Jenny’s Vaginal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 37
Location: Maryland, USA
I think that I probably suffered for literally my whole life since menarche at 11. My first summer I was already soaking pads and ruining clothes every period. I became anemic and sluggish despite having been a very active child. I felt disgusted and ashamed and frightened of my body, and I was always getting sick, having headaches and shortness of breath, etc. I went on the pill at 14 as a virgin to make the bleeding a little more bearable and was on versions of it much of the rest of the time. I’m actually still on it even though I kept my ovaries because I also have severe PMDD.
I knew from my late teen years that a hysterectomy was pretty much inevitable. My mother had one for fibroids when I was in my early 20’s, and nearly all of my female blood relatives have had them too. My first cousin had hers at an even younger age than me for endo. But, of course, through my 30’s the gynecologists wouldn’t offer me anything more substantive than different formulations of the pill, no matter how many times I told them that I was absolutely, categorically, no way no how interested in having biological children, and that I probably couldn’t even have them safely due to MTHFR mutation and several nasty genes that I thought it was unconscionable to pass on.
When I started to bleed right through my continuous pills, feel faint all the time, and started having GI symptoms so severe that it was difficult to hold down a job, I knew I had to step it up. My local GYN had never been willing to seriously discuss surgery despite diagnosing me with adenomyosis, and no one in town could do laparoscopic vaginal on a nulliparous patient. So I searched for well-reviewed out of town surgeons who would take my insurance.
I had a preparatory D&C to check for cancerous cells, then went back to the hotel (traveling for surgery) for two days. Biopsy negative. I then had the surgery under general anesthesia. There were only two laparoscopic incisions. Most of the removal was vaginal. I went back to the hotel the same day and rested there for 2 days before my follow-up appointment. I then got the pathology report and went home.
My recovery was quite difficult relative to the surgical method. Initial stuff was pretty predictable: extreme pain from constipation, exhaustion, feeling punched in the stomach, weird cognitive and emotional effects of the anesthesia that took about a month to completely go away. But the fatigue lasted much, much longer. Until about the seven month mark, I just felt like doing anything was an effort beyond my abilities. It terrified me how long I was taking getting better. Constipation also lasted quite a long time.
The worst thing, that I’m sure greatly damaged my healing, was not just that I went right back to work after returning from the surgery travel (I was working an hourly job and couldn’t afford to take any more unpaid time). It was that, literally my first morning back when I was sitting there high on Percocet and held together with a compression band, my boss told the whole group that we were being laid off. I’m not kidding. This happened. Honestly, I’m amazed that I didn’t get septicemia from the shock, because I did go completely into medical shock and I don’t have great immunity. I still can’t entirely process that something like this happened, and I feel sick typing it. I really hope that this never happens to another Sister!!!
Now that I’m almost a year out, my health is definitely better. I have more stamina and am not suffering from much shortness of breath. My brain fog is less severe as the iron and B12 eventually return to healthier levels. My BMs are finally regular and normal-looking, when right before the surgery once I diahrrea-d myself AT WORK with what I thought was a fart, it was that bad.
My self-image is also better. I know that women who wanted children are likely to have very different emotional experiences, but since I always knew I didn’t want them, and since I had such a painful, early, and humiliating preteen experience of menstruation, not having to deal with a uterus has made me feel so much more comfortable in my body, and not imprisoned by a monthly debilitating agony that had no relationship to any goals that I myself had (maybe even made me feel like I was less of a woman because I didn’t want to ever have a baby).
Sex hasn’t quite come back to normal, due to extreme stress more than the actual hysterectomy (though it was often painful before). But progress is being made.
Honestly, if your body is telling you that it’s time, and you and your partner have worked through all the discussions about children/more children, then don’t let doctors make your health decisions for you based on your age. My biggest regret is that I didn’t have it at least five years earlier.
I always knew something was wrong (but being raised in the ideology of “the curse”, it took a long time to realize that it wasn’t just what all girls go through). And my body sense was right. The pathology showed that my uterus was more than twice normal weight for a nullipara, a shade of purple that made it look more like a liver than a uterus due to trabeculated adenomysosis and all the years of trapped blood swelling the muscle, and burdened with both an impressive focal adenomyoma and a fibroid. That’s not a healthy organ. It needed to get out of my body and go in a jar.