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Superwoman (or maybe not!) – Sue’s Abdominal Hysterectomy Story

I had a full abdominal hysterectomy on New Year’s Eve 2012. Great way to see in the New Year – on a morphine drip! This was due to a massive fibroid which I didn’t even know I had until I started getting severe leg pain. Having ruled out blood clots etc, I was sent for a scan which revealed the fibroid. It was apparently already too big to have any treatment other than a hysterectomy. I didn’t have to wait long for the operation which was probably a good thing because I am a complete wimp when it comes to anything to do with hospitals and I’m sure I would have backed out if I’d had longer to think about it.

I ticked all the boxes which indicated that the operation would go smoothly – I’ve always exercised, don’t smoke and was fairly young at 46 for this type of op. Everything went very well and I remember feeling positive about having got through the op and relieved that all I needed to do was concentrate on my recovery. I suspect the morphine may have had something to do with this! My New Year’s resolution was that I would make a speedy recovery and make up for lost time!

I was discharged from hospital after a couple of days (and after trading my bed for a cup of tea so that someone else didn’t have to suffer the stress of not knowing if a bed would be available or not!) Although I was sore and understandably a bit weak, I still felt pretty good, all things considered. I live on my own so I went to stay with my friend (who also happens to be my boss) for what was intended to be a week after the op.

I had real problems sleeping as I couldn’t get comfortable at all and strangely enough, the prescribed ibuprofen and paracetamol really weren’t doing anything at all! I rang my GP to get some stronger painkillers which were better although sleeping was still an issue. After a week, my friend suggested I stayed there a bit longer…….a month later I finally managed to return home.

The consultant had told me the old “6 weeks for a full recovery” myth and I believed her. In fact, initially, I truly believed it wouldn’t take me that long. I was sure I was both physically and mentally strong enough to breeze through my recovery – I thought I was Superwoman! It turns out that I somewhat misjudged that. When I’d had a few better days at around the 4 weeks mark and returned home, I expected to just gradually improve each day thereafter.

Wrong! In the couple of weeks that followed, I still had more bad days than good and when I went for my follow up appointment, I was stressed and frustrated at my lack of progress. I didn’t feel anywhere near fit enough to go back to work. Work was completely manic at the time as the deadline for a major project was fast approaching and I felt guilty about the timing of my op anyway. When I saw the consultant, she made me feel like I just hadn’t really done enough to recover even though I had walked every day (bar a few when I was just too sore) and done the abdominal exercises several times a day. She assured me that I was completely healed. There were a couple of clues to indicate this was not actually correct! 1. There was a small place at one end of the scar which hadn’t healed. 2. My insides still hurt…..quite a lot! Clearly though, as I am Superwoman, I ignored these very obvious signs and vowed to do more exercise because the consultant also insisted that I couldn’t do any damage and I was determined to go back to work.

She signed me as fit for a phased return and my boss and I put together a plan to ease me back in to work. It was a great theory. In practice, we were 2 weeks away from “go live” of the project. My colleagues were working flat out and had been the whole time I had been off. By the second week I was already working into the evening and was pretty much back to my usual hours the week after that.

It took me longer to get back to doing my exercise classes than I expected but I managed to start doing Body Combat again around April. It was a struggle but I kept it up and finally got to a point where I felt comfortable and ok to start working harder. I was very nearly back to being Superwoman!

Work wise, things were turning into a complete nightmare. I didn’t feel like I had got back to being fully in control of things ever since I went back, although there have been lots of changes to contend with so I put it down to that. I also started seeing a really nice guy and all was going well for a while…..until it wasn’t anymore and we split up. It’s not as though it was a long term relationship and it really should just have been a bit of fun….the type of thing I would normally just put down to experience and move on…..except I found it very difficult. I was far more emotional about it than I expected to be and things have really just gone downhill from there!

So, I had the ongoing hassles at work, split up with my fella and then the car failed its MOT! I struggled to find the cash to get it fixed and was stressing about that too. Several people had said to me that I looked sad or miserable and not my usual self. I had cried a couple of times as well which is not like me. Again, I like to call myself Superwoman but you might say “control freak” – whichever it is, I can normally pull myself out of a bit of a low and manage my stress pretty well. The problems at work got worse and this one guy, who has no people skills at all, confronted me in a meeting in front of my entire team and an external supplier. As I sat there listening to what I knew was complete bull, I also knew I didn’t have the will or the energy to fight back. I had to walk out. I went to see HR and cried at them as well. They were very good and said that I clearly wasn’t well and should go home. I already had an appointment with my GP as I knew I wasn’t feeling right.

When I saw my GP, I asked if the HRT patches could be making me feel like this. She said it was far more likely that they just weren’t working and as I was menopausal, I should really just work through it. Superwoman, who had been quiet for a while, then insisted I couldn’t possibly work when I was feeling like this and wanted an instant cure. There isn’t one so my GP prescribed anti depressants.

That was 3 weeks ago and I’m still off work. My friend/boss has been brilliant as well as most of my colleagues but I still don’t feel ready to go back. I have had some better days but the slightest thing still makes me tearful. I’m hoping to go back at the end of next week on a proper phased return if I feel well enough.

So, the moral of this story is that no matter how strong you think you are, make sure you fully recover, don’t believe the 6 week myth, don’t assume HRT will work and ignore the inner Superwoman…….she needs a break too!

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in my own words book coverNow 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.

Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational counsellor, coach and women's health advocate. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in change management, culture change and adoption of digital technologies in large enterprises and organisations. I am a writer and author of nine books to date, and I've edited a further seven; phew what a lot for a Thursday afternoon :-)

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Lisa’s story is so very true – a TAH is completely different to the operation by any other way. The surgeon is cutting through layer upon layer of muscle. I have had two C-sections but neither C-section was as painful physically or emotionally as my hysterectomy recovery. Stay off work for as long as possible, and don’t let them give you work for home – it’s your recovery time. I took 3 months in the end but felt harassed. I wish I had taken at least 4 months – the benefit of hindsight.

  2. I had a full abdominal hysterectomy about 3 weeks ago. The surgeon did also a bilateral salpingo…which means they took everything. I also think that the 6 weeks could be a myth. I have good days and bad days at the moment.

    Last week I went back to my GP as I did not feel right. My doctor examined me and I have a post op infection and a reaction to some medication. I think the hardest thing I have dealt with is the emotions. I was not fortunate to have any children and I lost a child 10 years ago. A hysterectomy was my only option but I still had the dream at 39 I would become a mother. I know in time things will be easier day by day. I think this site is excellent for people like me to share there stories and feelings with others.

  3. First of all, thank you for your story as it has helped me make a few decisions about how I will go about my recovery. I am due to have a full abdominal hysterectomy in September. Work have been very good, but again, we have five projects over Sept, Oct and Nov and feel really guilty leaving them as they are struggling to get support. I was thinking of making arrangements to return after 6 weeks, as you rightly point out most websites give that as the date of full recovery! However, I already feel depressed and tearful (not me normally at all) and suddenly, for some unexplicable reason, feel really attached to my female organs, even though they have been trouble for several years now!!

    I am very active and have dogs and horse to ride, and all that is having to be done by someone else while I am incapable… and the extra expense!!!

    Having just read your story I am going to take it day by day and try not to worry about what is going on at work. It is more important that when I get back I can do my job properly and I can cope with the stresses!

    At this point you sometimes wonder whether it would be best to carry on with the pain etc., and not have the operation, but I am hoping to feel so much better after it.

    Good luck Linda and hope you feel better soon.

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