In October 2015 at the age of 49, I had a total hysterectomy. I had for some years beforehand been suffering from extremely heavy periods that came whenever they felt like it. I had put this down to getting older and putting on a lot of weight. Then towards the end of 2014, I noticed that I had developed a small umbilical hernia.
I decided to try to lose the weight in 2015 so, in January, I started eating more healthily and going to the gym 3-4 times a week. I started to lose weight but my stomach size did not change. I knew then that something else was going on. Went to my GP about my hernia and was referred to hospital. At first I saw a general surgeon, who immediately order a scan of my abdomen. When I went back to see him about the results, he advised me that I had a very large fibroid and so my care would be taken over by a gynaecologist.
My gynaecologist was a lovely man who explained that because of the size of my fibroids (he estimated their weight to be about 3kg), I would need a hysterectomy and he would need to make a vertical incision. He also stated that he may need to remove the cervix as well. I had no objection to the vertical incision or the removal of the cervix. I had spent so many years living with the problems and the huge stomach, I was just pleased to know that soon it would be all over. He asked me if I wanted to keep my ovaries. I decided to keep them because I was only 49 and still having periods.
Because I also had a hernia, that would need to be repaired at the same time too.
I also went through the Enhanced Recovery Programme before my surgery, speaking to a nurse, a dietician, and a physiotherapist and being given carbohydrate drinks to drink prior to my op.
On the day of the surgery, I arrived at the hospital at about 07.00 and by about 07.30 was taken to the ward. Several other women were also due to have surgery that day too. I undressed and put on a hospital gown and knickers and surgical stockings. A doctor on the gynae surgical team came and went through the consent forms with me. More bloods were taken. The anaesthetist came and discussed my anaesthesia. I also had a visit from the general surgeon who was fixing my hernia. Everyone from the nurses to doctors were very kind and professional.
I went up for the op at about 09.30. I remember lying on the trolley speaking to the anaesthetist as she started to administer the drugs, next thing I was in the recovery room being woken up by a nurse.
I did feel some pain at that point and so gave myself three hits from the morphine before I was helped to a sitting position. I needed to sit because they wanted me to eat a pack of sandwiches that was in a box before me! I was hungry so I did eat them!
I was taken to a women’s general surgery ward with 6 beds and introduced to my day nurse. At that time I had a catheter and was attached to the PCA. I was on 2 hourly obs. When my family came to see me at about 1900, my head felt very woolly. This cleared up by about 2000 and I put this down to the PCA and never took any more. With regards to pain relief, I refused any more pain relief that day because the pain was bearable (like mild period pain) and I had had that woolly feeling.
I did not sleep well that first night, it was warm on the ward and being woken for obs does not make a good nights sleep.
The next day I asked for the catheter and PCA to be removed as I wanted to wash. They were happy to do so and I walked slowly holding my tummy to the shower room and had a shower. Although my incision had been stapled shut, it was covered with waterproof dressing so there was no danger of me getting it wet. I took ibuprofen and paracetamol that day.
I was meant to stay 3 nights, but after another sleepless night, I told the nurses that I wanted to go home. Two doctors spoke to me and checked me over at around 1000 and agreed that I could go home that day. I was given a bag full of medicine (ibuprofen, paracetamol and antibiotics) and discharged in the afternoon.
It was bliss to go home, and the first thing I did was have a cup of tea, a bag of crisps and go to sleep.
Things were not as difficult at home as I thought it would be. My family were great helping with meals and doing all the work. I decided that I needed to keep moving so would walk slowly around the house and slowly up and down stairs. The biggest problem was my constipation. I had the op on a Tuesday and by Friday had not had a bowel movement. This was causing me considerable pain and discomfort and I regretted turning down a laxative when I was in hospital. In the end I resorted to suppositories and had my first bowel movement Saturday morning (cannot express the relief). I stopped taking the paracetamol then as I read that it could make constipation worse.
I started taking small walks each day outside from the Sunday about 8-10 minutes each time. I was nervous at first (especially before my staples were removed), keeping a hand over my tummy as I walked, but I kept on going.
10 days after my op, I visited my practice nurse to have the staples removed. Was a bit nervous about this but she was very gentle (we were chatting and I didn’t even notice she had taken the first one out). In all I had just over 40 staples. I did have a small infection at the incision near my pubic bone, but she redressed this and when I visited again the following week, everything had healed.
It is now 4.5 months since I had my op and I have to say my recovery has been better than I expected. I slept a lot in the first month, but I kept to my walking, every week walking a little bit further until I was able to walk for half an hour with no problem. I didn’t carry anything in the first month, but after that would pop to my local shop and buy a few light items. I also started doing light housework after the first month too. After 3 months I felt well enough to go back to the gym, I felt as if I needed to as I had put on weight. At first I didn’t do as much as I usually did, but now I am back to my normal routine.
So looking back what can I tell you? Hysterectomy is not the end and need not be something to be scared of. I decided to see it as a positive because it was going to take away problems that I had had for a long time – and it has done just that. I have recovered well but I put that down to having a positive attitude and being relatively fit before I had my op. Yes I have a scar running from my navel to my pelvic bone and yes I have a flabby tummy which is a bit lumpy, but the scar is not a bad one (started massaging rose hip seed oil on it as soon as it healed) and the tummy I can live with.
Whilst it is very useful to read other peoples stories, remember your experience will never be exactly the same. Your recovery is your recovery, do it at your own pace. Everyone is different. But make sure you have as much information as you possibly can before your op, ask questions and make sure that the answers your given make sense to you. I did, websites such as this one were invaluable and I had already written down a set of questions to ask my gynaecologist when I saw him.
Good luck to all of those who are due to have the op, and I wish you all continuing good health.
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