Rachel’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 24
Location: Halifax/Nova Scotia/Canada
After years of abnormal cell changes- mild, moderate, severe, precancerous and finally cancerous results from colposcopy clinic visits- I was scheduled for a conization. I went into have the day surgery and results came back they found more cancer and they explained I would need a hysterectomy.
I was referred to an oncologist where they quickly explained again I needed a hysterectomy and put me on a clinical trial for radical vs simple hysterectomy. I thought the surgery was going to be laparoscopic at the time.
I was given a general anesthesia and remember waking up in agony. I remember feeling very overwhelmed and confused and sobbing uncontrollably for what felt like a long time once I became conscious. My brave face I had put on for my friends, family and children vanished.
I ended up being in the hospital for a week due to not being able to urinate on my own and getting an infection. My surgeon was not very empathetic or personable but many of the nurses were wonderful.
The biggest challenge for me was, that I was completely unprepared and had no idea what to expect. I had planned to avoid taking pain medication unless it was absolutely necessary so I could pump (breast milk) for my daughter while in the hospital. Pain medication was definitely needed. I hadn’t expected to swell up like a balloon for months afterwards from bloating and swelling. I knew there was a risk of bladder damage but put myself in the naive “it can’t happen to me” category. I had expected to recover a lot quicker than I have and I had not anticipated the anxiety I would feel afterwards. I cry every time I see a baby now, and although I wasn’t sure I wanted more children prior to surgery, my heart aches now knowing I no longer have the option, and now I want another baby more than anything.
I was sent home with a foley catheter and had to return 2 weeks later to get it out and try to urinate on my own. After straining for quite a while I was able to and was sent back home. I then had to try to train my bladder to wake up by trying different positions, double voiding, etc and thought it would return to normal within the next few weeks.
It has been close to a year now since my surgery. I have gained 15 lbs, I’m still learning to manage my anxiety, and my bladder still isn’t cooperating. I have recently met with a urologist and had urodynamics testing. I have urinary retention and now need intermittent catheterization. However, in the grand scheme of things, I have learned a lot. I have learned life is precious and if urinary retention is something I need to learn to live with, that’s okay because the key word is live. I may not get to have another baby, but I have 2 children I get to stick around and be a mother to. I have sometimes wondered if there were other options, or if I made the right choice, but I spoke to my doctor recently and she said it was absolutely medically necessary, and although I am young, and it’s horrible to have gone through this at my age, it’s something I am going to get through. So for that, I am grateful.
I would recommend anyone who is considering a hysterectomy to ask questions and prepare yourself. Find out exactly what is going to take place, how long recovery time is, if it’s absolutely necessary or if there are other options. Learn the risks associated and determine if they are worth the risk if that risk were to happen to you, and reach out for support if you need it. Everyone recovers differently and it is okay to feel overwhelmed.