Rebecca’s Robotic Hysterectomy
daVinci Robotic Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 27
Location: Nashville, TN, USA
I had my hysterectomy exactly one year ago. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! Would I do it again? *coughs* Well, this is the point where I say don’t read any further unless you have already had your surgery and are experiencing . . . troubles.
A little background first:
I have always had heavy periods. I remember wrapping my pads in toilet paper in middle school, trying to get them to last longer than a single class. The pain, however, didn’t appear until I started college. I went from keeping multiple Ibuprofen on my person at all times in freshman year to using my mom’s old back pain medication (prescription-strength NSAID) plus heating pads and sick days by the end of graduate school. A few months after graduation, the pain reached horrendous levels and I burst into tears at my primary care physician’s office where she tentatively diagnosed me with endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a disease in which the endometrium layer of the uterus starts growing outside of the uterus. It is one of the primary causes of infertility and the pain can be indistinguishable from a kidney stone attack. It certainly made my migraines look like a sniffle compared to the flu.
Hormone treatments didn’t work. A year later I was in-and-out of the Emergency Room due to the pain. Local gynecologists told me the pain was all in my head and to get over it. In desperation, I found an endometriosis specialist 5 hours from my hometown and made an appointment. At our first meeting, the doctor booked me for exploratory laparoscopic surgery, which would reveal endometriosis clinging to both uterus and a major nerve that runs right next to the uterus. Removal of the endometriosis brought about 6 months of relief. Then a resurgence attacked my colon. I went from being able to eat anything to anything, including water, triggering daily diarrhea and severe cramping pain that progressively got worse.
At this point, I called up my specialist and BEGGED for a hysterectomy. Now, I know what the research says. Hysterectomy is not a cure. But I didn’t care. Much of my pain had been focused around the uterine area. Periods were horrendous and were, at this point, lasting for months at a time. I had already developed the symptoms of mild-moderate anemia due to the cumulative blood loss. And frankly, I didn’t care about having children. When family members pointed this out, I would laugh. I couldn’t get out of bed on the best of days, never mind find a guy. I would rather have my uterus out than continue as I was.
So on September 12, 2017 I arrived at the hospital, raring to go. The worst part of the whole affair was the enema the night before (remember, I had endometriosis on my colon, thus it was an incredibly painful experience). FYI, you can pick up some peppermint capsules at your local drug store, which will ease the residual intestinal spasms. Run it by your doctor first, of course, but peppermint is okay before surgery and incredibly effective against intestinal spasms (and diarrhea in general). Everything else was pretty par for the course: nausea patch behind one ear, sign lots of forms, IV insertion, pop some pain pills per doctor instruction, twiddle my thumbs as I wait, etc.
I had no complications post-surgery. The first thing I noticed upon waking up was how shrunken my waistline was. I had lost like 3 inches around my middle. There was also more room. My intestines felt like they could finally breathe. Pain was minimal. They kept me on dilaudid while in hospital and one of the nurses created an impromptu heating pad for my stomach. I was switched to oxycodone for home care. I daresay my throat hurt more than anything use (due to the breathing tube used during surgery) and I didn’t notice the catheter until a nurse came to check it (and I still couldn’t feel it). I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything until several hours later, at which point it was an all-liquid dinner (but quite tasty!). No solid food until the next morning. I was kept overnight at the hospital and discharged the next day.
(To survive the hospital experience, I HIGHLY recommend being polite and congenial to your nursing staff. If you are, they are more likely to go out of their way to make you more comfortable.)
The first 4 days after the surgery were incredibly easy for me. Minimal pain. By day 3 I was attempting stairs. Then day 5 hit and the anesthesia finally dissipated enough for my intestines to start working again. Everything just went downhill from there. What followed was a 10 day stretch of constant diarrhea. The pain was worse than it had been pre-surgery. It would hit me in the middle of the night too, and I would spend hours on the toilet in absolute agony. I took to keeping a heating pad in the bathroom, using a stool to make things a little easier, and balling up a towel to squeeze when the pain got too bad. Then my mom picked up some yogurt for me to try and my intestines almost immediately settled.
So what happened? Most women complain about constipation, right? Pre-surgery I had been experiencing daily diarrhea which had already depleted my gut microbiome. Then during surgery, antibiotics get pumped into your system in hopes to waylaid any brewing infection. That was one blow too many for my microbiome. It wasn’t until I introduced probiotics into my body that things improved.
But that wasn’t the end of my troubles. I developed a rash that covered my whole torso and nether-regions. Benadryl became my best friend. An anesthesiologist uncle remarked that I was likely allergic to the adhesive used on the surgery drapes.
At one point I developed a fever of 100F. A fever of 100.4F meant a trip to the ER, but luckily it never went any higher.
I developed periodic, knife-like pain in my rectum that my doctor eventually decided was a combination of the endometriosis removal (from the colon) and the easing off of the narcotics. The pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t sit or sleep. I eventually decided to just take my remaining oxycodone whenever these times occurred.
My emotions also went absolutely insane. I would switch from severely depressed (and suicide ideation) to panic attacks over nothing to elated happiness to more panic attacks all within the span of hours. My primary care doctor suspected that my ovaries went into shock from the decreased blood supply (one of the veins was removed during surgery) so she prescribed me clary sage essential oil. Immediate relief. In fact, I’m still using it. These days I only have a panic attack once every couple of months.
My recovery was the slowest among my group of hystersisters. At the six month mark I was still somewhat bedridden. Nine months out I sought out a local surgeon because one of my incision sites still hadn’t healed. It was constantly oozing clear liquid and occasionally blood. The surgeon explained that sometimes dissolvable stitches don’t dissolve and the body would try to expel it (like it does to splinters). Two attempts of reopening that incision and digging around finally yielded the uncooperative stitch and within two weeks the site had completely healed over and is doing quite well now.
Today (a year later) I have started working part time from home (self-employed mental health counselor, which gives me a lot of flexibility). I have been unable to return to the office due to my continual pain and intestinal problems, BUT I am better than I was pre-surgery. I know, how is that possible? I truly was THAT miserable pre-surgery.
Unfortunately, my endometriosis has also returned. Much of my continual intestinal problems I can link to rising endometriosis pain. However, the pain that surrounded the uterus is gone. My periods are gone. There is no more bleeding, no more anemia. For the first time since puberty I was able to celebrate my birthday without the agony of a period.
My recovery was horrendous. I wouldn’t recommend it on anyone. But I also don’t regret my decision. The pay out has been completely worth it.
Stock up on peppermint capsules for potential diarrhea and/or spasms. It’s even helpful for abdominal spasms.
Eat yogurt or take probiotics (or both) as soon as you can post-surgery to avoid diarrhea.
Keep a heating pad and stool in the bathroom, especially during those early weeks.
Save some of your narcotics for the really bad days that might crop up later on.
Pick up some clary sage essential oil, especially if you have had your ovaries removed. I personally have been using Edens Garden’s “Gal Pal” roll-on for topical application as well as their “Clary Sage” for diffusing.