Sasha’s Vaginal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 37
I had my hysterectomy due to several large fibroids, which caused extremely heavy and long periods with debilitating cramping. I started having problems in my late teens, it got worse in my 20s, and got exponentially worse in my 30s. It took me years, and several different doctors to find anyone to take me seriously. Most of the male doctors I saw were dismissive, and acted like it couldn’t be that bad. Several of the female doctors I saw wouldn’t even discuss a hysterectomy because they were convinced I’d change my mind and decide I wanted to have a baby. A nurse at my primary care doctor’s office referred me to a doctor at a new practice, and that doctor was the first one I ever thought truly listened to me. She determined that I needed a hysterectomy, but didn’t think she’d be able to do a LAVH on me, so referred me to a specialist. That doctor, who did my surgery, was the second doctor who really listened to me.
When I first joined this site a couple of months before my surgery, I read that sometimes the negative stories are shared more often than the positive stories because women with good outcomes tend to just go about their lives. I promised myself that if mine went well I’d come back and share because reading the good stories helped me so much. So here I am.
My LAVH was 05/09/19. And I was terrified. I almost walked out the morning of, but my surgeon was awesome and reassured me, so I went through with it. My surgery was mostly uneventful. I did have some tearing because one of the fibroids was so large, and had a few stitches for that.
The first thing I remember when I woke up was asking for my husband. I have an extreme phobia of hospitals, and was terrified of being without him. They were great about that, and assured me that he was on his way. Hubby says he would have been with me even sooner, but he took a wrong turn in a hallway. He was allowed to be with me the entire time I was in recovery.
The second thing I remember was not believing that they had actually done a hysterectomy because I didn’t think I was in enough pain to have had major surgery. I had no pain when I first woke up. Later on it felt like really intense (though normal for me) period cramps. I kept asking over and over if they had actually done a hysterectomy, and if I really didn’t have a uterus because it really felt like period cramps.
I was able to go home that night. Normally my surgeon keeps people overnight, but said that it was possible to go home the day of. I was very clear that I wanted to spend as little time in the hospital as possible, and was very honest with her about my fear of hospitals and not being in control. She told me what I had to do (eat, drink, urinate, and walk) to be able to leave.
I did get put in a room, and spent some time walking the halls with my husband. There were a lot of CNAs and nurses in and out checking vitals, etc. And there was one almost issue with a resident pushing something I wasn’t comfortable with. I refused, and everything was fine. I was getting a little antsy from all of the activity. I’m a loner, and prefer to be left in peace. My surgeon came in later on (I think around 8:00 pm) and asked if I wanted to get out of there. I told her more than anything! She said I had done everything I had to, and that I could be discharged. That was also when she told me about the tear, and the extra stitches.
The night nurse was really funny and said that she had never discharged anyone because they typically didn’t discharge at night. It took some time, but I was home by around 10:30 that night. The hospital was extremely short staffed and the CNA who came at the end said I could wait for someone to find a wheelchair, or I could walk out on my own. I chose to walk out on my own. I walked a little slower than normal, but there were no issues. Walking out on my own was great for my morale! It did me a lot of good to walk out the same day like that.
As far as pain, there was significantly less than I expected. I still have over half of the pain medication I was given. I’m just going to be blunt here, I was terrified that my vagina would hurt or somehow be wrecked. I’ve never had kids, and the idea of all of that going on and everything being pulled out through there scared the daylights out of me. It was definitely sore, but nothing unbearable. I used the peri-cold packs some days, and that really helped. The worst days, though, were better than I expected the best days to be. It did feel like period cramps for a while, but even that wasn’t horrible. I had three incisions; one in my belly button and two lower on my stomach. The two lower ones bruised, but never hurt. If it hadn’t been for the bruising I might not have been sure exactly where they were. The bellybutton incision hurt some. My surgeon said that would be the one most likely to hurt. The first week it was pretty sensitive, especially if I tried to wear jeans. I worse dresses for a while, and waited a few weeks to wear jeans again.
I did have some unexpected bleeding about two weeks after my surgery. I was terrified something had gone wrong, and even more terrified when my regular doctor wasn’t in the office that day. The doctor I ended up seeing was wonderful though. There was bleeding in between the stitches on the cuff. She treated me with silver nitrate, and told me to dial back my activity for a few days.
