Julia’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 34
Location: Michigan, USA
Initially found out I had a large uterine fibroid in August 2016 when I had an MRI for lower back pain. I was advised not to have surgery because I wasn’t having the typical fibroid symptoms and surgery could affect my fertility. Since I wanted to have children, I did not pursue the option of surgery any further. I had two ultrasounds six months apart which showed my fibroid was slowly growing.
In August 2018, I had a third ultrasound because I was starting to have pelvic pain and urinary problems. It showed that my fibroid had grown significantly larger and was the size of a 4.5 month pregnancy! I was shocked that it had gotten so large. My primary care doctor gave me a referral to an oncologist and I got a second opinion from my gynecologist. I learned that my fibroid increased my chances of miscarriage and could make it difficult to get pregnant. I agreed that it was indeed time for my fibroid to go and scheduled a robotic assisted myomectomy asap.
My hospital experience was a total nightmare. The moment I woke up from anesthesia, I knew something had gone wrong because it was 9:30pm and my surgery was at 12:30pm. I lay anxiously awake that night and didn’t find out what happened until the next morning. My surgeon said he spent 3 hours operating with the robot and another 2 hours operating as an open surgery before converting to a total hysterectomy. The uterine arteries were directly feeding the fibroid and removing it would have cut off the blood supply to the uterus. I was heartbroken.
I spent 5 nights in the hospital, 4 of which were in the ICU. I think ICU actually stands for incarceration unit because I was chained to the bed with heart monitors, pulse oximeter, catheter, IV, blood pressure cuff, and calf sleeves that squeezed my legs. Every morning around 5am, a vampire would come around to collect blood samples. There was an alarm on the bed in case I tried to escape. What an anxiety inducing experience!
My last night, I was transferred to the gynecology section where I was granted basic freedoms like taking a shower, peeing in a toilet, and walking around freely. By then I had developed some serious gastric pain, so I was walking around hunched over with a pillow. My hospital was conservative with using opioid pain relievers which meant I often heard the phrase “You’re not due for pain meds yet.” I was very glad when I got to leave the hospital and go home.
My overall recovery was slow and painful. Laying around in a hospital bed made my muscles tense up. It took about a month of frequent gentle stretching to regain the ability to stand up straight and walk normally. 6 months prior to surgery, I hiked an entire 18 mile trail in a day. A week after surgery, I struggled to make it to the end of the street. It was frustrating and embarrassing. I would have stayed inside if not for my SO’s encouragement.
I am now 4 months post op and my health has improved. My bladder function has returned to normal and the pelvic pain is gone. Sexy times have returned as well. Now my focus is on regaining strength.
The best advice I can give to a woman considering a hysterectomy is to seek treatment early. When I met my surgeon, he looked at my MRI from 2016 and said I should have had it removed then because it was pressing against my spine. I wanted to have my fibroid removed then but was advised not to. I had no idea that waiting to have surgery meant infertility, excessive blood loss requiring transfusion, 4 nights in the icu, and a disgusting looking scar as a constant reminder.