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It’s your body, it’s your choice – Louise’s story

I woke up the day after my work Christmas party with, not the raging hangover some of my colleagues might have, but dreadful pains across my lower half, the small of my back and down my left leg. My period was due, and being 48, I thought this could be the peri-menopause too! Joys of being a woman! But I really didn’t give it an awful lot of thought.

But the pains got worse. I was working as a teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam where all healthcare is paid for, and appointments are always available. I got an appointment the next day and was seen immediately by a gynaecologist, who said “I know what this is!” The ultrasound revealed an 8cm cyst on my left ovary.

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My contract was due to finish a week later and I was coming home anyway. I saw a doctor straight away who referred me for another ultrasound – the cyst had got bigger, and there was matter inside it, but they couldn’t determine what. I also had a blood test to check for raised markers (and indicator of cancer) and an MRI scan.

Next up was a consultant’s appointment to decide what to do next – surgery was a given, but what would be removed, and how? This is where I wish I had been more switched on, and I wonder if other women feel the same? I felt out of my depth, and lacking real information and understanding about the options available. The consultant was lovely, but didn’t really explain anything in detail, prior to the MRI and blood test he did mention that a hysterectomy was a possible, but didn’t talk about other options. Everything seemed to happen so quickly – and the issue of going straight into menopause afterwards was very quickly batted away, with murmurs of: going on HRT, some women don’t have any problems at all…, etc.

When the MRI and blood test results came through, I saw the consultant again, who asked me what I wanted to do. Why were they asking me? What did the tests reveal? What did they recommend? What were the options I needed to consider? How would I deal with the onset of menopause directly after, if I chose hysterectomy? So many questions I didn’t ask at the time.
I chose hysterectomy and was very quickly scheduled for surgery, in fact the whole process once I returned to the UK, took six weeks. I was terrified, although I’d done my research online, which wasn’t always helpful, I had no idea what would be in store after the operation.

As it turns out, I didn’t have the hysterectomy, I had my left ovary, fallopian tube and cyst removed, and the cause was stage 4 endometriosis. I was incredibly relieved. For so many reasons, I didn’t want a hysterectomy – so why had I gone down this route? I don’t know – it all happened so fast.

It’s six weeks since surgery, and I’m pretty much recovered and going back to work soon. But I would urge all women in the same predicament to ask questions until you are satisfied with the answers. It’s your body after all.

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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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