Rachel’s Hysterectomy Story
Type of Hysterectomy: Total Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Hysterectomy: 46
Location: Fargo, ND
In November of 2014, I went to the Doctor for my annual pelvic exam. I had been having several ongoing issues that seemed to be only getting worse. I assumed that most of my symptoms were due to approaching menopause. (My mother went through menopause at age 50). I had extremely painful periods (my insides felt like they wanted to be on the outsides). I had heavy bleeding with large clots. Our bathrooms at work are a long ways down the hall of our office building and I had to keep an extra change of clothes at work due to sometimes bleeding through pads and tampons and at times it was totally embarrassing. I took Ibuprofen for the pain but it did not seem to help much. The ibuprofen hurt my stomach. There was only one week out of the month where I actually felt somewhat good and had any sort of energy. This is when I tried to get my house cleaned and do all the other things that I could not seem to do for the remaining days of the month. In looking back now I must have been suffering from anemia for years. I would sometimes have my period for two weeks straight, then not have it for a week only to get it right back again a week later. My sex life suffered immensely. If I wasn’t bleeding, I was extremely tired, cranky, bitter and had no libido whatsoever. The sex was painful, and it was heartbreaking to fake that I was not in pain to try and please him. I felt that I would lose him. I felt I was much too young to feel this old. I was depressed and felt like I was going crazy. My once long thick hair started to fall out. My nails became brittle. I couldn’t sleep well at night and had dark circles under my eyes. I was literally exhausted all of the time. I had to frequently urinate and I was constantly constipated. I tried prune juice, eating prunes, laxatives and stool softners. I put on weight around my middle and my clothes didn’t fit right any more. My relationship started to suffer. My work started to suffer. My family started to suffer. I tried very hard to put on a happy face and act like nothing was wrong. But deep down I knew there must be and I was scared.
During my pelvic exam the Doctor exclaimed “Oh my gosh are you pregnant?!” This totally flabbergasted me as my fiancé had a vasectomy 7 years ago. She right away rushed me down the hall to take a pregnancy test. With that test coming back negative and with more feeling around she concluded I had a large pelvic mass. She had me return to the clinic the next day for an ultra sound. I also had blood tests done where they checked for ovarian and pancreatic cancer. With much crying and worrying I did not sleep that night. (Although this seemed to be the norm as of late). I then met with an OB/Gyn Doctor and she diagnosed me with a large uterine fibroid the size of a 5 month pregnancy. At this time there was no sign of cancer. The doctor thoroughly explained my options. I did not get a second opinion. I decided right then and there I wanted this growing life sucking thing out of me! I wanted my life back! I wanted to once again live the life that I had had! For the first time in years I felt HOPE. I wanted the abdominal hysterectomy with the removal of the uterus, cervix and tubes. If the ovaries looked healthy the Doctor said she would leave those so that I would not have to be on hormones. I also started to worry about having the surgery and the complications that sometimes comes with surgery.
We scheduled the surgery for a few weeks away. I needed to prepare for the surgery and my recovery of 6 weeks. I needed to let my workplace and coworkers know. I once again felt embarrassed by my situation and having to explain to my boss and coworkers what was to take place and why. There seemed to be no way around not telling them all the sorted details as to why I would be out from work for so long without producing a baby. I am very fortunate to be employed where they offer short term disability. I also had to research and look up all there is to know about FMLA and fill out much paperwork and such. Also, why does it have to be called a TUMOR? What a truly scary word that is.
The day of my surgery arrives. My mother, fiancé and I arrive at the hospital at 5:30 am as I am to undergo the surgery at 7 am. I am one of the first surgeries of the day. I am guided to a holding room where I am asked to put on a paper gown and throw away socks. These provide no comfort whatsoever and I soon lose all sense of modesty. They take my blood, check my vitals, insert my IV and I am left to sit and watch the clock. I think about my kids, my fiancé, my family, my dog. What would happen to them if for some reason I did not survive the surgery? Would they know how much I truly love them? I bite my lip and try so very hard not to cry. I start to pray. I pray over and over until they wheel me to the operating room. The first thing I notice is how very cold the room is and all the people milling around busy with their tasks. I am told the reason it is so cold in the room is so as to not spread germs. I am asked to slide off my gurney onto the operating table. At that moment I have never felt so alone. I stare at the large lights above and it is soon lights out.
I wake up in recovery to excruciating pain. So much pain that I absentmindedly start doing my long ago learned Lamaze breathing the hee hee whoo, hee hee whoo. My mouth feels like sand paper and I am extremely thirsty. I beg the recovery nurse for water, ice chips, a wet wash cloth even. I also find no comfort there. She is too busy with other things. Thirst must be quite common in recovery as I hear another patient crying and willing to sell her soul for a Mountain Dew. She continues to cry and says she changed her mind, that she no longer wants the surgery. I hear the recovery nurse trying to explain to her that she already has had the surgery and that she is in recovery. This apparently does not sink in with the patient as she continues to cry and beg for no surgery and Mountain Dew. I seem to be amused by all of this and realize my little IV drip from heaven has been hooked up and I am given my very own little push button for when I have pain. I am then told by the nurse that holding down on the button will not help and that the pain meds are only given out at timed dose intervals. Then it is off to my room where I will spend the next three days. The nurse and her helper are sure to hit every door hard with my bed through out the entire hospital as I journey to my room. I am so very pleased.
