At first, Bethenny Frankel thought she was just exhausted, run down from the stress of juggling The Real Housewives of New York City, her Skinnygirl empire and her ongoing divorce drama from ex husband Jason Hoppy (three-and-a-half years and counting.) But then over the past year as she developed pelvic cramping and out of control bleeding that sent her to the emergency room more than once, a sonogram revealed her uterine fibroid condition, first diagnosed in 2013, needed immediate attention.
“I’d lost 10 percent of my blood, my uterus had doubled in size and my fibroids had grown larger,” Frankel tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I was scared.”
After she first noticed she was cramping and bleeding sporadically three years ago, her doctor diagnosed her with non-cancerous fibroids. She dealt with them quietly, at first, one of the few chapters of her life she kept hidden off camera.
“I think it caused my miscarriage,” Frankel adds.
In 2012, the reality star opened up about her emotional roller coaster after having been pregnant for eight weeks before having a miscarriage.
But that all changed this past season, when in the midst of filming RHONYC her growing fatigue, anemia, escalating pain and heavy bleeding became part of the storyline and required her to make sure had a living will for the sake of her daughter Bryn, 6.
Still, the specifics of her condition were kept a mystery until this week’s episode, in which she reveals the full extent of her health crisis.
“No one really talks about them,” says Frankel. “I didn’t realize how many people have them. It’s still something women don’t share.”
• For more from Bethenny Frankel and her health journey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Frankel had the fibroids, some of them the size of a softball, removed via surgery in late May.
“It was extremely painful,” says Frankel, who spent three days recovering in the hospital. “I slept in bed for like a week. And I focused on getting healthy, drinking green juices and eating a lot of bright-colored foods so I could help myself heal as fast as possible. You know, just trying not to have a BLT be the first thing I eat.”
Now, she says, “I feel really good. I look forward to walking on the beach. I’m in a really happy place right now. It was, overall, a very enlightening experience.”
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.