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Kathryn’s hints for a healthy hysterectomy

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.

History

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.

THE OPERATION

  • 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.

DAY AFTER

  • 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.

***************************************************************

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 :-)

This Post Has 28 Comments
  1. This is a great write up, I was also a victim, having uterine fibroid for many years. The size of my fibroid was very large as a grapefruit in my womb, trying to conceive was so hard. My difficulty was not only getting pregnant, but keeping the pregnancy. I occasionally had reoccurring bouts with dysfunctional uterine bleeding due to fibroid tumors. I even came close to having a hysterectomy, but due to future/possible complications, I refused. I learned about some herbs mixture prepared by Dr.Leonard and that was my breakthrough to a long standing problem. I already gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, very healthy, happy, and bright. I forgot to mention that my non-existent sex drive returned within just a few weeks of starting the herbs, this was a pleasant surprise. If interested and ready to give a try check out his blog: http://curetouterinefibroid.blogspot.com

  2. Hi.
    Fantastic insight to your lead up to op and after. I am 13 days post op and still on a lot of medication.
    I know everyone is different. Your post was so positive and great information. Thank You.
    Fiona xx

  3. Thanks for this positive and informative blog.
    I am scheduled for a vaginal hysterectomy in 12 weeks time. I’m still getting to grips with the decision to have surgery, although I truly know it’s for the best in my case.
    I feel a lot more content and positive having read your experiences and advice.

  4. Dear Kathryn, thank you for all the info . I have not scheduled my surgery yet, but I will soon. My fibroids finally cause some symptoms, heavy bleeding for 2 weeks and spotting here and there. I am controlling the bleeding via of birth control pills. So far so good, but the stomach looks too big. The large fibroid is around 9cm. Will use a lot of your info for my operation . Continue your excellent recovery spirit

  5. I had a hysterectomy about 3 weeks ago due to a prolapsed uterus. It was done vaginally but I’m still getting some pain and have been very emotional the last few days. Is this all normal. June 14th was my surgery. Thanks

  6. Your positivity and hospital list were very helpful – thank you! I am 1 week post-op from an abdominal hysterectomy and recovering well. I actually showered the very next day after surgery standing up even while in a bit of a morphine haze! It is helpful that once you’ve made the surgery choice, accept it, be positive and self-loving. That is all part of the healing.

    I listened to my favourite relaxation music on my phone most of the time in hospital. I was too tired to read. I would not recommend many visitors in hospital (if any) and few when you first get home as it is exhausting.

    Simplest advice – listen to your body and take it easy. Doing too much too soon can be detrimental after this op and us women are pretty good at pushing ourselves like that 🙂

  7. I had a full abdominal hysterectomy on Monday 25th March due to 6 months of daily heavy bleeding , the surgeon removed a fibroid the size of a melon andvthey all said it was ‘ my age ‘ . I knew there was something not right now I can prove them wtong. I am now home after 4 days first 3 days in hospital it all went really well but now I am suffering direheoa ? it’s awfully uncomfortable but no one seems to know if this is common , being a bank holiday my doctors won’t be open until Tuesday.

  8. Hi Michelle, I had a TVH and recto eke repair on 31 st March. How are you getting on? Are you able to sit without any problems? Also, do you have any dragging in your vagina and abdominal pains when walking?

  9. Hello Ladies, I am 51 and have known since the birth of my third child in 2000 that I had a womb prolapse and a rectocele that would need repair. I was advised to wait until I could not cope any longer before having the op. I feel I am approaching that point now. I can feel the prolapse getting worse, and more embarrassingly I can not stop myself from passing wind from my vagina, this happens all the time and I work in an Office and I can be walking or standing chatting and it just happens. Do you think it is the prolapse and has anyone else had this problem? Thank you for all your positive stories too, it is helpful and reassuring to know that not all ops make people worse rather than better.

  10. I am 4 weeks in and feeling really emotional I had a massive fibroid and sub hysterectomy, my doctor has been very vague when I asked about size he said ‘big’ he told me surgery was not easy as I had abdominal surgery due to fibroid and bulky womb! Still.struggling with bowles, I think I am OK set off walking which i’v been trying to increase and my public bone and tummy.was killing me and I started to bleed, my surgeon said I bled a lot and he had to cortorising a lot of vessels.
    Just fed up, bored, and just wanting to get on with things, how long untill you.can lift! Iron,vac?xxx karen

  11. i have to have a hysterectomy as I have got the start of Ovarian cancer, well they took a biopsy of some cysts they removed from a key hole surgery a few weeks ago and found early stages of cancer, i wonder if it will be an operation involving a cut or a key hole surgery or vaginal? I just hope it isn’t the cut, do they let you shower and wash down there as i am so fussy about being fresh and clean there? I get very hot and sweaty easily and hope they’ll let me wash there as soon as possible. Ali

  12. Had mine last week (age 58) with only one week to prepare) as preventative for possible endometrial cancer) and if you eat the right things thereby avoiding being constipated, drink lots (water that is!) and get up and about as soon as the tubes are gone you’ll be good. It’s scary but be positive because that really helps. Haven’t felt particularly tired but you know when you’ve done enough and need to rest. Best wishes

  13. You will be fine my experience was the same as above I’m 8weeks post op and am doing really well x x x just take it step by step you will be ok I promise x x x x all the best love christine x x x x

  14. Feb 24th 2016, I had a laparoscopic “TVH” total vaginal hysterectomy, with cystocele, enterocele and rectocele repair..wow what a whopper of a surgery..

