Danielle’s Abdominal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 51
Location: Washington, DC
In November 2019, I went for my first colonoscopy. The procedure showed signs of possible Crohn’s, so the gastroenterologist had me go for an MRI, which confirmed that diagnosis but also showed ovarian masses, 8cm on the left and 3cm on the right. My GI doc told me to have my GYN check it out and put any treatment on hold until after that issue was resolved.
My GYN arranged for me to have a sonogram, and the tech could not see my left ovary because of a 9cm pedunculated fibroid on the left side and other fibroids. She referred me to a GYN oncologist. Because of COVID and other issues, I never really met the doctor until the day of surgery; I only talked with him on the phone. He delayed my surgery for a few weeks until he thought there would be less of an issue, and my surgery was scheduled for June 5. He said that he would want to do biopsies on the fibroids to see if the uterus needed to go as well.
The paperwork said laparascopic myomectomy with a possible hysterectomy. It was supposed to be an overnight stay. I was given my pre-surgery instructions and had to go for blood work and a COVID test the week of my surgery.
I’d been perimenopausal for years with irregular periods and mild insomnia, so I really didn’t suffer at all. I’m not sure why I didn’t seek a second or third opinion.
I was told to arrive at the hospital at 5:30 the morning of my 7:30 surgery. I’ve been through this before, so I had a sense of what was going on. I sat in the waiting room a few minutes before they called me back and led me to a prep room, where I changed into a hospital gown and grippy socks. The doctors brought by the paperwork for me to review and sign and introduced themselves. The nurses put an IV in the back of my hand. (For part of my stay, I had an IV in my right hand and a port in my left, but I don’t remember when they did that.) After I was ready, they ran the sedative solution, and that’s the last thing I remember until I woke up. I think I asked what time it was because they told me it was 11:22. I was told that because everything was stuck together, they had to take my uterus and my ovaries and stay a little longer.
Eventually, they took me to my room, where I had to shift from the gurney to my hospital bed. There was sign on the wall where they would put my name and anything about me, so I said I was vegan and that I’m a Washington Capitals (hockey) fan. On the other side of the TV in front of me was a board where they would list the names of the people caring for me and a few other things, with the date at the bottom. I had button I could press every 20 minutes for pain relief. I was on what they called a “full liquid diet” and I had vegetable broth and a lemon ice for dinner, but I unfortunately threw that up. I remember asking later that evening about going to the bathroom, but they said I had a Foley catheter in until 6:00 the next morning.
The next morning, I was awake when the nurse came in to take out my catheter. It hurt a bit when she removed the tape, but having the catheter itself was painless. I was so weak I could barely walk from my bed to the bathroom. The nurse had me sit in a chair to brush my teeth and wash my face while she rubbed my back with a cleansing wipe. But that day, they wanted me to get in three quick walks, so at some point, I did.
Eventually, I was able to eat solid foods, and I was glad to see the hospital had options for me (including a pretty good stir-fry).
I was in the hospital three nights and left Monday afternoon. My mom, my aunt, and my sister had driven up from Florida to help out, and my aunt and boyfriend came to pick me up from the hospital.
As I’m not quite nine weeks out, I’d say I’m still in recovery, although I was given clearance to do my full exercise at my eight-week check-up. I took the first week off work, worked half days the second, and began working full-time the third. I’m able to do this because I’ve been working from home since March because of COVID.
My recovery hasn’t been too tough. I would have sharp pains whenever I coughed or sneezed, but that’s cleared up, and I mostly have twinges now. Sometimes my body tells me I tried to do too much with exercise, and I have to remember not to go too hard.
I’m a bit worried about what’s going to happen next. Although I was perimenopausal when I had my surgery–irregular periods and some insomnia–I know I’m now fully menopausal and don’t know what sort of treatment is an option. I’ve had a few night sweats, but I’m not sure if that’s the menopause talking or that it’s summer in DC. I do have moments of moodiness, but I’ve always been a bit depressive.
There are a lot of things I wish I’d thought of earlier in my recovery (like getting a really good belly pillow), but I want to use my experience to help others.
My health wasn’t terrible before my hysterectomy, and it’s still pretty good, I guess. Except for being overweight and the Crohn’s, I don’t have too many problems. Because of what the doctor discovered when he began operating, I didn’t have a choice. Given what was on my pre-surgery paperwork, I’m clearly not alone in that regard.
You know your body better than anyone else. If you think that’s the best decision for you, do it. Know your options. Remember, it is major surgery.
Again, I didn’t have much of a choice because the fibroids stuck everything together.
Recovery takes time, and I felt I would take two steps forward and one step back. Make sure you have supportive family and/or friends to care for you in the first few weeks. My boyfriend stayed with me and prepared my meals and kept the place clean. When we ordered grocery delivery or delivery from online shopping, he would also do the heavy lifting.
I was the average age of menopause when I had my surgery, and it seems I was older than the average hysterectomy patient. It may be why I haven’t had horrible menopause symptoms yet.