Sharon’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 42
I had a history of stage IV Endometriosis and started having irregular and heavy bleeding at the age of 38. I also had increasing pain and when I had an ultrasound and blood work, a possible diagnosis of ovarian cancer was mentioned so I really wanted to see what was happening in there. It ended up being stage IV Endo again. I had tried hormonal treatments like the pill and couldn’t tolerate it. My body also didn’t like natural progesterone creams. I tried lots of supplements also and nothing seemed to really help. I have been suffering with endometriosis I believe since my period started at the age of 14. I had a laparoscopy to diagnosis and treat it in my twenties. I was then able to have two babies and had some good years while pregnant/nursing, but things gradually came back and really started getting bad from 38 on. I didn’t get a second opinion. I totally trusted my surgeon and we both believed that given my history, he would find endo.
I had an open abdominal surgery with 40 staples! The reason for abdominal surgery was because I had had an intestinal operation as a child with scarring and my surgeon didn’t want to puncture anything he shouldn’t with robotic/scopes. Since I had an elevated CA 125 and huge ovaries, he also didn’t want to spread cancer cells around if that it was turned out to be going on in my body which I appreciated. I was admitted and spent three nights in the hospital which is typical for this type of surgery. As for anesthesia, I am very prone to nausea with anesthesia and I was terrified of having to throw up with a huge abdominal incision so I opted for every nausea med they had and refused all narcotics. I had a duramorph block right before going into the OR because it lasts for 24 hrs and my surgeon said it would help me not need the narcs. He was right. I had no complications and did not use any narcotics and really didn’t need any. Ibnprofen and Tylenol took care of my soreness just fine.
Constipation was an annoying problem no one warned me about, but I soon discovered prune juice and it worked great! I was not very hungry for several weeks post-op and I lost quite a bit of weight. I was thin to begin with so I was looking kind of frail. I was worried about complications based on other people’s experiences, but for the most part I was fine. I was not terribly tired, but I did a good job of resting and letting my family take care of things around the house and my friends brought us dinners for a while. I was told by several of my friends not to do too much too soon. I was off work for ten weeks. At eight weeks post-op I had a UTI and an infection on my vaginal cuff. That bought me two more weeks at home. At ten weeks I also got on my skis with my surgeon’s okay. I had to take it slow and easy at first, but I was soon back at it every weekend. I would say my recovery wasn’t too terribly difficult. At two weeks post-op I started driving my kids to school and I went to the hair salon. In between these outings I was basically on the couch watching TV, but gradually doing more and more.
My biggest worry about life after hysterectomy is organ prolapse and that menopause symptoms will worsen. So far I have occasional hot flashes which are no big deal. I gained back enough weight to look healthy and not skeletal, but overall am smaller than I was pre-op and have a way flatter stomach. I cannot tolerate estrogen so I use a pea-sized amount of Estrace cream vaginally twice a week for urinary discomfort. That is my only issue. I know a couple of women who said they felt and looked great for a couple years post-op and then out of nowhere they felt awful emotionally and gained a ton of weight. I fear that too!
I feel amazing and have not had this flat a tummy since before having my kids! Even with my huge scar I still wear a bikini. I used to get migraines quite often and now I have fewer headaches and when I do they are not nearly as severe. That has been a huge blessing! I am very happy I had this surgery. I do not miss my periods, unpredictable bleeding, having to carry extra clothes, pads, tampons at all!
This is not something to take lightly, but depending on what is going on with a woman it may be the best decision. I think it is important to try non-surgical methods first, but there is something to be said for quality of life and in my case, my quality of life was negatively impacted. My suggestions are to research your surgeon, types of hysterectomies and make an informed decision. If you have nurse friends, they are a good source of information on different doctors/surgeons so ask them for their recommendations. I did and ended up with an amazing surgeon.