BY MONIKA SAMTANI AND ADELE WHIPPS
As the face of WUSA9, Delia Goncalves built her reporting career around the stories of others. A first-generation Cape-Verdean-American, Delia covers national news, ranging from shootings to homelessness, and everything in between. Reporting never stops for Delia, even during the pandemic when she worked from home–and when unusual symptoms began, there was no time to dwell on it. Delia says, “I started feeling discomfort during the height of the pandemic, but like so many women – I just pushed through.” It turns out the pain Delia faced was a uterine fibroid the size of a grapefruit.
Delia took two months off of work as a reporter and news anchor to recover. But during her recovery while she continued to work on potential future stories, she found that women had started to reach out to share their own journey with fibroids, a medical condition that commonly affects women, especially black women. The University of Michigan Health reports that “nearly a quarter of Black women between 18 and 30 have fibroids compared to about 6% of white women, according to some national estimates. By age 35, that number increases to 60%”.
After hearing so many personal stories, Delia realized that her platform may just help the many people dealing with the same condition, and wanted them to feel seen. So, she wrote a love letter to women on a Facebook post about her journey:
“THIS ONE IS PERSONAL. TONIGHT ON WUSA9 AT 11, I SHARE MY JOURNEY WITH FIBROIDS AND THE POWERFUL STORIES OF OTHER WOMEN IN DC.
SOME STATS: 70% OF ALL WOMEN AND 90% OF BLACK WOMEN WILL SUFFER FROM FIBROIDS BY THE TIME WE’RE 50.
THE NON-CANCEROUS TUMORS GROW IN A WOMAN’S UTERUS AND CAN LEAD TO MAJOR BLOOD LOSS, DEBILITATING PAIN AND FERTILITY CHALLENGES.
OUR MESSAGE: LISTEN TO YOUR BODIES AND ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CARE.
YOU DESERVE TO LIVE WITHOUT PAIN.
YOU DESERVE TO TAKE TIME FOR YOUR HEALING.
YOU DESERVE TO BE YOUR BEST SELF.
YOU DESERVE THE BEST CARE.
IF YOU ARE A WOMAN OR HAVE A WOMAN IN YOUR LIFE YOU LOVE, PLEASE WATCH AND SHARE.”
Delia sat down with The Fem Word to share a personal behind the scenes look at her own story.
Q: FIRST OF ALL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK WITH US TODAY, DELIA. YOUR STORY ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH UTERINE FIBROIDS IN 2021 WAS SO HONEST AND RAW. IT’S NOT OFTEN THAT WE HEAR A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT ABOUT HEALTH SITUATIONS. PEOPLE ARE USUALLY NOT WILLING TO SHARE WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH.
BUT YOUR JOURNEY IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT PRIORITIZING OUR HEALTH AND NOT IGNORING WHAT OUR BODY IS TELLING US. YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOU ‘PUSHED THROUGH THE PAIN’. WHAT MADE YOU FINALLY GET HELP – WHAT WAS THE BREAKING POINT?
Delia: I started experiencing tell-tale signs that something was wrong. This may be graphic but it’s important to be transparent here, I was experiencing extremely heavy bleeding that was not normal for me. However, when I went to my annual visit with my gynecologist a month later – I failed to raise these concerns. I was still thinking, ‘well I’m not experiencing those symptoms NOW!’ Thankfully, she recognized the size of my uterine fibroid and without causing any panic, scheduled an ultrasound which ultimately gave me the diagnosis of a rapidly growing 15-centimeter fibroid. So while I knew something was wrong and scheduled the appointment, I still failed to act. It was my GYN and my husband who later asked me if I raised my concerns with the doctor, who advocated on my behalf. So I mention this to illustrate that empowerment is a journey and we must give ourselves grace in learning how to advocate for ourselves.
Q: IN YOUR LOVE LETTER TO WOMEN, YOU SHARED AN INCREDIBLY POWERFUL AND PERSONAL VIDEO ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AND STRUGGLE WITH FIBROIDS.
AS A NEWS ANCHOR, YOU HAVE A UNIQUE PLATFORM TO INFLUENCE AND EDUCATE YOUR AUDIENCE.
WHEN YOU WERE FACED WITH A SERIOUS HEALTH SITUATION, DID YOU KNOW AT THE TIME THAT YOU WOULD OPENLY SHARE YOUR STORY? OR DID IT TAKE OTHER WOMEN REACHING OUT TO YOU TO SEE THAT THERE WAS A WIDER NEED FOR EXPOSURE?
Delia: I knew at some point I wanted to share my journey, but I wasn’t sure of the details. As a journalist, we are observers and rarely at the center of our stories – never mind such a personal and intimate one as mine. During my recovery, I became increasingly grateful to the many women along my journey who helped support me: A family friend who is a nurse and had her own hysterectomy due to fibroids, my gynecologist, my surgeon, girlfriends, and the women of the White Dress Project – an organization I found on Instagram that raises fibroid awareness.
I was also talking to all my friends and encouraging them to seek help. So, when I got that call from the newsource it was clear I had to take my advocacy to the next level. I recognized that about 7 out of 10 women in my immediate circle had experiences with fibroids, but many of us had never shared our stories with each other. So I knew I had to elevate the conversation. I had recovered, physically and emotionally enough to do it. I was ready. So you can say that call re-enforced my intentions and put my purpose and mission into clear focus.
