My wife (now 65) has had a number of minor medical problems, both mental and physical, especially after reaching 40, and when she started having panic attacks, for which no-one could provide a positive reason or cure, she finally resorted to drugs, such as sertraline, much against her natural inclination.
A known side-effect of this is increased weight. My wife has never been really overweight, but, in common with so many women, is very sensitive about the subject (perhaps more so because I CANNOT put on weight!), so when she started to increase in girth, I was reluctant to mention it, for fear of upsetting her even more, and possibly exacerbating her panic attacks. But things came to a head when she noticed some slight bleeding ‘down below’.
We could not get an appointment early with our GP (with whom we have little faith, unfortunately) so paid for an appointment with a GP at a nearby BUPA hospital, then, very soon after, an appointment with a specialist. He immediately diagnosed an ovarian cyst, and requested a CT scan to confirm. This showed a remarkably-large cyst, taking up the whole of the abdominal volume, clearly pressing on all the other organs.
I was aghast, and very upset that I had not mentioned the increase in girth before. Ironically, the specialist surgeon said that the bleeding had absolutely nothing to do with this cyst, and it still remains a mystery (and has not returned). He recommended a complete hysterectomy and we got an appointment in a BUPA hospital 5 weeks later. I have to say that he, and his nurse, were extremely caring and answered our many questions very calmly and sensitively. The surgeon recommended keeping fit before the operation, so we went for fairly short walks together every day. By huge good fortune, I had retired 6 months earlier so finding time was not a problem. I am sure that being relatively fit, and not generally overweight helped my wife with recovery.
Luckily, my wife was covered by BUPA, but we did have to pay for the initial consultation. It was well worth the expense to have a diagnosis quickly. Looking on the internet revealed many scare-stories about complete hysterectomies, mainly, I have to say, from pre-menopausal women, which I can see would be a much more major concern than in my wife’s case.
My wife was naturally apprehensive about the operation, (although she had had general anaesthetics before) and did not want friends and relatives to make it worse by emphasising what a major operation it was. She was determined not to become an invalid for weeks on end, and wanted to be back ‘in action’ very soon. I did try to advise caution; a complete hysterectomy is undoubtedly a large operation. The surgeon had indicated that she should be much better after 2 months. I said that 2 years would be needed before she would feel completely back to normal. This was more than a little depressing for her, but my honest appraisal.
The operation went very well, and when my wife finally returned to her room in the evening six-and-half hours later she was on ‘cloud nine’. The anaesthetic had improved her mood incalculably. Her cup, hitherto invariably half-empty, was for once half-full ! No wonder people get hooked on drugs, I thought. She had had an epidural drip fitted, and this was removed the second day.
The main problem over the next few days was that she was constantly monitored for blood pressure, which was generally quite high. The nurses seemed obsessed with this aspect. My wife had had concerns over blood pressure several times in the past. In fact when near delivery time for our first child she was taken into hospital early due to high pressure. Her father suffered from high blood pressure too, and died at 62 from a stroke, and I think this weighed heavily on her mind. Constant reference to it, and measuring of it by the nurses made her very upset, but the surgeon was not in the least bit worried about that aspect. He was very pleased with progress. Luckily there was none of the trapped wind which many patients have reported, and she was able to leave hospital after three nights. Without the epidural, pain started making itself felt, but a huge benefit was an electrically-heated pad from Argos. This could be put on her abdomen area and reduced the discomfort massively. (The surgeon had warned us that he would have to make a very long vertical cut from the navel.) We used it for many months after returning home. Highly recommended!
A big problem after the operation was that my wife contracted a bad cold. This had been predicted by the surgeon, and although she had been taking Altrient liposomal Vitamin C for some time before, this did not prevent her succumbing, and, as usual when she gets a cold, her ears blocked with catarrh. I regretted not really boosting the Vitamin C intake before the op. She came home on day 4. She remained in bed for some time, and installing a battery-operated, wireless doorbell, with switch in bedroom and movable bell with me was a great help. I think it would be impossible for her to have come home without a person being around almost 24 hours for the first few days – in our case, feeding and dealing with 4 cats took more effort than dealing with the patient.
On day 5 we were able to go for a short and slow walk outside, and from then on went for walks at least every other day, but she returned to bed for long periods to recover. I am sure these helped. Getting in and out of the car was difficult for several days. Sometimes she overdid things, and the wound became more sore for a while. Now, 10 months later, she is very much better, and does her exercises with a video tape on the TV, but at 8 months STILL can feel soreness when she does overdo things. But I think this is to be expected; I would like to encourage patients to be realistic and accept that this is a big operation, and it WILL take time to recover, so there is no need to be upset, but just to take things slowly.
The panic attacks had been roughly every 4 – 6 weeks, with no apparent trigger, and strangely seemed to be mimicking the menstrual cycle. Although the surgeon dismissed the idea, I had hoped that removal of the ovaries may put a stop to the regular attacks. But they continue, much to my wife’s distress, and my frustration, every 33 – 39 days.
My wife still finds it a little upsetting that she harboured effectively an ‘alien thing’ inside her for so long, without realising it. I keep emphasising that she is SO lucky to have made a full recovery, when there are so many people who have not. No-one can suggest a reason why a cyst grows like this, and there certainly seemed no option other than an operation to remove it. I do wonder whether the drugs she took for quite a period in an effort to tackle the panic attacks may have contributed.
I am writing this in an effort to present at least one ‘success story’ amongst all the doom-laden accounts one reads. My wife is very much better, but I still stand by my prediction of 2 years for absolutely back to normal. The advice, for what it is worth for preparation for such an operation is:
- Get yourself as fit as possible – not overweight, but not rake-thin
- Boost with lots of vitamins, especially vitamin C
- Get a heat pad
- Get set up at home with someone to help permanently, or at least a rota of friends to pop in.
- And do not get too obsessed with blood pressure – the surgeon is the expert.