My room is quite nice. I spend the first day in and out of a pain meds fog. My family comes to visit me. I don’t remember what I all say to them. But I have heard that I was quite comical. But I am sure it is a mix of happy to be alive and wanting to be put of my misery at the same time. I do not want to eat. I only want to drink water and more water. I have a catheter and the nurses soon tire of having to change the bag constantly and me asking for more water. I watch the IV monitor so I am sure I don’t miss a timed dose of pain meds. The nurses on this floor (the Womens unit) are much nicer and more helpful and comforting. I truly respect, admire and am grateful for those that work in the medical profession. I do not sleep well the first night. Nurses are in and out checking my vitals and so on and the pain is right there when any of the pain meds start to wear off. I think I remember eating jello. I will eat a lot of jello the next few weeks as I develop some sort of odd addiction to it. Weird.
The next day right away in the morning I am visited by the Doctor and he checks over my incision, removes the gauze bandages and asks a few questions. He says everything looks good and that the catheter can be removed and I can eat anything I want and that I can start getting up and walking around some. I am so very happy when the nurse comes in to remove the catheter and outfits me with the hospitals version of Victoria Secrets mesh see through granny panties. I make a mental note to bring home a pair of these for the fiancé to see. I know he will be so very pleased. I wonder if they come in blue? I do decide to eat today but not much. The food is all so very bland and I forget to order condiments with my meals as this all needs to be ordered separate. I am able to walk myself to the bathroom. I am given permission to take a shower. The nurse covers my IV with a rubber glove and tape. I am able to take a couple of laps up and down the hall and able to get my own water. This makes the nurses very happy. Throughout the day I feel pretty good, the pain doesn’t seem too bad. The Doctor and nurses decide to wean me off my IV drip and switch me to pills. That evening I feel like I have been run over and then dragged behind a truck. I swear the nurses are all plotting against me and purposely skipped a dose of my pain meds. I realize I have over done it. This too I will find will be my life for the next few weeks. Feeling good one day, over doing it, paying for it the next day. I am not a quick learner. I spend my entire recovery time doing this. I am allowed to go home the next day. I walk sort of hunched over as I cannot stand up straight entirely, must be the granny panties. I hug the nurses that helped me. I am scared to go home and face reality. I am so very fortunate to have family that are so caring, helpful and understanding.
Sneezing and coughing just plain sucks. I was given a breathing apparatus at the hospital to prevent pneumonia. I am to take deep breaths with it ten times a day. It is somewhat of a challenge to take the very long deep breaths to operate it but feels good yet hurts badly to do so. I am thoroughly convinced I now have the lung capacity to take up extended deep sea diving. I spend a good portion of each day wiping what I can down with Lysol. The thought of getting sick right now seems life threatening and unbearable.
One week later I arrive at the clinic to have my incision staples removed. While I am glad to have these pinching, pulling little suckers out I would have to compare the pain to that of having your eyebrows waxed repeatedly. I am not trying to scare anyone just saying. I had two prior c-sections and the surgery was performed along the same scar line. I am not sure if that had anything to do with it but my incision was quite deep between folds of my belly skin. I take quick breaths and deep down mourn to myself the loss of my bikini wearing days. But then I am overcome with pride that that there scar brought into the world two great healthy kids. I now view it as kind of a little badge of honor. I also receive the good news that all the tests run came back negative. No cancer! Turns out “the thing” weighed close to four pounds. I go home and lift a small bag of sugar which weighs four pounds and can now totally understand why I had been so miserable.
Recovery, my wardrobe now consists of sweat pants and yoga pants in the color of figure flattering midnight black. I am also sporting granny panties of several sexy pastel shades and flowers and much to my fiancés joy I no longer feel like wearing a bra. But being there is this six week no sex rule in place. Just a little bit of advice ladies. If your significant other so much as comes near you with that gleam in his eye just flash him a glimpse of the granny panties! It does it every time and he will turn tail and take to his recliner in the living room to watch reruns of Three and a Half Men. Although at four weeks recovery I think I caught him watching an episode of Golden Girls, but I am not sure.
At my five week follow up appointment my doctor was amazed at how well my stitches healed and how good I was doing. She re-explained the still no sex for six week rule. This was a bit disappointing but understandable. She also told me that I am still healing and I will still feel the effects when of when I over do it. She said it could take up to three months to get back to feeling completely good. I am also given the go ahead to go back to work. I wore jeans that day but paid for it the next day. I also got to see a picture of “The Thing”. I thought it would creep me out to see it but it didn’t. As big as it was it was just hard to imagine that it had once been inside me. I feel very fortunate to have been able to have two kids before having to have the hysterectomy.
Each day I am feeling more and more like myself again. I am losing weight. I feel good. I feel like there is so very much that I want to do and it seems like I will now have the energy to do it. I am excited. I am looking forward to this spring and this summer. I am looking forward to making up for lost time and I am Happy! I am in no way regretting my decision to have the surgery. I just wish I would have been diagnosed and done it sooner. What I would recommend to other women is to not just assume that it is menopause or that what they are feeling is in any way normal. Do not wait until your annual pelvic exam because of insurance not wanting to pay for it. If your life has changed gradually yet drastically like mine did see an OB/Gyn immediately. Do not rely on walk in clinics and so on. Seek a Doctor that specializes In female problems. Best wishes to you and yours. Rachel