In January I had a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. I am 48 years old. Since the age of 14, I’ve had terrible periods; very very heavy, painful, long and with debilitating PMS symptoms. I was put on the pill at 14 and have tried every medical and holistic intervention since. These are my hints and tips for having a healthy hysterectomy.
17 years ago, after a laparoscopy, I was diagnosed with moderate to severe endometriosis. I tried accupuncture, kineaseology, homeoepathy. I took buckets of evening primrose oil for beyond painful breasts, drank litres of aloe vera, and went on strict elimination diets but nothing lasted long.
After refusing anti depressents for over 30 years, I started them for 2 weeks a month prior to my period 2 years ago and they helped my PMS symptoms but I didnt really like taking them and the physical aspect were getting worse. The heaviness, flooding and blood clots were frankly revolting and I also began to bleed around ovulation for 3 -4 days, enough to need tampons. I had some scans in the hope of getting my Drs to agree a hysterectomy but my fibroid was only 2cm and hadn’t grown in a year so they wanted me to try the Mirena coil. I reluctantly did, bleeding and spotting on and off for 4 – 5 months in addition to the horrors of my monthly bleeds.
After 6 months, the coil fell out in the shower on Christmas morning. I cried!! I then bled profusely for 31 days, so heavily it reminded me of my previous miscarriages. It was the lowest time, in all of this ghastly story. BUT it did mean that at my next Drs appointment I was finally able to get an appointment with a gynaecologist. I was then booked in for an ablation within 6 weeks. But on the day, and I was already in my gown, I had huge doubts and ended up crying in front of my surgeon ( I had PMS of course). I was so worried that the ablation would do nothing for my mood swings and depression and I would end up coming back or more surgerey anyway. Between us we decided to skip the ablation and re book and go straight for the full hysterctomy, ovaries too. My op was re scheduled for 8 weeks time.
PRE HYSTERECTOMY TIPS
- I had 8 weeks to get myself ready to be in good health, so I started to walk and sort my diet out.
- I walked fast for an hour minimum, 4 – 5 times a week, and I started to concentrate on my nutrition.
- A month before my op, I gave up alcohol, and sugar completely. I guessed the less my liver would have to process the more effectively and efficiently it could work through the anaesthetic.
- I bought a blender and started to make vegetable and fruit smoothies ( 3 veg to 2 fruit ). I bumped up my omega 3’s and increased the amount of seeds and nuts on a daily basis.
- I read everything I could find which was positive. I had no interest in reading anything sad or traumatic. I knew I needed to believe this would work and couldn’t bear to read women’s stories which would lead me to doubt and change my mind.
- I bought some lovely new healthy eating books, emptied my larder full of the crap and got my house clear and clean.
1 WEEK BEFORE
- I treated myself to a good haircut and fresh highlights.
- I bought new dressing gown, nightie, slippers and knickers for hospital in the January sales.
- I dyed my eyelashes ( very unusual for me, but i figured anything that would help me feel better would aid in my recovery)
- I bought new bed linen and some new towels
- I bought myself a new moisturizer and serum.
- I bought a really good Vit C ( for repair), Vit D ( I wouldn’t be getting outside for a while ) and high quality acidopholous (to help my gut flora after any antibiotics given during surgery) and aloe vera juice to aid digestion post op.
- I started to eat REALLY well. All whole foods, fibrous veggies, smoothies, prunes and anything that would keep my bowels moving.
- I drank loads of peppermint tea in preparation for aiding with the trapped wind post op.
- I made menopause cake! (recipe in the book: 101 hints for a healthy hysterectomy) 1 slice a day gives you the recommended allowance of omega 3’s.
- I had a special evening when I invited all my favourite girlfriends over for some wine ( not me ), nibbles and giggles. This was fab, it felt great to be amongst some amazing women and I was able to explain the operation and how slow recovery would be. It set up my support for the weeks to come.
- I asked my husband to choose a new perfume for me for when I came out of hospital.
1 DAY BEFORE
- Long relaxing bath – shaved legs, deep hair conditioning treatment in the afternoon. Removed all jewellery and nail polish.
- Watched a lovely film and drank 4 of the carbohydrate drinks given to me by the hospital (Enhanced Recovery Programme) Mixed them with juice cos didn’t like the taste.
- Before I went to bed i had my 2 showers and used the Hibi scrub as directed at my pre op.
- Gave my haira good blow dry so it might stay half decent for a few days after op when I wont be able to hold a hair dryer. I know it will help me feel better.
- Went to bed in my clean new bed linen.
- Up at 6.00am to do final shower with Hibi Scrub and drink the last 2 carbohydrate drinks from hospital before nil by mouth at 6.30am.
- Husband took me to hospital at 7.00am.Was met by lovely nurses and health care assistants.
- Needed to do a urine sample. Measured for surgical stockings and got into hospital gown. This is when your own dressing gown is lovely as well as slippers, because you walk to he theater, and also the list got changed so my operation was moved from first to last so I had several hours to read and snooze. Quite difficult to concentrate pre op, but I had a good easy book and some magazines.
- When I met the anaesthetist I was able to tell her how nauseous I get, so she said she would give me something which might help when I come round, so do tell your surgical team if you suffer from travel sickness or nausea as they can prescribe something – gynae operations cause many women to suffer with nausea afterwards.
- I then met my surgeon again who answered a few questions and she was wonderfully kind and reassuring.
And then I walked into theatre. From that moment everything happens SO quickly there was no time to be anxious. (They take your dressing gown, slippers and bag from you, label them so they are waiting on the ward post op).
- You are asked your name and which op you are having, whilst someone puts in a canula and then another person asked me to breathe into the mask for oxygen and that’s it, you’re under.
