Kim’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 34
On February 22nd I woke up with severe abdominal pain, followed by vomiting, and ultimately a trip to emerg. I had no idea that the hours, and news, that followed would change my life forever.
I was quickly rushed through triage and was seen by the doctor working in emergency that morning. Initially he thought I was experiencing ovarian cyst rupturing because of where the pain was most located. My stomach appeared swollen and hard. He ordered urine tests to eliminate an unknown pregnancy etc. Once that possibility was eliminated, he ordered pain medication and abdominal x-rays. I began to understand the severity of my current situation. After the results from the imaging the doctor said more test were needed, and offered little insight into what the images had shown. He ordered stronger pain medication and my journey began.
Firstly, I had an abdominal ultrasound, which was unpleasant and very painful. I cried out in pain and fear for what they might discover. Next, I had an abdominal CT scan, which was not painful but gave me the sensation that I’d soiled myself. I hadn’t but it’s an affect of the radioactive solution they pump into you prior to the imaging. Then came the news. I had an abdominal mass measuring 28/28 cm. WHAT? That was my first thought and then suddenly the word tumour lead to the thought…CANCER. I underwent a slew of blood work and met with the gynocologist on-call. She decided that more scans and tests were needed because the imagery was inconclusive. They couldn’t see where the tumour was coming from and what, if anything, it had destroyed. This amazing Doctor was ultimately one of the many people who helped save my life.
After all of the additional scan the team of doctors decided that I needed to have chest x-rays and CT scans to make sure there weren’t any other tumours before moving forward with what we already knew. This would mean staying in ER overnight because the gun-oncology unit was full. They gave me the option to go home (I did) and digest what they day revealed, with pain meds and strict instructions as to what symptoms demand a quick return to the ER. They scheduled appointment for chest x-rays and CT for 24 hours later.
I didn’t go to that scheduled appointment and it’s probably one of the main reasons I’m alive to tell my story. I did get a second opinion. And that second opinion lead me to and expedited referral, surgery, and ultimately a TAH.
My surgery took place on March 8th, two weeks after I learned that I was sick. I was still in a state of disbelief but I wanted it out! I was terrified that the longer it was left inside the higher my chances were that it’d turn cancerous (blood work showed no indication that it was cancer) or cause more internal damage than it already had.
Prior to my surgery, I met my gynaecological oncologist. She was wonderful and offered all of the information she could; the good, the bad and the ugly. She prepared me for best case scenario (tumour out and cancer free) and the worst case scenario (cancer, tumour out, TAH, bladder and/or bowl removal/reconstruction, damage to intestines, low grade cancer and fertility staging, etc.). I asked about having eggs frozen, but there wasn’t enough time. She said that would postpone the surgery and she could not recommend that. I gave my consent for her to do, and take, whatever she needed to in order to make sure there was no cancer. I didn’t want her to leave any low grade cancer for fertility staging or anything. I wanted it out!
I arrived at the hospital 3 hours before my surgery. I felt prepared and I wanted the tumour out. However, when I arrived they told me my surgery would begin as soon as possible. The person prior was cancelled because she has eaten. They knew my surgery would be lengthy so they decided to get going sooner than planned. This threw me a little but I kept calm. I didn’t panic until I was in pre-op holding room and the surgeon and anesthesiologist came for a chat. Then I realized this was it. Life would never be the same. Not emotionally. Not physically. And perhaps not at all.
My surgery too 7 hours. I had IV and spinal anesthetic. I lost 52% of my blood. I almost died in there. They eventually got the tumour out (4 surgeons) and stopped the bleeding. They reconstructed my bladder tubes and placed my bladder back where it belonged. They took a piece of my small intestine that had been squished beyond repair. They took both ovaries, tubes, uterus, cervix, top of vaginal canal, appendix, lymph nodes, fatty tissue and a piece of “me” during the surgery. BUT they kept me alive and for that I am forever grateful.
I spent the next 5 days in hospital. I had some ups and downs but more ups. I had a lot of pain meds. I had a catheter for 3 days because I struggled to find the strength to get up and out of bed. I had support. I had love. I found the strength. I had 2 blood transfusions. That helped! I heard things and thought things I’d never imagined I’d hear and think. But I’m here. I’m getting better. I know I have people who love and support me through the tough. That’s what matters most!
Recovery. It’s been slow. It took my a few weeks to regain my appetite. A few more weeks to regain my strength. Walking was hard at first. But I did it! It was good for me to get out and do normal things but I was careful not to over do it. Eventually, I battled stairs and realized I needed physiotherapy because I had weakness on my right side. Now, 5 months post-op I am able to look in the mirror and not hate how I look. That takes time. The scar is scary. Not only because of the way it looks, but because of what I means. It will forever be a reminder of what happened and what could have been. And it’s a constant reminder of the part of “me” I lost that day. I will never be able to have biological children. Wowsers!
Surgical menopause has been a big barrier in my recovery. It’s a battle to find a hormonal balance, and dealing with hot flashes and night sweats leads to sleeplessness and anxiety. Although it’s been difficult I am starting to see improvements and believe everyone when they say TIME is the best medicine!!!
My hysterectomy was beyond my control. It was something I didn’t have to choose. There wasn’t another option. I believe that that’s a good thing because if I’m not sure I could have ever made that choice under any other circumstances.
My advise. Listen to your doctors. Ask questions. Ask as many questions as you can. Take time to heal. And most of all let people be a part of your journey. Xo