Health

Having a hysterectomy – an experience to be shared

Warning – this article contains content that may disturb men.

Dear readers

In the words of Dolly Parton, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.”

When I was told I needed to have a hysterectomy I was mortified, I was 46 years old and not ready to lose my womanhood.

However…

I am glad I had the operation and as a woman it was the best thing I ever did for my body, heart and soul but it wasn’t an easy ride.

This isn’t a ’10 steps’ or ‘how to’ article, I’m sharing my experience in the hope that it might help reassure women who could be facing a hysterectomy or had one. Remember, we are all different and this is my story.

I needed to have a full hysterectomy because I had a fibroid the size of a large grapefruit in my womb and believe me, for 10 days every month there was no way I would be able to sit like Susan in the photograph.  Actually, I have no idea what the lady is called in the photograph but I chose this particular one because of Susan’s facial expression.

Susan depicts how I feel now.

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I feel ‘free’. I feel calm and relieved of what felt like days of vaginal torture every month.

Warning – this paragraph may offend men.

If men were to experience one day of a period there would be a huge increase in sick leave. There would also be an increase in women having more powerful jobs and a salary to match whilst those men stayed at home curled up in a ball.

I do apologise if I have offended anyone with that statement, it is light-hearted but true in a lot of cases.

After my hysterectomy, I did so well. I listened to the doctors and did everything they told me to do during my 6 week recovery period. I sat still for hours watching movies, reading books and listening to music. I can’t knit or do patchwork so a woolly scarf or a patchwork cushion wasn’t going to happen.

However, things changed.

I changed.

That doesn’t mean to say you will or did, we are all different.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that after my operation I faced psychological and physical challenges that got worse over time. The good news is I have overcome those challenges. That’s why I can sit like Susan now with a great big smile on my face.

Here are my thoughts about certain aspects of my life that presented me with challenges after my hysterectomy.

  • Emotions

Ah yes, that word that sends men back into their caves.

When I came home from the hospital I felt 7lbs lighter and couldn’t wait to not have my life ruled by the restrictions of a woman’s monthly cycle. Trying to get a leg over the saddle of a motorbike was near on impossible sometimes!

In the first week, people visited me, they bought me flowers and run around after me because I wasn’t supposed to lift things, even a kettle. However, after the painkillers got less and less and I was physically on the road to recovery a weird realisation kicked in. I felt relieved that I would no longer have periods but I felt a loss too. My negative thoughts outweighed my positive thoughts.

Eventually, I got to the point where even though I had no reason to worry about anything, I just didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t want to kill myself, I was just happy to stay in bed forever!

That wasn’t normal and after what felt was like days of unjustified tears I decided to ask for help.

  • The help

At that time, I already had a life coach due to an on-going desire to improve my life skills (obviously not knitting or sewing) but as much as she was a truly wonderful life coach I needed more, I needed something different. So I went to see my doctor who quickly recognised I was struggling and referred me to an online CBT course (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). It was another one of the best things I ever did in my life! It helped me so much. Doing the course put everything back into perspective.

What I can say to people in general, worldwide, is never be afraid to ask for help.

It isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. To go and ask for help when you are in such a vulnerable and potentially unstable position takes a lot of strength.

We all know people who are struggling right? And a lot of the time they have a good reason but due to the fact that they ‘think’ they know what’s wrong with themselves and ‘think’ that no one can help them, they get stuck in a rut.

You can be the most intelligent logical person in the world but it doesn’t mean you understand yourself or what makes you tick and know where you may need tweaking to make life a more comfortable or better place.

Never be afraid to ask for help.

  • Physical appearance – I definitely won’t wear a skimpy bikini ever again!

OK, this is a tough one for me. I have a scar all the way across my lower abdomen and I hate it. But I remind myself every day that I am fit and healthy and for that, I should be eternally grateful.

Where my skin had stretched to accommodate the grapefruit in my womb, I was left with what I call a tummy doorstep. The surgeon obviously couldn’t give me a tummy tuck at the same time as having the operation so I was left with battle scars.

No matter how much exercise I do or will do unless I have a tummy tuck I will never have that supermodel body, actually I know I would need a lot more than a tummy tuck and I would have to take at least 20 years off my life!

When I’m naked in front of a mirror I don’t like to look at my tummy. That doesn’t mean to say you will end up looking like me. The scar is part of me now and at least from a morbid standpoint, if the police needed to identify my body, they could just look for a doorstep on my lower abdomen.

  • Exercise

I love to exercise but 6 months before the operation jogging became really hard it was like being a pregnant woman again. I needed a wee every mile, so I took up swimming instead.

I was nervous about getting back to my jogging after the operation but after my 6 week check I got the goahead to gently start my fitness regime again. I was able to jog 3 miles at 13 weeks after my hysterectomy. Yay!

However, the abdominal exercises were impossible to start with, even though I was jogging.

It was like my brain had forgotten how to send a message to my abdominal muscles so I couldn’t do crunches or the plank. My brain and my core muscles just weren’t in sync but eventually, over time, I managed to retrain my brain and body.

**Before you start exercising after any medical treatment, it’s really important that you see your doctor and get advice.

Sex (I suggest men don’t read this section)

When I started to think about sex again (roughly 4 weeks) I was fearful that there was just an empty cavern in my vagina. That there was just a big open space where anything could run free.

I thought that I would be able to hear an echo every time I had sex but thankfully I was wrong.

I was also fearful that I would I would be undesirable. But absolutely not! There was something very sexy about the thought that every time I had sex there was a zero chance of me getting pregnant.

When I have sex now my body is ultra-responsive!

That’s it for now…

For me, having dealt with the emotions, asked for help, exercised, listened to the experts and listened to my body, I feel free and calm. Calmer than ever before but still with no desire to learn how to knit or sew.

My daughter calls me a womb less wonder! She says it’s wonderful how I have become a better person all around since my hysterectomy.

It wasn’t an easy ride but it was worth the ride.

Yours encouragingly,

The wombless wonder

If you are experiencing some challenges before or after a hysterectomy please seek medical advice. This article isn’t here as a means to fixing a problem or for medical advice.

Best wishes,

Rachel

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** The content on this site should not be used as medical advice, we are giving our readers information and insights. If you are concerned about your health or need medical advice please see your doctor. If you are struggling with any issues please talk to someone – don’t suffer in silence. **

 

 

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