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Surgical menopause – Marion’s story

Looking back, I was plagued with hormonal issues since puberty; painful periods and serious mood swings that made me feel I was living in a bubble most of the time. I ended up having a surgical menopause following my recent hysterectomy.

At 21, I had severe IBS, was in constant pain and bloated and had virtually stopped eating. After my health deteriorated so badly my father got me seen privately and many investigations into the bowel area, finally a gynaecologist in the hospital examined me and within hours I was one less ovary and a 5 inch cyst short. Afterwards my new GP informed me that the bowel can be affected by the changes in the womb and, oh yes mine was also tilted.

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I bumbled along for the next 15 years,still not feeling 100% then struck my acute pain whilst out shopping one day… lo my other ovary had gone cystic and I had more surgery, same bikini transverse cut, same hospital.

I went peri-menopausal started getting hot sweats,just when I moved to America and a hotter, humid climate, oh joy. A nice Chinese GP there had me scanned and said the ovary was still functional and suggested a low dose contraceptive rather than HRT.

I began to feel better, the flushes went and I still had periods, apart from every so often I would be floored momentarily by a sharp pain on the side of the first surgery. This I was told was due to adhesions and it would cause more problems than it would solve for them to go back in.

I still got bloated and had painful periods but just dosed myself with paracetamol and codeine and kept working because I was the main bread winner. I never had children.

In 2013, I had a dose of campylobacter food poisoning,after which I was given a colonoscopy to check for colitis. I was told my womb was enlarged and I asked should I do anything about it, the answer was “If it isn’t bothering you,there is no need”. I had a lot going on at the time, working long hours and getting divorced, hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back, I had been having water works issues. Some days I felt a lot of pressure down there and stop start peeing.

Life was getting better, I was very tired, falling asleep at my computer but put that down to working hours ,moving in with my folks etc. Then I met a new man and things were really happy, until on July 8th 2014 I woke up with a strange kind of stomach ache, more like a trapped wind feeling that wouldn’t go. I didn’t feel sick but wanted to ‘go’ a lot and things just felt wrong. My father was worried and called the ambulance.

In A&E I was poked and jumped; “we think you have appendicitis”. Ok I thought, I can deal with that, it’s only keyhole surgery these days. I was given a scan and suddenly everything changed. My bowel was obstructed and twisted and starting to die, the cause, a fibroid in my womb had caused it to adhere to the bowel.

Lying there in a morphined haze, I was listening to worse case scenarios,cutting a piece out of my bowel and if it was a lot, a stoma bag. It wasn’t fair, all I could think about was the new love in my life and what this would mean to us. When I awoke, in pain, hooked up to morphine and a gastric tube draining into a bag, I was relieved to be told they had only had to cut a small amount away.

There followed the worst few days of my life, trust me everyone, a hysterectomy was a walk in the park in comparison. I won’t go into the gory details but I had legs the size of tree trunks and a cut from above my belly button down to my bikini scar. I was in for nearly two weeks and to be honest, had I not had the support of my new man, who was wonderful, I would have given up trying to get well. ( He calls my scars, my anchor!)

When I was discharged the surgeon stressed that the fibroid needed to come out, or the whole thing could happen again and I should see a gynaecologist asap. This of course cause me a lot of anguish and I really had to push to make that happen, when I did see one, she disagreed that I was an urgent case. I was given a date, then when I had pre-op testing was found to have MRSA which I could only have picked up during my last visit. I was told once I had the treatment for that, they would get me in as soon as possible. Alas the hospitals were backed up by then and the next appointment was months later. Meanwhile I had been doing as much exercise as I was able and eating well to build myself up but was very tired. My scar was healing nicely.

Finally after several disappointments, I was given a last minute cancellation and had my hysterectomy, including cervix and the remaining ovary, on December 19th 2014. I came out on the morning of Christmas Eve, my 52nd birthday. My biggest problem was wind pain but I gradually got that under control. The surgeon told me she still didn’t think the fibroid had been the real cause of the other issue as I already had adhesions from that operation and that my body is pre-disposed to the problem so I still could get bowel issues again but, hey could get run over before then, eh?

My next issue was the hormones, in her infinite wisdom, she did not give me any but because I was not menopausal, I went into surgical menopause. Talk about nightmare, I was expecting hot flushes and some mental confusion or emotional issues but had never heard about joint and muscle pain. I could hardly move in the mornings.

I went online to look up symptoms, to be reassured that others had experienced this and came across some awful American, anti-hysterectomy campaign site which put the willies up me about lack of feeling in the nipples, your insides falling around and no hope of getting a figure back etc. etc. Well let me tell you ladies, not true, for me at least. Intimacy is better than it has ever been for me, so there. Yes I did feel my insides move around but I have exercised to get a waist back and feel pretty good physically.

When I was called back for my 6 week review which was of course 8 weeks later, I pleaded for some hormones and was finally given something. I had moved in with my new man by then and the new GP immediately took me off that one, said it was out of the ark and no one used it and by the way was from horses which I had forgot to check about.

It has taken a while to get the free fall under control but now, a year on from the bowel surgery, I am finally winning. I still get flushes and my brain is not 100% yet but I look on the positive side and am very glad to still be here. Thank God for the NHS, having lived in America, their system is scary.

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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.

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Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational coach and founder of the Hysterectomy Association. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in the adoption and engagement of digital technologies. 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 :-)

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