Mattie’s Hysterectomy Story
Type of Hysterectomy: Total Abdominal Hysterectomy with Removal of Ovaries and Cervix
Age at Hysterectomy: 38
Location: Augusta, GA
I am the type of woman that I have never had any problems with my cycles. I was always on time, always had a normal 5 day on and the rest of the month off cycle. No pain, no problems what so ever. That is, until 2012 I decided that I wanted my IUD removed and to have a tubal ligation. The IUD was embedded in the wall of my uturus so I had to have a procedure done to remove it. I figured why not have the ligation done at the same time? My doctor talked me in to having my tubes burnt rather than cut. I was not informed of the small percentage that it could damage my ovaries permanently. I had the procedure in Nov of 2012 and by Feb of 2013 I had gained over 40 pounds and my periods were a nightmare. I started having night sweats, mood swings, depression, suicidal thoughts. I thought I was Bi-Polar. I had no idea what was going on and I did not connect the dots. One day at work I stood up to walk to the printer but the moment I stood up, my period which was not even due literally hit the floor and covered my shoes in blood. I raced to the facilities leaving a trail of blood in my wake. My boss said the clean up was like someone had been murdered. I passed a clot the size of a cantelope that day.
I made an appointment to see my OBGYN and he recommended an ablation to control the bleeding. I still had not connected the dots to my horrible emotions. I cannot even express how terrible I felt. I came very close to suicide several times. I would lock myself in a room to keep from screaming obscenities to my family. My husband was at his wits end and did not know what to do. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was losing my mind. The emotional turmoil was worse than the physical I. I suffered from severe leg pain, constant headaches, lower back pain and yet my emotions were compounded by the fluctuations of my hormones. I now compare the loss of my ovaries to a flooded car. Imagine driving your car into a river. The engine shuts down completely and the car sits on the bottom of the river for a while. A tow truck pulls the car out and as it dries, a mechanic thinks he can restore this totaled mess (ie. the doctor) So he works on the engine, dries the car out and gets it cranked back up but before you know it, mold is growing inside the car and the engine won’t run continuously as it keeps shutting off. My ovaries were totaled just like the car in the water. There was not a thing I could do to get them functioning properly again. So my doctor suggested the ablation not considering the emotional trauma I was going through. We did the ablation in 2013. After a few months, I started bleeding again. The emotional trauma never ceased. I would have at most 5 good days out of a month. After the failure of the ablation, he suggested a hysterectomy. We did an ultra sound and discovered what he said at the time was about 10 very small fibroids inside the uturus. Not outside of the uturus. After the surgery it was determined that I actually had hundreds of very small fibroids inside of the uturus and adenomyosis.
Once I had decided on the hysterectomy I started researching it and discovered that my ovaries were the problem with my emotions and I was relieved. My doctor said that I could do Hormone Replacement Therapy and that would take care of the swings, the sweats and the instability I felt. So we also decided to remove them at 38. I had cysts on them as well that never went away. I never got a second opinion because I trusted my doctor of 22 years. On hindsight, I think perhaps I should have gotten a second opinion. I suffered greatly for 2 years before the hysterectomy and I am slowly getting back to normal.
I had the abdominal bikini cut for my surgery. He removed my uturus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, the whole nine yards. When I prepared for the surgery, I thought I had everything covered. I had a recliner to sleep in when I got home. I had a table beside the recliner with a drawer for all of my medicines. A back scratcher, pillows, a fan, blankets, books, yarn and needles. Everything that I could possible want to keep myself entertained and taken care of. I had shopped for food ahead of time and put things in the house that would be easy for my 17 year old son to make for me during the day, things that were easy for my husband to cook for dinner at night. I thought I had thought of everything. I realized later that I couldn’t close the recliner because it was not automatic among a few other small issues.
Then the day of the surgery. I went in early, I was the first in the morning to have the procedure. They prepped me, put in my IV, shaved me, etc. Off to the surgery and I was surrounded by ten people at least. Lights out came fast and I woke up in my room. I don’t remember the recovery room at all. When I woke up I was numb in my incision. They had me on a morphine drip and an oxygen mask. They refused to allow me to take off the mask and I was not allowed to eat anything the first day. I was able to hit the morphine drip whenever I needed it but it was limited. My room was very tiny and seemed overcrowded. I had a visitor from church show up and I was not happy about that. I was drugged and barely remember the visit but I had explicitly told my husband that I wanted no vistors other than family before the surgery. This was a young beautful woman who was only concerned about me but I felt like a fat frump on drugs so it was not the most comfortable experience.
The would not let me eat until I could pass gas. I have IBS so this was very difficult for me to do if I was not allowed to eat. I was able to have a liquid diet but I did not have the taste for what they offered and I was nausous a good bit. I was not able to pass gas that first day. The second day, they took me off of the morphine but kept me on oxygen for a while longer. The doctor came in and removed the bandages and wanted me to stand and move so that maybe I could pass gas. My daughter helped me get a shower and move around a bit. I had staples in my lower belly and my belly was around the size of being six months pregnant. I was very swollen from trapped gas and inflammation. The nurse brought me my medicines, two pain killers, some antacids and a stool softener. Let me advise, taking two pain killers on an empty stomach is a not a good thing. They worked great at first, but when I woke up I had a headache the size of Texas. I refused pain killers after that until I was writhing in pain on the bed and the nurse insisted that I take at least one. They had me on Percocets at the time.
