Kirsten’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 46
Location: Terre Haute, IN, USA
I hope my story helps others. I consider myself a pretty healthy/fit woman. I do yoga 3-5 x a wk. drink only water and am gluten and dairy free. I teach middle school art. I’m happily married, 26 years now, have two kids in college and love life.
I went for my annual pap this summer and the young nurse said to me, “Why are you here? You just had a pap last year and you don’t need one for 2 more years.”
I explained that my maternal grandmother had cervical cancer & I didn’t want to risk it. She acted like it was a big inconvenience to have me there. My GP doctor came in & did the exam. Mid exam, she asked me if I was pregnant (Mind you I’m 46 and both my kids are in college.) I almost had a heart attack then & there. She saw my face and said, “I’ll take that as a no.” She sent me for a cat scan and when she got the results she explained that I had fibroid tumors and needed to see a gynocologist ASAP, as my uterus was so large it was pressing on my urethra & wasn’t allowing me to release all the urine & it was backing up & could cause some major problems.
After finding a wonderful obgyn, she explained that I had a uterus the size of a 7 mth pregnant woman and had several grape cluster fibroids and one large one the size of a lg grapefruit. She couldn’t understand why I waited so long, because now a laparoscopic operation was out of the question and I could only do the total abdominal hysterectomy (TAH) now. I explained that I didn’t have the normal symptoms to give me any hints. I was not in any abnomal pain during my monthly cycles, nor did I have any heavy bleeding, and I didn’t have any back pain.
I did get up to urinate at night & had to urinate every 20 mins. and felt like I couldn’t release all of the urine at once and my periods were irregular. Both were chalked up to my age and that I was most likely in Peri-menopause. Go figure!
After scheduling my surgery, I had the TAH about 3 weeks later on Wednesday, 9-19-18. I had concerns about the pain medicine and anesthesia as this was my 1st big surgery. I do not take medication often & if I do take a Tylenol, then I’m in a lot of pain.
The anesthesiologist was great about giving me my options and we settled for a nerve block on either side on my stomach. I had no complications during the surgery and came out of recovery very sleepy but feeling decent. I had 38 stitches and glue and my incision was from hip to hip. My doctor removed the uterus and Fallopian tubes. I kept both ovaries and my cervix. She said my tumors weighed 7 lbs and the largest one was 3 lbs by itself!!
Afterwards, in the hospital room I had a morphine pump and used it for about 24 hours. Then they switched me to tramadol (doctor called it baby Vicodin), 600 mg Ibuprofen and prescription colace (stool softener). The nurses said once the catheter was clear and no longer blue I could get up and try to urinate on my own. It was clear within 12 hours and they removed it and for the 1st time in—I couldn’t tell you how long—I actually emptied my bladder in one try. It was amazing! They said when I could walk, shower and pass gas I could leave, I was dismissed Friday morning with an abdominal binder.
My first few days at home were a blur, as I slept quite often only getting up to urinate get a drink & go back to bed. After a few days the tramadol was making me have horrible nightmares, I became super emotional and started crying over everything and had major brain fog that made me feel heavy and sad. This was weird to me because I kept my ovaries. I started researching tramadol and the side effects were everything I was experiencing and then some. I stopped immediately and just took the 600 mg Ibuprofen from then on and was happier, no more nightmares or crying.
Of course, constipation was an issue. I continued using the collace, but it didn’t help. I called the doctor after a week of no BM and she said take 3 a day instead of 2, still no relief. After almost 2 weeks I went to the pharmacist and explained my situation and he recommended a suppository. Within 15 minutes of using the suppository I finally had some relief. I don’t know why I waited so long and why they don’t suggest that in the hospital. I stopped the collace and was much better.
I was in a little more pain with just taking the Ibuprifeb, but it wasnt anything I couldn’t tolerate. And after 3 weeks Inwas only taking the Ibupfen as needed sometimes only once a day or not at all.
I was fortunate enough to have a husband that took wonderful care of me, cleaned the house & cooked. When he was working my mom was over helping me. Since our kids were away at college I could just focus on me and the healing process. I know how lucky I was to have the help I did, as I read stories of single moms with two kids trying to recover from their hysterectomy procedure and I couldn’t imagine doing this alone, let alone taking care of little ones as well.
