Barbara’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 50
I initially went to my primary care physician to ask about my horrible PMS symptoms. During my visit, he asked me how my periods were. I told him how they were extremely heavy and painful and basically ruining my life. I had never had an ultrasound before, so he recommended that I see an OBGYN and get one right away. This is how I discovered that I had multiple fibroids, and also found my wonderful OBGYN/surgeon.
When she told me about my fibroids (several large ones on the outside of my uterus, as well as multiple smaller ones inside causing an enlarged uterus), she recommended that “we wait and see” if they grow or change over time, or if I found that I was too uncomfortable. She discussed all the surgical and hormonal options with me, but I was hoping I would just reach menopause and they would naturally go away. Unfortunately, after watching and waiting for three years, they only grew and multiplied, with one large one sitting on my bladder and a posterior one pressing into my vaginal wall so that I could no longer enjoy sex. I knew I had to do something. I was getting more and more swollen in my lower abdomen and had to pee constantly!
My surgeon recommended a total abdominal hysterectomy. Since I had previously tested positive for HPV, she wanted to take my cervix. However, she hoped to keep my ovaries if they looked ok. I was very nervous! But she’s a feisty little wunderkind (she entered medical school at 16!!!) So I had great faith in her ability to get in and do it right. I did tons of research first and asked her many questions. I found that it really helped me to feel less scared. The hospital staff was very helpful even before my surgery, with the anesthesiologist calling me to ask me about my medical history and recommending I take advantage of having an epidural for pain. I felt that I was in good hands. He even ok’d my taking a Xanax the night before so I could sleep and not freak out instead.
The surgery was textbook and only took an hour and a half. My horizontal incision was only 3 1/2 inches. I couldn’t believe it! I was so afraid I would have a giant scar. No complications whatsoever. I woke up feeling dazed and slightly nauseous, but the nurses were all extremely helpful and very caring. I stayed two nights in the hospital, but I was very nervous to go home where I didn’t have a professional to check in on me. But since I was able to pee on my own (I had a catheter for only the first night) and could shuffle around the ward (with help, of course!) the felt good to send me home. I was sent with prescriptions for stool softener, Percocet, and 600 mil ibuprofen and an abdominal binder. I guess I was as ready to go home as I could get. But I was nervous about my road to recovery. I was very uncomfortable, and still hadn’t had a bowel movement. The gas pains were terrible!
Luckily I had read lots of advice on this site before my surgery, so I was pretty prepared for my recovery at home. I had tons of pillows to help me feel comfortable, a heating pad, comfy clothes, easy to digest foods, a grabber in case I dropped something on the floor, several gals who had agreed to come check in on me, and a fabulous boyfriend who really stepped up to the plate and helped me with everything from showering to cooking. I couldn’t have done it without this support system!!
It took me about 5 days to have my first bowel movement, which was pretty horrible. I had tried everything, but calcium citrate finally did the trick! I found that my pain and discomfort went way down after that so I stopped taking the Percocet and slowly weaned off the ibuprofen, replacing it with the over the counter version as needed. Even so, it seemed to take forever to be able to do normal things like sitting. That was the hardest part. Also, I walked every day, but at a snail’s pace. It seemed like I would never be able to walk like a normal person again, but I kept trying. Some days I had tons of energy, other days I would just lay in bed with an ice pack on my tummy.
Eventually, I had to start working again. I waited about 8 weeks to go back to work. Luckily my job is mostly sitting. But it was still very uncomfortable for the first few weeks. My incision was healing nicely, as well as my vaginal cuff. I was careful to not do anything strenuous. As time went on, my swelly belly decreased and the area around my incision evened out. I was able to have a completely normal bathroom routine. It was strange to get back to not having to pee three times a night! My abdomen wasn’t hard anymore, and as weeks turned into months, I could finally say I was happy to have had the surgery.
Today, I feel completely normal! No pain! I can hike, jog, reach, climb, pretty much anything I want. My enlarged uterus (equal to a 16 week pregnancy) made it impossible to sleep on my tummy before but now I could do so much. It feels great, finally. And sex is back to not hurting anymore, but we’re still cautious as it’s only been almost 4 months… Hopefully it will get better and better.
If I could give any advice to women who are considering a hysterectomy, I would say that researching all options and what each one entails is key. Each woman is different, and we all have different reasons for needing a hysterectomy.
I think the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone! There are so many women facing this decision around the world every day. I am so grateful for the Hystersisters website and the wealth of information and support to be found here. I wish all the ladies who have gone through this process and who are considering it the best of luck and lots of love!!