After day two I was able to do my business and they started me on solid foods. I wasn’t able to eat as much as I thought I would but it was nice to have something in my stomach. The room being small was unpleasant but the nurses and staff were very nice and that made up for it. I did have to do breathing treatments for two weeks after the surgery. I was able to go home on day three. My recommendation is to have the hospital staff give you a pain reliever right before you leave the hospital. Time it just so.. so that you have time to get your prescriptions filled before getting home. It is also nice to have your space already set up at home. If you can get someone else to fill your prescriptions for you before going home, that would be even better. Take Miralax for the first three months after your surgery every day. I still take mine over a year later. It is very important to do this in the first months after surgery.
Emotionally, the first few months after my surgery were much better. I was slowly losing the Estrogen that was built up in my system. It took about six weeks for me to get hot flashes again. The thing with my ovaries, when they were shut down they stopped producing estrogen, then when they were trying to work again they flooded my body with too much estrogen. I gathered this from research and experience as well as talking with my doctor.
On the third day home from the hospital I had an aspiration attack. I was sleeping in the recliner and woke up choking, gagging and coughing so bad that I vomited. My son came running into the room but by then my incision was bleeding. It hit me hard while I was sleeping so I did not have time to put pressure on my incision. The left side of my incsision tore open and was bleeding. From what I understand, there are many layers of sutures inside of you when you have this type of surgery. I am to believe that several of those layers popped open. I had to visit my doctor every day for roughly two weeks for him to scrape dead skin and resuture with the tape they used. I had staples orginally but after the aspiration attack they removed the staples early. My scar is ridged on the left side from this event and the left side is still numb and still healing inside. It itches occasionally more than a year later. The funny thing about that, is when it itches I cannot find the itch to scratch. It is deep inside and the incision is still numb.
The greatest challenge for me was my lack of strength. I went in to the surgery strong, able to run three to five miles a day and came out weak as a kitten. It has been over a year now and I am just able to start building my strength again. I no longer run but I have taken up bike riding. It has also been a challenge getting my hormone levels straight. At this point I have opted to stop taking all hormone replacement therapy and I am feeling much better without it. It seems that my body developed an intolerance to the estrogen. I do not have any night sweats or other symptoms of estrogen loss right now but when and if I do I know that I have other options. I am no longer depressed, no moodiness, no insomnia or anger issues. My husband feels like he has his wife back.
As for intimacy, we did have to wait a long time for that one. I have a vaginal cuff so that had to heal as well and the fear of sex after surgery was a big one for me. It took over three months for me to be fully healed enough to attempt sex and for the first year after we were very gentle. Even now I am a little afraid of getting too “rough” with sex but as time goes on it gets better and better. The myth that sex is lost after this surgery is just that… a myth. My husband and I have a great sex life of at least three times a week. During the down time that we had to wait, the doctor cleared me for other sexual activities that did not involve penetration but that was only after eight weeks.
For work issues, I was not ready to go back to work after six weeks. Everyone is different, but I was not ready for at least three months. I know not everyone has the option of quitting their jobs, but I did so I gave my notice before I left for surgery. It was a blessing that I did as well because this has been a very long recovery for me.
My health is improving and I am now very happy that I had the hysterectomy. I have no more heavy bleeding, a great sex life, I am slowly starting to lose the weight that I had gained. I am building muscle again and doing sit ups again. I do have issues with dry skin and vaginal dryness. Recently I had also noticed dry eyes as well. There are creams and drops to help with these issues and I would rather face this than depression, anger, embarrassment, etc. It was difficult at first, realizing that I could never have children again. I had to grieve and process the changes my body was going through, still going through. It is not an overnight fix, for some women I have spoken with it was the best thing since sliced bread, and for others they have sincere deep regrets. I would say that this is a very deep personal choice that each woman has to make. Make an informed decision, research your options and if you have the option of waiting then wait until you are no longer confused about it and want the relief from your symptoms. Coming out on the other side of this surgery, I am a much happier wife, mother, friend, lover and person overall.
If you are considering a hysterectomy, consider your ovaries and how they are making you feel at this moment. Are they causing you emotional damage? Are they healthy and viable to keep you out of Menopause for years to come? I have spoken with many women who kept their ovaries and then after the surgery had to go back in later and have them removed. For some women their ovaries go to sleep and then later wake up and work properly, for others like myself they will never be the same. ( The Flooded Car) It is easier to undergo the surgery once and be done with it than it is to have to go under the knife a second time to remove the ovaries. Explore your options with that and do what you are comfortable with. Once they are gone, you cannot get them back.
I would also make sure that your significant other is involved in the research and entire process with you. Let them talk to the doctor as well. Print articles and have them on board because this surgery does not just affect you but those that live with you and those that are around you daily. Have the most important people in your life as involved as possible. It truly helps to have someone understand what you are going through, someone to talk with and bounce ideas off of, someone that you can cry with or laugh with and someone that will actually help you with cooking, cleaning, etc. without being critical of you.