Tanesa’s Hysterectomy Story
Type of Hysterectomy: Vaginal
Age at surgery: 27 at time of hysterectomy
Location: Kansas City
I had just turned 9 when I started my menses. At that point in my life, my first period was the worst pain I had ever felt. The pain was so severe, in fact, that many years later when I gave birth, I couldn’t say that it was much more painful for me than a normal monthly period. Every month my cycle was absolutely excruciating and that never got better. I don’t even want to contemplate how many days of my life were wasted laying in the fetal position on the shower floor or in bed with a hot pad.
Of course, my mother took me to Doctors, but at those early stages they never saw anything to indicate that I had any sort of pathological issue. Mundane solutions were offered… birth control for regulation, physical therapy to strengthen muscles, basic pain relievers, iron and other supplements to replace what was lost through heavy bleeding, etc. My blood loss was heavy enough that I would occasionally pass out, but, compared to the pain, the syncopal episodes were pretty tolerable.
As I got older, the blood loss only increased. After I had my son at age 24, I started having massive clots (almost palm sized sometimes) along with the bleeding. The problem was so severe that I literally couldn’t leave the restroom for hours, and leaving my home was simply out of the question. Tampons and pads became tools that only bought me enough seconds to run to the toilet.
At that time, I was in Paramedic school, and nearing the point where I would need to complete a field internship. Obviously, being on an ambulance in a rural community simply wasn’t feasible during my monthly cycle. My Doctor completely understood the dilemma, although he was hesitant to perform the hysterectomy due to my age and the fact that I only had one child.
My Doctor did two ablations prior to my hysterectomy. When both ablations proved to be unsuccessful, he did a vaginal hysterectomy.
I had full anesthesia and remained in the hospital overnight. The only negative aspect to my hysterectomy experience was entirely my fault… Prior to surgery, I had requested adamantly that no analgesics be given to me for fear that I would get sick. My request was reluctantly granted and I woke up from anesthesia with absolutely no pain medication on board. I would not recommend that.
I finally agreed to take morphine after copious amounts of anti-emetics were given to head off nausea. After that I slept nearly through until the next day and from that point on, it really was easy going. I was able to go home the day following my surgery and I never used any medications other than ibuprofen for pain.
For me, it was a fantastic experience. I remember that the hysterectomy patients were kept far away from other sections of the OB floor, like where the babies are. There was a sort of apologetic, sensitive affect to everyone who dealt with me. That atmosphere didn’t mesh with how I felt about the entire experience. I felt like rejoicing for being free! … Not mourning a loss.
My recovery was very easy. I was single at the time and my mom came to stay with me to help out and whatnot. I stayed in bed for the first day after I came home, but then I distinctly remember being ready to get out of bed and get on with things, and her arguing. I bled for several weeks, lightly, but there was no pain. At least certainly not like the pain I had dealt with before. Any pain I felt in those weeks of recovery was an annoyance at worst.
There were other positive changes that I noticed also. For one, I stopped passing out, which had been a fairly regular occurrence for me since the time when I first started my periods 18 years before. I passed out one last time in the week after my hysterectomy. It’s been 8 years now, and I’ve not had any syncopal episodes since.
Finally, prior to my hysterectomy, I had ridiculous cravings for things I shouldn’t eat …. sand, erasers, dirt, among other things. It always embarrassed me and so I never mentioned it. I realize now, however, that the cravings were directly related to deficiencies brought on by my blood loss every month. As I got further away from my hysterectomy, the cravings disappeared progressively until there were no more!
The first 3 years after my hysterectomy were beyond phenomenal! I felt like I had a new life. I was able to complete my Paramedic course. I had never lived without the dread of the next monthly cycle. I got remarried and my new husband and I could take trips without any pre-planning as to when my cycle would occur (important for a plethora of reasons, not the least of which is that we both scuba dive). The relief from my monthly cycles was palpable in so many aspects of daily living. I wasn’t weak anymore from blood loss. Before my hysterectomy, I would barely recover from the previous cycle before I’d start a new one. After my hysterectomy, I felt strong and healthy, like I couldn’t remember ever feeling before.
Unfortunately, after about 3 years things began to change. At first, I had nightmares that I had never had a hysterectomy at all and that I was on my period again. I would wake up cramping. It perplexed me. I wondered if it was possible to have ghost pains from a uterus, like when a limb is amputated. Gradually, the cramping began to occur during waking hours also. To say this depressed me would be an understatement.
About 4 years after my hysterectomy, I actually started to bleed again. Spotting so light, at first, that only I could see the colored tinge on toilet paper. Gradually it increased to where my husband could also see it and, eventually, I had to start using a light days pad. I went to an OB/Gyn that “suspected” endometriosis, although he was’t able to see any evidence of it himself. If anything, he almost seemed skeptical of my claims, which irritated me. Overall, he was quite dismissive and prescribed me birth control. I took the birth control, but my monthly symptoms progressively became worse, until I was having a full blown period every month.
Granted, I didn’t bleed profusely like I had before my hysterectomy, at least not outwardly. However, I cramped and had horrible back pain that radiated down into my legs, and my lower abdomen would swell. I never fully passed out again, but I became light headed and felt weak. At 6 years post-hysterctomy, I went to the Doctor again and more or less demanded an ultrasound. I had intense ovarian pain and wanted to have my ovaries removed. The ultrasound was granted, but I received the same dismissive tone overall, and felt like I was being accused of hypochondria.
As luck would have it, my husband was in medical school at the time. In his 3rd year of medical school, he did a rotation with a young OB/gyn that he was extremely impressed with. Joe relayed my issues to this Doctor, and the Doctor, in turn, said that he would love to see me as a patient. From that point on, things progressed quickly. The new Doctor performed another ultrasound. Over the almost 2 years that had elapsed from one ultrasound to the next, my left ovary had morphed into a softball type mass of mixed substance (liquid and solid). I was immediately referred to oncology for surgery.
On January 12, 2016, an OB/Gyn oncologist removed both of my ovaries via a DaVinci device. Years of endometriosis combined with cysts rupturing repeatedly had caused scar tissue that fused my left ovary to my intestines. My left ovary was so encased in scar tissue and adhesions that it wasn’t even visible. My right ovary had fused to where my cervix used to be in the same manner. Signs of internal hemorrhage were abundant and both sides tested positive for precancerous markers. My oncologist also had me get a colonoscopy. It was strictly done out of an abundance of caution and we didn’t expect it to come back with anything, however, I had a colon polyp removed and the pathology came back as “pre-cancerous.”
As of writing this, I am almost 4 weeks post-op from my oophorectomy. I can’t take any estrogen for quite a long time due to the massive amounts of endometrial tissue that needs to atrophy and die. I’m tired, but I can’t honestly say that my fatigue is worse than before my surgery. I remain a little sore from the surgery, but the pain…. that ever so familiar cramping…. is gone and this time, I know it’s gone for good.
I would hate to recommend an unwarranted hysterectomy, especially because some women aren’t happy with the results. Conversely, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I have never regretted it for a second.
Some women feel less feminine and unattractive following a hysterectomy. For me, however, monthly exsanguination on a toilet and juggling pounds of maxi pads tended to make me feel unattractive. Post-op, I felt feminine, clean and beautiful in a way that I had never experienced before.
Many women regret their inability to have more children. My Doctor who performed my hysterectomy knew I was single at the time and even discussed this with me. I remember him saying, “You’re single now. What if you meet a man and get married again and want to have a baby with him?”
My answer was that I would happily do foster care and we would adopt, which is precisely what has happened.
Overall, my hysterectomy provided me with a lot of relief initially and if I had it to do all over again, I absolutely would.