she'll work from
home for two weeks after that. ''Laptop, E-mail, telephone,'' Mayor Qualls says.
''Most of what I have to do requires focused thinking -- strategic planning and the
budget,'' she says.
Vice Mayor Tyrone Yates will preside over council meetings until Ms. Qualls returns. But
she'll be on duty as mayor as soon as she wakes up from the anesthetic.
She says she has promised her doctor that she will not immediately ''go into 12-hour
days, maybe six to eight hours for a while.'' She'll ride a stationary bike for a while. No
heavy lifting. That's it.
Piece of cake.
Dr. Thie wants everyone to know that you don't always have to have surgery if you have
fibroid tumors. Some can be controlled through drugs, and fibroid size tends to decrease
naturally with the onset of menopause.
Some alternative medicine practitioners also suggest a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
You will probably be hearing rather more about fibroid tumors and hysterectomies over the
next few years than you actually wanted to know. It's the baby boomers again. Sort of like
when we discovered menopause and male pattern baldness.
Mayor Qualls says that persuaded her to use this as an opportunity to get out in front on
a women's health issue.
''There are a lot of us.''
It's a private matter in the public interest.
Laura Pulfer's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393
or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 MHz), and as a regular
commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.