By Heidi Smith – Contributor
When North Port resident Teresa Caracciolo takes the stage to compete in the Women’s Figure competition in Tampa
this month, the judges will see a 110-pound science teacher who poses with confidence, her bronze, bikini-clad figure displaying the strenuous weight training and healthy diet required to win.
Looking for the slightest flaw in fitness, figure or pose, the judges won’t see any evidence of the abdominal surgery a Venice surgeon performed just six months earlier to remove fibroid growths from the outside of the 44-year-old’s uterus.
“I was training so hard and being so careful about nutrition, but posing coaches were telling me the bulge in my belly would keep me from winning,” said Caracciolo, who took up Women’s Figure after a serious accident in 2016 that left her bedridden for four months. When she could stand again, she was overweight, and her injuries limited her ability for other sports. So she started training for figure competitions under the coaching of her husband, Tony Tartaglia, Jr.
“I slimmed down with Tony’s help, but no matter what I did in training, I could see the bulge in my belly,” she said. “I had more frequent urination and felt an odd pressure in my abdomen.”
A nurse referred the couple to James D. Kondrup, M.D., who is internationally known for expertise in minimally invasive gynecological surgery and is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Kondrup treats patients at Gulf Coast Medical Group’s Women’s Health & Wellness in Venice and performs surgery at Venice Regional Bayfront Health.
Based on results of a special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Dr. Kondrup determined that the bulge was caused by three fibroid growths on the outside of Caracciolo’s uterus – one as large as a softball.
A fibroid is a muscle growth that starts in the muscle of the uterus and usually turns circular in shape, Dr. Kondrup explained. A woman may have one, two or dozens, and they are almost always non-cancerous. Fibroids can be inside or outside the uterus and may press on or become attached to other organs. Women may feel an undefined abdominal pressure or may have pain or bleeding. Fibroids are most commonly seen in women aged 20 to 40. The growth often shrink with menopause.
If fibroids are very small and in the cavity of the uterus, they can be removed through the vagina using a scope. In Caracciolo’s case, with the growths on the outside of her uterus, the typical approach would be to open the abdomen with an incision across the bikini line or potentially down the center of the abdomen from the belly button.
“Traditional surgical approaches weren’t the best options for Teresa, whose passion for Women’s Figure competition is key to her lifestyle and self-image,” Dr. Kondrup said. “We also didn’t want to use robotic surgery because the incisions would need to be too large and it would take longer for her to be able to return to weight training. Conducting the surgery by hand using special surgical tools and sutures would give her the best outcome for both her health and her lifestyle.”
“Dr. Kondrup understood how important training and competing is to me,” Caracciolo said. “He showed us pictures of body builders he had helped in the past. He showed us images from the MRI, talked to us about the surgical options, and told us how he would approach the surgery so I could compete. In his office he has artifacts from all the places in the world where he’s done training of other surgeons. I figured if he’s training other surgeons, he’s the best at what he does. I knew I wanted him to do the surgery.”
“The night before surgery, Dr. Kondrup called and asked me to bring my competition outfit to the hospital so he could use surgical marker to draw the outline of my suit.” The lines would help him locate incisions that wouldn’t show during competition.
Caracciolo’s surgery took four to five hours as Dr. Kondrup painstakingly removed the large fibroid in tiny pieces so that the incisions could be small. The other fibroids were small growths attached to the uterus by cord-like tissue that was snipped,
and the growths removed. Caracciolo stayed overnight in the hospital and went home the next day. Twelve weeks after surgery, she was in the gym with Tartaglia training full throttle for competition with the incisions healed and hidden beneath her suit.
“Teresa’s surgery was successful because we had an excellent team and the right equipment, and excellent preparation and cooperation from the patient. Every piece makes the surgery successful,” Dr. Kondrup said. “One of the reasons I became a surgeon is that I like planning something and fulfilling the patient’s wishes. When you’re able to give her exactly what she wants, it’s a really good feeling to have accomplished that.”
Said Caracciolo, “Everything Dr. Kondrup promised came true. He’s upbeat, kind and empathetic. He made me comfortable and open to really sharing what I was feeling. He always had a solution and that gave me hope.”
“It’s really important for women to understand the symptoms of fibroids, to know there are options, and to ignore any social stigma around talking about your condition,” she said. “Your health is number one.”
Venice Regional Bayfront Halth
To learn more about fibroid surgical options, call 941-207-5330.
Call 941.207.5330 or visit VeniceRegional.com