Diana’s (LAVH) Vaginal Hysterectomy
Type of Hysterectomy: LAVH
Age at surgery: 37
Location: North Dakota
I had my hysterectomy for a number of reasons. To start with, by age 28, I had menstrual cycles that would knock me out for a minimum of two days. As the years went on, I gradually got used to the pain and excessive bleeding during each cycle. I passed clots the size of a fist each cycle and would completely soak through a pad in less than one hour’s time.
I went to several Dr.’s, each of them looking at me as if I were crazy and telling me I was fine and that nothing was wrong with me. I was never offered any treatments or diagnosis, only told it would reduce over time. By 32, I began to ask each OB/GYN if I could have a hysterectomy because I couldn’t stand it any longer. Each said no due to my age, never mind the fact that my tubes had been tied since age 27, they all insisted I may want children in the future.
Every time I saw a doctor I had a PAP done. Each time it would come back with “abnormal” results and I would be told it’s nothing to worry about; they would just keep an eye on it next year. After about 5 years of this, I simply quit going for my yearly exams, after all if they aren’t concerned about abnormal results why should I?
By age 35, I began to experience pressure in my pelvic region, back pain in my lower back, intercourse became painful, and occasionally it would feel as if something were falling out of my vagina. I had problems leaking urine, something I attributed to having children. I would alternate between constipation and severe diarrhea, all the while wanting a hysterectomy due to my terribly menstrual cycles.
I was blessed in 2013 to be offered a wonderful position in a company with superior health benefits. I began going to a Dr. again on a fairly regular basis. By 2015 I was comfortable enough with her to discuss my struggle. I was diagnosed with Uterine Prolapse and offered a pessary or a hysterectomy. I opted for the hysterectomy and was then referred to a Dr. who could help me with that. As part of the preparation process I had an ultrasound and a vaginal ultrasound. It was then that I was told I had uterine cancer.
As part of the hysterectomy, my uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes were removed and sent off for pathology. I had been living with Stage IIIA Uterine Cancer for goodness only knows how long. I am thankful that I did not require any additional cancer treatment, I saw an oncologist who told me that pathology showed it to be only in the uterus and she is confident that I am cancer free. I will continue to have my blood levels monitored, but so far surgery was enough to reduce them significantly. I was able to keep my ovaries as they show no signs of cancer and had been tied off for over 10 years.
For me the surgery experience was about what I would have expected. I had a general anesthesia. I have always had a hard time getting my veins to cooperate and this time was no different. The nurse tried three times and was not able to get it, so they sent in the anesthesiologist. She talked with me for a while, used a local anesthetic to get a small line in and then told me they would use it to put me to sleep in the OR and change it after I was out. It may not seem like much, but with the nerves I already had going, this one small thing made a world of difference to me!
Once I was in the OR, I asked them if it would be alright for me to say a prayer. They gathered around me and I began to pray. I don’t remember finishing that prayer, don’t even know if I got more than three words of it out, but them being willing to pause and gather with me was again wonderful.
Post-op was rougher than I had expected. I was very sick from the pain medication they gave me (found out later that I am allergic to the narcotic combination I was given) though this was by no fault of anyone else. I was terrified to throw up because I knew I had stiches in my vagina and was afraid they would come undone. My fear didn’t matter, because I threw up for hours. Each time I would vomit, they would give me more pain medication thinking it was being caused by pain.
Thank the good Lord for my husband, he noticed the correlation of vomit and pain meds and finally asked me if I was in a lot of pain. I told him I really couldn’t feel any pain, only the need to vomit. He talked to my new nurse (shift change time) and asked her to hold off on giving me anymore. She reluctantly agreed, assuring me that if I needed it all I had to do was ask for it.
I did begin to feel a bit better; at least I could get up off the bathroom floor and walk the halls a few times before having to vomit again. To me it seems as if this part lasted for ever, but I honestly have no idea how long it went on for. I went in for surgery at 10am and believe it was just over three hours long.
I was scheduled as an out-patient and was therefore expected to go home. I asked the nurse if I could be allowed to stay the night and was told they would have to try to get the doctor on the phone to get approval. It was after 9pm and she said it may take a while.
December 23rd in North Dakota, it was COLD and SNOWING, not anything new, but still. We were four hours away from home. We finally decided we would just go to a hotel room and drive home the next morning. When I informed the nurse of this, she told us that the hospital had a “guest house” that we could stay at just a short walk up the road.
I distinctly remember my husband asking her if he should get the car for me and drive it. He was told it wouldn’t be worth the drive. Let’s just say he regretted not retrieving the car to get me there. We made it none the less and as soon as we checked in and got into our room, I had to vomit again.
Good news, that was the LAST time I vomited! Small victory that felt huge to us. I was finally able to sleep. I slept hard and woke up around 4:30 in the morning feeling fantastic and ready to go home, so we did.
For me personally, my recovery was a breeze. I felt fantastic, had lots of energy and didn’t worry about anything. I had laparoscopic gallbladder surgery November 10th. That was an exhausting recovery; I had lots of constant pain and zero energy. With my hysterectomy surgery being less than 45 days later I was very surprised at how good I felt.
For me the greatest challenge in recovery was not over extending myself. Less than 10 days after surgery, my husband and youngest son were playing with a balloon in the house. I jumped up to swat at it and when I landed I felt like the inside of my belly had come unzipped! That was when I realized that even though I felt great, I still needed to take it a bit easy.
I was off work for a full six weeks. I am thankful for that time even if I did feel good because it allowed me to slow down a bit, get pampered and rest as much as my body needed. I was anxious to attempt intercourse with my husband again because I didn’t know what kind of different it would be. I was worried that my ‘new’ vagina wouldn’t be the right size (it’s ok to laugh at this ladies). Turns out, sex after hysterectomy for me is amazing! No more pain, and completely different feelings!
My health has only improved since my hysterectomy. I am so very thankful that I have done this. I have been able to lose weight after struggling for five years just to maintain it; my body as a whole feels healthier. I am sharper and clearer in my thoughts because they aren’t consumed by discomfort and pain that I never realized was actually pain.
I would tell anyone considering a hysterectomy that it is a life changing event. Depending on your circumstances, your medical health, your mindset, it can be a fantastic life changing event or a dramatic one. For me and my family it has been a wonderful and welcoming change.
Most importantly for anyone, I recommend listening to your body. If you feel like something isn’t right, trust your instinct. I felt for years that something wasn’t right, but I listened to doctors instead. Don’t be like me, push the doctors and make them figure it out. My story could have been dramatically different if not for the blessing of a wonderful doctor who listened to me. I am truly blessed and feel as if I have a new lease on life.
Also, if you have a spouse or better half who knows you well, listen to them as well. My husband saved me from what would have been days of vomiting and feeling terribly by asking me one simple question. He knew me well enough that he could tell I wasn’t really in pain. He had a feeling that the medicine they were giving me was making me worse. I thank God for him each day, and this was just one area where God let me see why we were created for each other.