Corrine’s Laparoscopic Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 43
This week marks one years since my surgery. I had a laproscopic removal of my uterus and cervix, ovaries remained. I had endometrial cancer that hadn’t spread to the ovaries.
At first I was so scared of surgery I was willing to consider every other option—radiation, herbs, crystal healing, you name it. After talking to a naturopath, my spiritual advisor, and my oncologist, though, it seemed pretty clear that a hysterectomy was my best option to prevent the cancer spreading and no lingering side effects from treatment (like with radiation).
I went in during a covid surge so my partner couldn’t be there with me. I was really scared in the pre-op room where I waited a few hours for an operating room to open up. The nurses and anesthesiologist were so sweet and reassuring though, and eventually they gave me a sedative so I was asleep before I even got the anesthesia. I have no idea what anesthesia they gave me. I have acid reflux and was very scared about complications from that, really just scared of everything that could go wrong, but everyone was so competent and at a certain point I just had to trust them and realize I wasn’t in control.
I woke up in the post-op room totally THRILLED that I was alive and not in an any pain and the worst part was over. The nurse said I was only asleep for a few hours after surgery, that she’d expected me to stay under longer. I was pretty groggy and needed help walking and drinking apple juice and going to the bathroom, but I mostly felt euphoric. My partner picked me up from the hospital at 11pm (my surgery was originally scheduled for 1pm then got pushed to 3 and then 5—I think I eventually went in around 6pm). I kept telling them how amazing it was that I wasn’t in any pain. Duh—I was still on so many painkillers!
I had an easy recovery, as far as these things go. The first two days I had strong reflux and one brief moment of fecal incontinence. After the hospital painkillers wore off I was in a lot of pain—especially that arm and shoulder pain—for a few days, but it wasn’t anything like the pain of having cancer. I was uncomfortable and groggy and watched tons of TV while my partner brought me soup and gelatin and let me sleep. It was a little freaky realizing I couldn’t feel much in my midsection and I had bruises from the IV and my surgery stitches were pretty gnarly looking. I was just gentle to myself, though, and didn’t push it. I was relieved I could sit on the toilet without pain, I was worried bending like that would be too painful.
My greatest challenge came after the first few weeks, when I was trying to start moving and walking again. I got tired out so much faster than I expected, and when I was tired I was in pain again. It was hard to pace myself because lying in bed I felt fine and restless, but I really couldn’t walk more than half a block without exhaustion for many, many weeks. I also felt guilty that I wasn’t helping around the house or cooking my own food for so many weeks, but my partner reminded me that I needed to heal more than I needed to do my own dishes. I think it took me about 6 weeks to be walking more than a few blocks, and a full 8 weeks before I didn’t feel tired all the time. At 12 weeks I’d say I felt so completely healed that when people asked how I was feeling I’d sometimes forget why.
The good news is the cancer hasn’t come back. It’s also amazing to not have to plan my life around the intense and erratic pain of having endometrial cancer—mine was undiagnosed for at least two years. My sex life is so much better and I can exercise regularly again. Most days, I forget I’ve had surgery. Also—this is a strange side effect—I can tolerate heat better than I could before. I didn’t think this was related till I talked to a friend who’d had a hysterectomy and reported the same side effect.
The bad news is that I’m perimenopausal with frequent and severe hot flashes and I’m trying to find a gynecologist I trust to see what my treatment options are. My old gynecologist is the one who minimized my health concerns for two years before she would finally order the labs that showed that I had cancer. So, back into navigating the healthcare system…
It makes sense to be freaked out when you’re facing surgery. You’re giving up control of your body to others in a real and transformative way, and if you have any trauma history that can make it worse. Make sure you trust your surgeon. Make sure you don’t feel pressured. Make sure you have people who know how long it will take you to heal and are willing to help you heal for that whole length of time. Make sure your employer understands how long you’ll need to be out of work. Do some fundraising if you rely on your income and can’t get paid sick leave for at least two months. Take your health seriously, because resting enough after surgery can make all the difference between complete recovery and having lifelong complications.
And, remember that while surgery has its risks, most of the time it’s gonna be fine. It was fine for me, and for many many many other people. When I came to this forum before surgery, I got so freaked out reading about people for whom things went wrong. It’s important to have places like this where people can share those stories and get support, but remember that when things go well people usually don’t turn to the internet support group to talk about it. They just get on with their lives. So I’m taking the time to just remind all of you that a year out from surgery, it’s likely you’ll be feeling a lot better and forget you even had it most days.
Wishing you all ease and comfort in your healing journeys!