Comedian Sheryl Underwood is a Hollywood veteran who has had her share of ups and downs, both in life and in the industry. The triumphant actress and co-host of CBS’s The Talk, recently overcame a health challenge after having a hysterectomy and decided to become an advocate for others dealing with similar health issues.
Black Enterprise spoke with Underwood on health advocacy and her recent work as spokeswoman for Depend as a way to help encourage and give hope to those struggling with incontinence.
Black Enterprise: What prompted you to participate in the campaign?
Sheryl Underwood: In my 30s I had fibroids, and people would tell me to stop drinking caffeine or to drink corn water to shrink the fibroids, but they weren’t shrinking. I eventually had to have a myomectomy to remove 15 fibroids. I had three very large ones and 12 clusters. I was seeing a doctor at Cedars Sinai who said I needed to have a baby, but I wasn’t in a relationship that would be appropriate for this, and I wasn’t married. So I went on with my life, and by the time I got into my early 40s, the fibroids came back. Instead of having a myomectomy again, I went for a partial hysterectomy. And once I had a partial hysterectomy, my bladder dropped, and that’s when I started suffering from bladder leakage.
How did you first become aware of the problem?
I’m on the road a lot, and I’m on airplanes often. You can’t always just get up and go to the bathroom. I’m also on stage an hour and a half every night. I have to stand or sit for long periods of time for panel discussions and luncheons. So I had to start wearing something for bladder leakage. I started wearing Depend because what I was wearing before didn’t make me feel confident.
Did you feel embarrassed about shopping for bladder-control products?
No. I’m a friendly person. People would look in my basket and ask me why I’m buying Depend, and I would say I’m buying it so I can feel good about myself. I’m kind of a sister-friend to everyone. I never suffered from the embarrassment of it. That’s why I’m confident enough to go public with this. People who are self-conscious need to know they are not going through this alone. I can work out in these, and I can even wear a wrap dress. I want to empower women and I want them to know that their lives are not over just because they have bladder-control issues. I’m confident and I live a very full life. What a lot of people don’t know is that among the 65 million people who suffer from bladder leakage, a little less than half are women under the age of 50.
I could be all ‘woe is me,’ but I have confidence. I’m on to the next thing. That’s why getting involved with the philanthropic side of this makes me proud, as a past president of Zeta Phi Beta. It makes me proud that Depend would be charitable partners with organizations that do research in the area of bladder leakage. That’s why the Drop Your Pants for Underwareness campaign is so important to me. If you use the hashtag “drop your pants” and “underwareness,” Depend will donate one dollar, up to $3 million over the next three years, to fund bladder leakage research with the Simon Foundation for Continence and United Way Worldwide.
Everyone has a story to share. Tell your story; live your truth. Don’t be ashamed of whatever you’re going through.