POST OP 3
- I woke several hours later in the recovery room, with 2 nurses already by my side, one of them holding my hand. First thing you are given oxygen via some little tubes under your nose and then I was asked if I had any pain, and I did so was given my first dose of morphine through the canula. I needed 3 doses before I was comfortable but this was one in a matter of minutes. I had no nausea!! But I was freezing cold. I was given a sort of see through plastic cushion which was filled with warm air and was heaven on my tummy.
- I had a catheter in.
- I had an incredibly dry mouth so was given some sips of water and my oxygen was removed.
- My surgeon popped into see me and talked to me briefly about the op. I didn’t need to be cut (huge relief) but my uterus and cervix was the size of a 14 week pregnancy and smothered in fibroids. The surgeon reassured me I had definitely made the right decision.
- I was then they wheeled onto the ward.
POST OP 2
- I was on a 6 bed ward which was full, very bright and noisy – it was visiting time, but my curtains were pulled around me and I put ear plugs in so slept deeply for most of the afternoon.
- Nurses came regularly to check temperature and blood pressure.
- I had taken in my own flask and peppermint teabags so had 2 cups of tea and an M&S berry smoothie and some of my own menopause cake! I had missed lunch and knew Id be hungry before dinner.
- I wasn’t in pain just a bit tender and sore where the catheter was inserted. I drank constantly, determined I would be able to go home in the morning. I wasn’t allowed home until I had done a good pee (which they measure!) Also I knew that liquids would be key in avoiding constipation By the morning I had completely filled my catheter bag to bursting. The nurses were impressed!
- I ate a bag of prunes.
- I was also really thankful for my lip balm, tooth brush and new moisturizer. I just dozed and listened to my radio with my headphones until supper – I ordered the veggie stew (thinking of the best food on the menu for avoiding constipation)
- My husband visited at 7pm and with his help and a nurse I got up and walked a circuit of the ward. No pain but did feel the need to hold my tummy and take small steps. Had read the sooner you move the better for trapped wind, constipation and avoiding blood clots.
- Slept well and nurse woke me at 6am to remove catheter. Bit uncomfortable for a few seconds.
- Was given my first injection for blood thinning.
- Chose bran flakes for breakfast!
- Then did a good pee, and nurses confident I would go home that day.
- Spent morning dozing, now just on paracetamol. Met with surgeon again and she showed me photos of the procedure (!) and talked to me about HRT. She recommended bio identical gel or patch (so it doesn’t get filtered through the liver) as I’m 48, she wanted to protect my bone density with HRT.
- Had twenty mins with the physio who talked to me about pelvic floor exercises,and general activity post op. She warned me about the crushing sense of exhaustion but was also positive and very keen to encourage gently increased walking and moving about each day.
- A nurse brought me my prescription meds and talked me through the HRT and also the blood clotting injections I would have to give myself daily for 14 days ( YIKES)
- Getting home was bliss, but I went straight to bed and stayed there apart from small walks around the house to keep my blood moving (DVT risks )
- Slept well – until 10.00am. Used a cushion to support my tummy in bed.
1 DAY AFTER OP
- Woke late.
- Had a bowel movement with no pain. Hurrah! All those prunes and liquids did the trick.
- Spent a day doing NOTHING. My husband and children did all the meals and bought me drinks. I got up hourly and walked circuits around the house. It’s important for recovery to move as soon as possible but without over doing it. no painkillers needed today.
- Gave myself an injection in my tummy before bed I was anxious about this but I held an ice cube on my tummy for a few minutes and it was fine, I hardly felt it.
- I couldn’t really concentrate to read, head still a bit fuzzy, so i drifted in and out to the radio and watched a bit of telly. NO visitors!
END OF WEEK ONE
- It’s been so much easier than I thought. I have had no pain, no constipation and no discharge or complications. I feel so lucky.
- I have kept to a fantastic diet to aid recovery and taken my supplements daily.
- I used a pedometer clipped to my clothes to calculate how many steps a day I have been taking, so I could increase or decrease according to how I felt. I found this really helpful to increase my activity in small steps and it has definitely stopped me from over doing it.
- I came out of hospital on the Thursday and didn’t let myself have a visitor until Monday. Just being at home with my husband and 3 children was enough.
- I have been EXHAUSTED. But it is all to be expected.
- I can’t believe how amazing it is that I was home within 24 hours of major surgery and how well I seem to be recovering. I am determined to recover well without setbacks, so am super strict with myself and my family about how much I can/should do.
Below is my hospital bag list:
- Big knickers in case you are cut
- Nightie rather than PJs because its easier with the cathetar
- Dressing gown and slip on slippers – you will not want to bend over to put on shoes/slippers after the op
- Flask for boiling water so you can drink whenever you want, not just when the trolley comes round.
- Something healthy to eat (prunes/nut bars) . It might be a long time till supper if you have a morning op.
- Lip balm and moisturizer (your skin and lips are so dry after the anaesthetic.)
- Kindle/Book or magazine
- Radio/iPod/and headphones
- Ear plugs and eye mask (the ward is really bright and you might want to sleep when its visiting time)
- Comfy clothes to go home in (trackie bottoms and sweatshirt and boots )
- Phone and charger
- A little money for a newspaper when the trolley comes round
- Pen & paper for any notes about meds, physio (hard to remember afterwards )
- Your own water-bottle to fill up at the cooler. Squash if you cant drink water – you have to keep those fluids up.
A few sanitary towels just in case ( I didn’t need them at all )
Toothbrush, shower gel (although I preferred to wait till home, not sure how clean the ward shower was, and I didn’t want to pick up any bugs)
- Your own hand sanitizer because there is some at the end of the bed which you ant reach. Use it before you eat any hospital food. And I chose fruit which I could peel to avoid germs on the skin of apples etc.
I wish everyone all the best who is going through the same thing.
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