Bethany’s Laparoscopic Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 45
Location: Boston, MA
Many years ago now, 15 or so, I was diagnosed with a single tiny fibroid. I would feel it “flutter” from time to time, and occasionally, it would make me feel nauseated. But it was nothing and I rarely thought about it. Fast forward to 2009, 2010… I wanted to get pregnant, and couldn’t, didn’t. All the tests showed that things were normal. I just didn’t get pregnant, until I miscarried in 2011. And still I never thought of my fibroid. Then in the summer of 2014, I noticed that my once flat belly was bulging, that I had to pee all the time, many times in the night. I went to my primary care physician, who thought it was fibroids (I thought, “that tiny 2cm thing I’ve had forever?”). An ultrasound and a few doctor visits later and it was confirmed that the tiny thing was bigger, 8cm now. They thought I had another one too. A hysterectomy was recommended, but I wasn’t ready for so many reasons. I put it off and waited and watched, getting regular ultrasounds. Finally, I scheduled an appointment for September 2015, but I still wasn’t ready and canceled. I don’t know what happened, but psychologically, I couldn’t go through with it, and the doctor seemed unsure about how he could remove them. The thought of an abdominal surgery when I could not have children and wanted them was devastating. And at this point, my only symptom was bulk–I could live with bulk, right?
I waited another eight months or so and could tell the fibroid was changing by the shape of my body. I knew I had to do something; the bulk was too much. But I also knew that the surgeon at the hospital nearest to me was not the right fit. So I got a second opinion at Dartmouth Hitchcock, and was once again told about options but that required more calls and more appointments and I was overwhelmed. I went to a naturopath and an acupuncturist, and then finally a consult at the Fibroid Center at Mass General in Boston in November of 2016. These were my people. I talked about all of the options at that one appointment, I felt heard, I felt confident and taken care of. Mass General had me get an MRI, which I’d not had up until this point. I could SEE the fibroids for the first time and there were nine (!!!), crowded into my body and pushing on my bladder. I knew they had to come out and the surgeon assured me he could do it laparoscopically. I scheduled the next available appointment–February 2017.
I thought about lots of options but ultimately, after speaking with radiologists and surgeons and consulting with so many people, all other options felt like putting off the inevitable. I’d waited a long time and when I felt ready, the hysterectomy felt like the only choice. I knew I wasn’t having children. I knew menopause, maybe in 6 years, would not magically shrink my fibroids. I knew they were likely just going to grow more and my body would continue to feel alien. I also knew that if I waited any longer and they grew any more, I would end up having an abdominal surgery. It was time.
When my surgery date came, I was so relieved. I had spent the past month in a state of anxiety–trying not to get sick, hoping that nothing would happen (a blizzard did, and had me down in Boston a day early with a canceled flight–and a day longer because of the storm on the other end). I was in surgery for longer than they thought, and the first question I asked when I was lucid enough was whether it had actually been laparoscopic (it had!). My surgery was at about 9am and I went home that evening about 7pm, after walking some and finally peeing. Mass General was amazing and I felt so cared for. I ended up with 5 laparoscopic incisions and a two inch incision at my stomach because the fibroids needed to be pulled out. I slept the whole next day but after that, and after the horrid gas pains in my shoulder passed, I was walking some and feeling better.
Recovery was textbook for me. I took six weeks off because I could, and I am grateful I was able to. I rested a lot and found that sitting in bed with my feet up, a reading pillow behind me was the most comfortable. My couch was not. I slept on my back for about 4 weeks before returning to my side. At my two week check up, everything looked good, and I was cleared at about 4 weeks for some things (walking at gym) and 6 for others (sex, lifting). I drove at two weeks–to Boston and back!–but it was exhausting. In fact, fatigue was the thing that plagued me, as it does most women. I slept and slept and slept, and even little excursions wore me out. Going back tow ork at six weeks full time was a mistake and if I’d have known, I would have gone back part-time. My job is intense–I am an assistant principal in a high school–and I was so so tired those first two weeks.
During recovery, I watched a lot of television, knitted some, read some. Mostly I allowed myself the space to heal. I resisted the urge to want to get up and get active, which is my normal mode, and that was the best thing I could do.
I am almost 11 months out from my surgery and I feel great. No more odd bloating, no more multiple trips to the toilet in the night, no more period (though I have some spotting because I kept my cervix). I am back to the gym and active. The two things that have changed since are: one, my PMS is about a thousand times worse regarding mood. I was never very irritable but now find that for at least one day I am in a foul, foul place. I am figuring it out. And two, my once super fast metabolism isn’t the same and weight is harder to keep off. That could also be the result of being 46…
I am so glad I had the surgery. I am also glad I found the right surgeon. It’s a huge thing to do and having the right person at then right hospital is key.
Advice I would give: find the right surgeon and right procedure; get multiple opinions. Feel secure about it. Have friends sign up to bring you meals. Get your resting area set up before you leave because you won’t do it when you get home. Buy loose fitting soft sweatpants (I had none and needed to buy them!). Be good to yourself. Take at least two weeks before doing anything and then take as much more as you can. Talk to other women who have had the surgery–I did this and was glad to have done so. They had real experiences that I could relate to. Don’t read the horror stories on the internet–it’s a good reminder that people often only post when they’ve had a bad go of it. Be sure.