Q: YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH UTERINE FIBROIDS SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN A DEFINING MOMENT.
HOW HAS THE RELEASE OF YOUR JOURNEY WITH FIBROIDS IMPACTED YOUR LIFE? DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE ADJUSTED YOUR PRIORITIES AND ARE MAKING REAL TANGIBLE CHANGES?
Delia: Yes, it has taught me to take better care of myself and recognize that even with 3 children, a demanding job, and community volunteer roles – there is ALWAYS time for self-care, in fact, it is even more important. I am taking time to meditate, stretch, and go on walks and bike rides. I also try to limit my intake of social media and even news when I’m home with the family.
Q. YOU HAVE A LONG HISTORY OF BREAKING POLITICAL NEWS STORIES. YOU WERE THERE WHEN GAY MARRIAGE LAWS CHANGED, YOU COVERED STORIES DURING THE HEIGHT OF QUARANTINE AND THE PANDEMIC, AND YOU’RE STILL OUT THERE REPORTING TOUGH NEWS STORIES TODAY LIKE ROE V WADE AND GUNS.
YOU SAID YOU “HAD TO DETACH YOURSELF FROM EMOTION” BUT ALSO “OUR VIEWERS LIKE TO SEE THAT WE’RE STILL HUMAN”. YOU COMBINED THOSE WORLDS WHEN YOU REPORTED YOUR OWN STORY. DO YOU FEEL MORE NEWS STORIES SHOULD HAVE A PERSONAL ELEMENT TO THEM?
Delia: I think the role of a journalist is to elevate issues and the stories that matter to our viewers. But we also have a duty to cover these stories with dignity, humanity, and a call to action when it’s appropriate. My success as a local reporter has been my investment in the community. Our WUSA9 viewers know I live in DC and I’m a DC Public School parent – I’ve told them as much. In some stories, it increases my credibility. So yes, when appropriate and when a personal element can add depth, perspective, and power to the story.
Q: AS A NEWS BROADCASTER, YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOU HAVE TO SPLIT YOUR PERSONALITY BETWEEN “MOMMY AND DELIA”, BUT THERE MUST BE TIMES WHEN YOUR ROLES HAVE TO MERGE.
YOU HAVE THREE DAUGHTERS. THEY’RE 8, 10, AND 12 NOW. WITH THE WORLD CHANGING SO FAST EVERY DAY, ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN, HOW DO YOU BROACH INFORMING THEM ABOUT THE ISSUES THAT YOU COVER?
Delia: They were always aware of what I did but I could choose which stories and topics to share with them. That all changed during the pandemic. You can say the curtains came down and when we were all home working and learning together, they overheard everything. So, my husband and I discuss these issues with them in an age-appropriate manner. If they approach me, I try to be as honest and clinical with them while reassuring them of our values, our family, and their own safety.
Q: WE’LL BE HONEST, WE HAVE NEVER HEARD OF CAPE VERDE. IT MADE US REALIZE THERE ARE SO MANY IMMIGRANTS IN THE US FROM REGIONS OF THE WORLD THAT ARE UNKNOWN TO AMERICANS.
WHERE IS CAPE VERDE AND WHAT DO WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR HERITAGE? IS THERE A SPECIFIC LANGUAGE OR FOOD THAT YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT? HOW HAS YOUR BACKGROUND HELPED SHAPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?
Delia: Cape Verde Islands are located off the West Coast of Africa closest to Dakar, Senegal. Cape Verde is known as the model of a Democratic Nation in Africa. We gained independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975. The Cape Verdean community in the US is centered mainly in New England, but many of us are in the mid-Atlantic area and California. Our language is called Krioulu – it is a mixture of Portuguese and the West African languages. We are known to be kind, generous and welcoming people who often will open their doors to friends and family. Cape Verdeans eat a lot of corn and fish. A popular dish is called Cachupa, it is a stew made with hominy, collard or kale greens, beans, vegetables, yuka, squash and typically smoked turkey or a Portuguese sausage called linguica.
I am a first-generation Cape Verdean American. My parents came as immigrants who did not know the language and worked in factories to give their children a better life. Our doors were always open to friends, neighbors, family and oftentimes my parents would temporarily house newly relocated immigrants. So, I learned the value of hard work and I try to live my life with humility, faith, and generosity.
Q: ARE YOU STILL PLAYING PIANO? HAVE YOU TAKEN UP ANY NEW SKILLS TO GIVE YOUR MIND A DISTRACTION?
Delia: I am still playing piano and working through Beethoven’s Fur Elise (one of my favs). I love to work in my garden, though my green thumb is a work in progress! I also go on more hikes and nature walks in DC’s vast parklands.
Q: OUR FINAL QUESTION IS ONE WE ASK EVERY GUEST HERE ON THE FEM WORD, AND I KNOW IT’S GOING TO RESONATE WITH YOU. WHEN WAS A MOMENT WHEN YOU FELT TRULY POWERFUL?
Delia: That is interesting because what began as my most vulnerable moment led to the most empowering moment – when I decided to talk freely and openly about my hysterectomy and fibroid journey. It has been one of the most freeing and fulfilling times in my adult life where I chose light instead of darkness, courage instead of shame…and in return not only healed myself but countless others in the process.
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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the interviewee, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Fem Word organization. Any content provided by our interviewees are based on their opinions and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.