Probably the most frustrating thing during the recovery process was how I’d feel normal for a day, then exhausted the next day. At times it felt like that would never end. But it did. It was slow, but then I’d realize I’d been on more walks than the week before, and didn’t feel tired.
I had some spotting and discharge for six weeks. There was more than I expected, and it lasted longer than I expected, so that was a little annoying. Still nothing like the horror I had convinced myself it would be. At my six week checkup my doctor said there was still a little healing left to do, treated me with silver nitrate (which after a few days finally stopped the discharge), and cleared me for everything except sex. She told me to wait another two weeks for sex.
I started exercising again, and only had a little soreness in my bellybutton. It took about another month for that to go away completely. I was worried about starting over at the gym because everyone says it takes a while to get your stamina back. I definitely didn’t pick up exactly where I left off, but I definitely wasn’t starting at the very beginning either.
The first time we had sex when I was cleared wasn’t great. It wasn’t painful at all, but it just didn’t feel like anything. I think that was probably more because I was worried it would be painful, and so was hubby. The second and subsequent times have been AMAZING. It’s like before, but better in some ways. I’m not constantly exhausted from heavy bleeding, and not constantly in pain from cramps. In a way, too, my surgery brought us closer together. I told hubby about things that happened to me that I had never told anyone else. And he stepped up so much to be there for me, to take care of me, and to help me deal with my fears. We know more about each other now, and I really think we’re closer because of it.
As far as life after I surgery, if I had to sum it up in one word it would be WOW!!!!! Before this I can’t remember a time in my life when my period didn’t control my life. I owned almost entirely black pants, I always had to look at the calendar before accepting any invitation, my purse was always stuffed full of pads, I was always on the lookout for the nearest bathroom, I was always tired. It really feels like I’ve been given my life back. I own a pair of white shorts! I knew I’d feel better for two weeks out of the month since I wouldn’t be bleeding, but what I didn’t know was that I would feel better ALL of the time. I guess even when I wasn’t bleeding before I was always rundown from all of the bleeding. I had no idea how much better I would feel, or how much more energy I would have. It still amazes me sometimes. I’m doing things that I never could before; more hiking, being more spontaneous about going places, easier vacation planning, wearing khaki pants to work, signing up for walks. I know it sounds cliché, but knowing what I know now, I just wish I’d had it sooner.
Here are some things I did to help myself:
I was morbidly obese at the beginning of the year. Once I knew surgery was becoming more and more likely, I started dieting and exercising. I managed to lose 57 pounds before my surgery, and discovered that I love swimming and running. The exercise really helped keep me sane in the weeks before the surgery. Of course I can’t say for sure if losing weight helped my surgery go smoothly, but I know it improved my mental state. It felt like the one thing I could control, and I felt better knowing that I was doing everything I could to help myself have a better surgery and healing process.
I took the entire six weeks off of work. I had the leave, and I didn’t want to risk hurting myself. I was able to go on a lot of walks at home, and do a lot of reading. I think being at home, not being exposed to colds, etc., and being able to take so many walks really helped me. I did try to keep myself on a normal schedule, especially after the first couple of weeks. I got into a routine of getting up in the morning, getting dressed for the day, and walking to a coffee shop. I thrive on routine, so that was good for me mentally and physically.
I cooked and froze lots of meals ahead of time. I enjoy cooking, and it helped take my mind off of things. It was also really nice to have all of those things on hand.
I didn’t tell very many people about my surgery beforehand. Obviously work knew I would be off, but very few people knew why. I didn’t tell anyone in our families. And I only told a few very close friends. I know circumstances and opinions vary on whether or not you should tell people. For me, not telling many people was definitely the right choice. I knew I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with everyone’s opinions, stories, and drama. The only person I regret not telling sooner was my aunt. I told her a few weeks later, and found out she’d had a hysterectomy too. She told me more about the recovery process, and was very reassuring.
Beyond that, I stand by the decision to keep it to myself. I heal better when I’m left in peace, and I knew certain people wouldn’t respect that, so I did what I needed to to take care of myself.