  15. Thank you so much for your story Kathryn I am now at home following a TAH with both overies removed on Monday 29th and your report of the actual day of surgery and your recovery helped calm my nerves considerably! I have an abdominal cut which is healing nicely and the only problems so far are wind (get the peppermint tea ladies – think of it as medicine and it doesn’t seem so bad) and sickness after my op. I have been moving since the day after surgery although not very quickly but keep trying! Good luck to everyone approaching surgery.

    !

  16. I’m scheduled for a hysterectomy on March 31. The information that you shared is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I want to prepare myself naturally before surgery, and after. Thank you for sharing so many details! ?

  17. Hello ladies!
    I am new to this lovely site, and rather terrified as my operation date approaches!
    I am a 57 year old woman with fibroids and a large rectocele with a history of intermitant bleeding and right groin pain.

    It is so encouraging to hear how people are getting on pre and post op.
    Its also great to learn that most women feel vulnerable and very worried just before their big operation and seem to get going as soon as humanly possible following it,

    Good lucknto you all, I am due for mine on 22nd March, tah salpingo oophrectomy, and rectocele.

    Any hints would be gratefullly recieved

    Karen

  18. Hi Kathryn
    I’m 10 weeks in and my GP actually recommended Pilates even for an abdominal TAH. I’m attending beginners classes and my instructor is aware but to date there not any moves I cannot do. If you want to start check out fitness blender post abdominal surgery workout which is Pilates based. Best wishes

  19. hi Karen

    Thank you for your comments and sorry you have had a similar journey to mine. Lousy isnt it? And now I have 2 young teenage daughters and both are starting to look as though they might be following in my footsteps, poor loves.
    Im very early on with my HRT and although my moods are much more stable so far, I do have 2 -3 hot flushes which wake me up every night. No night sweats but they are intrusive. Am I unrealistic to think I could get rid of them with the right HRT ?

  20. Hello Angie,

    I hope your op went well and wish you all the best in your recovery.
    Im now 7 weeks post op and feeling Im just beginning to feel like taking on more chores etc. Back to cooking and light cleaning ( but still no carrying shopping bags or hoovering )
    I have felt extremely tired. Infact I felt less tired during the first 3 weeks after my op than I did at week 4 – 6. But possibly I stared doing more, and family forget so expect more ( I have 3 teenagers )
    HRT is an ongoing exploration, I am on Bio Identical patches and a ‘ women’s magnet – sorry don’t know the correct name, but loads of women rave about them. Available in Boots for 30 quid. and my mood is pretty stable.
    Just be prepared for tiredness for a long time and give into it with some good Box Sets, films, magazines and easy to read books . Im still a little brain foggy for attempting anything too heavy/serious.
    Hope all goes very well for you, and your recovery is straightforward.

  21. Hi Julie,
    Thank you for your comment . It is a big decision, and perhaps all the more difficult for being ‘elected’ surgery. But any woman who gets as far as a hysterectomy really has no choice. none of us would choose major surgery!
    I am now 7 weeks post op and things have remained pretty good. I am So lucky not to have had an infection or any pains, but I have felt unbelievably tired on some days. I did so much reading before hand so was really expecting to feel very tired, so it hasn’t come as a surprise. Its about managing your expectations I guess and staying realistic. We are all recovering from major surgery and it will take months. But the walking, and getting fresh air and natural daylight is crucial for my well being.
    I literally haven’t lifted a thing apart from the kettle ( after 3 weeks ).
    This morning I thought I would try a Pilates class – beginners, but the teacher turned me away. It was a wake up call – it is way too early, I dont know what I was thinking. But it was a timely reminder that 7 weeks is still early days – even if everything on the outside is looking and feeling good, there is still a lot of trauma and stress needing patient healing on the inside.

    All the very best.

  22. Thank you Joanne for raising that point and I apologise for not making it clear that I did not need abdominal surgery, so my recovery has been straight foward on that account. it is clearly a very different operation and therefore recovery.
    When I used a pedometer I certainly wasn’t marching or striding around. The first few days I used it for walking gingerly around the house – sometimes just managing 100 steps at a time. But I felt it boosted my mental attitude to know even if I took 30 steps more the
    next day, it was still progress.

  23. I am due to have a total hysterectomy in 2 days and I’m absolutely terrified, I’ve never had an operation or even been in hospital before. Your story has made me feel so much better about the op, thank you for giving me that little bit of reassurance.

  24. I just want to be clear this is a really helpful story but presumably the author did not have abdominal surgery but either Laproscopic or vaginal. Abdominal surgery does take longer to recover from. Most abdo hysterectomy ladies are NOT up walking around with a pedometer on week one! For abdo surgery it takes a couple of weeks to even feel normal. Abdo TAH is very different surgery. My experience of a TAH in December 2015 bears very little resemblance to this account. I’m just trying to be realistic as we are all different.

  25. Kathryn, I thought you were talking about me with what you went through when you were younger. What a great article you have written. Julie peppermint tea is a must.

    I had my hysterectomy 5 years ago and have got menopausal symptoms despite being on HRT.

    Thank you Kathryn and great piece of writing.

    Karen xxx

  26. I don’t usually comment on websites, but I really want to thank you for telling your story. I am due to have a hysterectomy within the next month and feel very positive about it. This was a decision I didn’t take lightly but, now that I have, I am ready for it. The way that you approached your hysterectomy was so positive and I can take a lot from reading how you dealt with various aspects during preparation and recovery. I will definitely be adding peppermint tea to my diet! I hope you are well now and soon fully recovered.

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