My Mom, my God-mother and one of my best friends said I would never look back. They all said it was the best thing they ever did and that I would never look back. Mom was 35 when she had her hysterectomy after 2 children, my friend just 41 and sadly she had not been able to have children. I was 40 when we (my consultant and I) decided to finally go with the option of a hysterectomy. I had not been married and so had not had the opportunity to have any of my own babies. It was a hard decision to make but followed 5 years of various kinds of hormone treatments and 2 laparoscopies for endometriosis. Mom had also had endometriosis.
So, an elective decision, but I was exhausted after all the hormone attempts and operations. Today a year ago, I took myself off to St John’s and St Elizabeth’s in North London. I don’t have a boyfriend so a friend came with me to the hospital and kindly held my hand and wiped away my tears while we waited for my call down to surgery. I had a full abdominal hysterectomy removing both ovaries. I nearly had a heart attack when I first saw the 13cm bikini line scar. I cried daily and was so incapacitated (in comparison to my usual sporty self) — it was such a shock. I thought I was ready for the aftermath of the op. I was so wrong.
I wanted to write this because you think you need it be brave and hold it all together, you think you can’t show any weakness. Well, the first few weeks post op will challenge you in that. It’s OK. Go with it. If you need to cry then cry. I learned how to be really good at ‘asking’ for things.
A top tip. Talk about what YOU need during the days immediately after the op. not what your friends think you need. Friends would want to visit me after work, but by 6/7pm I was too tired for visitors, so I tried to convince them to get to me earlier. I had a nasty reaction to the pain meds and spent 5 days with a really upset stomach until my GP told me to stop the pain meds. I slept sitting upright because lying down set my stomach off (strangely??). Living on my own also made the recovery somewhat challenging. I had to recruit in help to wash my long hair and had plenty of people cook me meals. I found the Hysterectomy Association website to be very helpful and useful. I read the forum updates regularly in those early days. As you are reading this, keep reading. Someone on the forum will have had a similar operation / illness and will talk to your experience … It helps you know you are not alone.
My recovery was slow. What I also learned is we are all different. I thought that because I was fit (Triathlon, 10km swimmer, runner, cyclist) it would be a quick process – but instead of 6 weeks off work, it was 8. My return to work was harder than I imagined – the men in my corporate office all wanted to know if I had enjoyed my extended holiday and where had I gone. So, I also learned that I needed to be honest. It was too upsetting to ‘pretend’. I took full advantage of my work employee assistance programme one tearful day and chatted to a wonderful councillor who gave me a bit of perspective of the reality of no longer having the choice to have babies. Very helpful process to talk it through with an objective person who has no vested interest in consoling me or being on my woeful, sorry side. She gave me some brilliant coping techniques and tips. Practical, objective advice. Highly recommend it if you have the opportunity.
I started walking as soon as I could after the op. in fact the very next day. My daily 5min walks became 10 and then 20. By 8 weeks I was walking for up to an hour. I believe this helped me get back into my sporting activities and also helped me clear my mind – walking was therapeutic. I had also booked a long distance swimming holiday in July so I was determined to get there healthy and ready for a beautiful time in the Mediterranean.
I started crocheting. In my 2nd week post op I went to a lesson (in a cab!) just to get out the house and I now have a beautiful granny blanket made up of over 100 squares. Do something with your hands. Knit, sew, crochet. It’s like yoga for the mind!
You are probably reading this and thinking why is she writing all of this. Well, having learned to be honest about how I was feeling, I wanted to be honest about the experience and a year on I have some perspective on this (I think). I promise you – It gets better! Today I am stronger than ever and often have to remind myself just how strong I feel. I have more energy and am less likely to snap at people. I run, swim, lift weights, walk and even did some Pilates in the early days of recovery (highly! highly! recommend).
I do sometimes get a little upset about not having children, but a very dear friend suggested to me that my natural mothering instincts need not be just for my own children. I could put those caring instincts into looking after myself for once and later into other people’s children. So love yourself through the recovery and then find something you can devote your mothering instincts towards. I have nieces and nephews and plenty friends with children. I also remember the words from the bible from Exodus which reminds us not to covet, so I try not to be jealous and try not to want what they have. I have plenty to be happy about and grateful for in my life. I am happy, have my health back and feel amazing every day. I am early 40’s and have no children, but I have SO much more. I am no longer crippled by the exhaustion this disease causes and I feel fitter than ever — I have even lost a stone in weight since the days before my op! It is possible – even on HRT.
I wanted to write this today as its my 1 year anniversary of the op and I can, with conviction, now also say that “you will never look back”. There is a reason why you have had to have the hysterectomy and all you need now do is get through the process of recovery in your won way, and time. You will see — it really will be the best decision you ever made for your health and well being. Take care and treat yourself kindly. Only you can do that.
Now available on our online store and all other online book store’s. In My Own Words: Women’s Experience of Hysterectomy is full of many other real-life stories from women the world over.
Other people’s stories help women feel less isolated. They show that they aren’t going mad, missing the point or stupid.