Cindy’s Vaginal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 48
Location: Paris, France
I had a hysterectomy to avoid developing cervical cancer, since I had a recurrence of high-grade dysplasia of cervical cells four years after their first appearance and a cone surgery in that first instance. The pre-cancerous cells were due to HPV. There was really no choice. I was very healthy, youthful, energetic, not ill in the least, but that mortal danger had to be dealt with. I did not hesitate, and had the surgery less than a month after the biopsy result was in.
I had a total aneasthesia, in a lovely clinic in Paris, and stayed in four nights. I was in fine shape in the immediate aftermath of the operation, once the anaesthesia and unwelcome, post-op morphine had worn off. Since I had no incision – the operation ended up being entirely vaginal – I was in no pain whatsoever, except for the slight back cramping due to the position duing surgery.
Recovery has been very difficult. At first, it all seemed so easy – no pain, no incision. I had gone into the surgery confident and reassured. But I had no idea what lay ahead. I was constipated for nearly 3 months post op, and after three weeks of it, I developed a mild rectocele that freaked me out and signalled the start of a new, pretty dark phase of the recovery. It became the (slightly) visible embodiment of the invisible trauma I had suffered inside. As soon as the 6 weeks’ initial recovery period were up, I started pelvic floor training with the midwife who had birthed my second son, and with whom I should have worked back then – two natural childbirths do take a toll on us… She taught me visualization techniques that I practice every day and that took me, over a couple of months, from a 0 to a 4 out of 5, as she told me. (Kegels are fine but not enough since they only access a couple of the 8 musce groups that make up the pelvic floor.) I still feel fragile but it is a psychological perception rather than a reality.
And in fact, it is psychologically that I suffered most since the operation. I felt often as if my self was no longer aligned – the somatic integrity of the self has been assaulted, after all, as is the case after any major surgery, but the amputation of the organ of life for the sake of it not killing me has felt like a trauma of an even deeper nature. I often felt somewhere else, “not myself”. I’ve kept both my ovaries but clearly the hormone levels were affected: I had moments where I simply wanted to die, or thought I was about to die, as if my life had ended. Libido was down even though I was very sexual before. Now I felt different down there, what with the strange mini-rectocele bulge slightly changing my anatomy, and all the nerves as if re-arranged. I was also so hyper-aware of that anatomy, and of my emotional states, that the intense focus on self became claustrophobic and ultimately self-defeating. I had to start letting go. Yet whenever I did just live, and let myself be, and work, I found the immense fatigue impeding a fullness of experience and a difficulty with concentration. I sometimes panicked, until I reminded myself to let time do its thing. And I sought, and found, great help in energetic medicines and herbal therapy, learning a lot in the process.
After the initial, prolonged constipation and occasional, strange urinary issues many of us have post-op had disappeared, my physical health returned to its good state – apart from the immense fatigue. People told me I looked great. I resumed my daily yoga practice as soon as I was able to. I had sessions of osteopathy, holistic bodywork, acupuncture, shiatsu, and sophrology, which helped tremendously. I used herbal supplements for each issue – successfully. And once I started taking maca, my hormones slowly re-adjusted themselves, and my libido started returning. My husband was happy to see me return. My health was great before the hysterectomy – the pre-cancerous cells obviously didn’t cause any symptoms – so I can only say that the operation negatively affected it. But it is likely I would have developed a deathly cancer without it, and may even be dead by now. So yes, I regret having had to do it. But I am happy to be alive and rid of that menace! One can call it a lucky save, thanks to excellent screening.
The most important thing to remember is that, like any other major surgery, the fatigue that follows this one is immense, and unfathomable. And it can take a real toll on quality of life, on the capacity to feel, to communicate, to live. The body-mind is in shock for a long while after. Taking out this non-vital, but energetically central organ takes a deep toll. We need time to recover, Everyone experiences this differently, But I do think it is important 1) not to underestimate the depth of the assault – it is an amputation after all; and 2) not to underestimate our capacity to heal, and to reconstitute ourselves. We are plastic, somatically and psychically, and ultimately, we are strong and powerful. With time, patience, care, energetic practices, meditation, relaxation, massage, gentle exercice, yoga, nature, friends, love, and good food, we do recover, and recover also our energetic and libidinal engagement in the world. But yes it takes time.