I listened to my body in the following weeks. If I tried something and it hurt I immediately stopped. I walked as much as possible and rested often with my legs up and an ice pack on my abdomen and used my abdominal binder to help keep things in place.
My greatest challenge was being idol. I work full time, am a member of Tri-Kappa, volunteer regularly, exercise often and my husband are on the go heading somewhere with someone almost every weekend.
In my downtime, I read a lot, did lesson plans for the entire school year, organized cabinets and closets (with my moms help of course) and watched a lot of TV, something I don’t normally do. I was more exhausted than in pain and that was surprising.
I explained it to my husband as having the flu and all over body aches for 3 weeks straight: I wasn’t hungry, and was exhausted mentally and physically all the time. At the 4 week mark, just like magic, I started feeling better and became more independent. I would know when I would overdo it because of the infamous “swelly belly.” The only time I was in severe pain was the day I was supposed to start my period. Even though I no longer had a uterus I still had both ovaries and knew they were very much in working order. I had period pains like nothing I’d ever experienced before with the exception of labor pains and some faint pink blood on the toilet paper after urinating. If it wasn’t a Saturday I would’ve gone to the doctor that day. After laying in bed most of the day crying not realizing what was going on, I received an alert on my phone from my EVE app reminding me that I was going to start my period soon. It made perfect sense. The pain was only on one side of my abdomen and close to where my ovaries were: I immediately went to the Hyster Sisters website and started asking questions and reading stories and felt so much better about the pain after many agreed that I had most likely started my period and since everything was still healing inside the pain was bound to be heightened. I called the doctor on Monday and she confirmed it was most likely my period and to monitor the pain and come in if ne essay. The pain started to dissipate and so did the faint bleeding the next day.
I was cleared to go back to work and resume normal activities at 6 weeks with caution and patience of course.
Since I wasn’t experiencing any pain before hand, I immediately regretted my decision. What was I thinking?!? This was WAY worse than having to urinate frequently and dealing with irregular periods. However, now that I’m 8 weeks post op, I see the benefits.
First, I was a terrible ice-cruncher/eater. Everywhere we went I had to have a glass of ice. My preferred ice was the small nuggets from Sonic, as they were easy to crunch. It got on my families nerves and half the time I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.
The day after I woke up from my surgery my husband had gotten me a container of ice chips. Immediately I started crunching and quit mid chew and spit it out back into the cup. It felt foreign and weird and I didn’t like it. I haven’t chewed one thing of ice since. The doctor told me I was lacking the nutrients I needed as everything I was taking in was feeding the tumors and robbing me of important vitamins and minerals and my body was trying to most likely get iron from the ice I was crunching, hence my addiction.
Second: even though I was a devoted yogi, nothing I did got rid of my stomach pooch. I just thought it was because I had two kids and I was just that mom who was never going to have a flat stomach again. At 46, I had come to terms with this fact. After the surgery not only was my pooch gone, but so was my bulge on my sides. When I asked my doctor why if I had a 7 mth pregnant uterus did I not look 7 mths pregnant and she said the yoga was making my abs so strong that the muscles were pushing my uterus back and up rearranging my organs and causing me to have a hard time breathing from it pushing on my lungs. Crazy right?!?
I am not 100% at this point in time but I’m at least 80%. I can finally sleep on my stomach again, work isn’t exhausting like it was 2 weeks ago. I can finally do upward dog/baby cobra again in yoga, something I couldn’t 2 weeks ago. I get stronger everyday and my husband and I have resumed our physical relationship. I’m happy to report that despite all of the scary stories out there, that it did not hurt, quite the contrary and in fact and it was quite the relief—physically and emotionally, as that was a big concern for the both of us.
The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body and do what’s best for you. Find a good doctor whom you feel comfortable with, and ask a lot of questions, know your body parts, so when they start throwing out scientific terms you understand what they are speaking of.
Rest, heal and wear that abdominal binder (but not too tightly trust me on this), take the Tylenol/Ibuprofen, drink A LOT of water, don’t wait to get help with a BM, eat when you’re hungry and make sure you get protein to speed up the healing process, ask for help—no matter how independent you are. Knowledge is power!
We’re super women and normally we don’t need help, but every now and again we fall and need help getting up so we can rise from the ashes and be fantastic again.
Hugs to all my Hyster Sisters, past, present and future.
We’re smarter than we think.
We’re stronger than we think
Be kind to your body.