I have been visiting hysterectomy forums for almost a year now. Since day one, I have read the same questions over and over. And this is understandable because there are so many unknowns when heading into this. I had many of the same questions (and a crap load more – sorry, doc). So I decided to make a post highlighting some of the most popular questions and my semi-educated, sassy answers.
I am not a doctor or a nurse nor do I have any real qualifications to be giving advice at all. But I have researched extensively and have lived through it. So…take it for what you will…but make sure to ask your doctor all of the questions you want. It is part of their job to answer you and help you feel at ease with this procedure. ASK ASK ASK. Be your own biggest advocate!! I cannot stress this enough. Just DO IT and quit making me yell at you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry. Got carried away.
How long will it take to recover from my hysterectomy?
That is like asking “what does the color blue look like?” Nearly impossible to answer. People can tell you how they perceived their own recovery or the recoveries of those they know. Doctors can tell you what the surgical machine salesperson promises while handing them a box of free pens or the average outcome of their patients’ experiences. And the internet will tell you that you will probably not recover at all, your vagina will fall off and you will die a horribly fat and sweaty eunuch.
It is so easy and natural for us to compare ourselves to others in similar circumstances. Moms compare themselves to other moms. Writers compare themselves to other writers. And I am pretty sure grumpy cats compare themselves to other grumpy cats. When reading the experiences of others we may be tempted to compare our experiences. And depending on our mindsets – that could be unhealthy, or at least mildly annoying.
You will read about women who have had the same exact surgery for the same exact reason and are running a marathon 2 months later. You will read about others who are still in pain a year post op. There are simply way too many factors to consider and they are all so individual – trying to guess what is going to happen can be difficult at best. You can pretty much count on one thing – you will be somewhere on the spectrum between worse case scenario and best case scenario. Yes, I am brilliant. Thank you.
Type of surgery, health and strength prior to surgery, pain tolerance, reason/s for surgery, how much and what is being removed, skill of the surgeon, medications taken after surgery, emotional support, time allowed to rest…I mean the list of things to factor in can go on and on.
Best advice – prepare for the worst and hope for the best (see, there’s that brilliance once again – I really deserve my own radio show).
Which surgery is better?
There are several types of hysterectomy surgeries. Open abdominal, laparoscopic, vaginal with laparoscopic assist, vaginal with robotic assist (this is what I had) and keyhole to name a few. With anything else in life – there are pluses and minuses to each one. And there are reasons a surgeon has for choosing one type of surgery over another based on each case.
Will you be keeping your cervix and/or ovaries? Is there endometriosis and/or adhesions to contend with? Is cancer suspected? Will lymph nodes be removed? How large is your uterus? Do you have any bleeding disorders? There are a million questions when weighing one type of surgery against another.
If you will be keeping your cervix, you will not be having anything removed vaginally.
If you have suspected cancer, chances are the surgeon will not use morcellation (basically, chopping up parts while they are still inside so they can be removed laproscopically) based on recent recommendations by the FDA.
If you have an abundance of adhesions or endometriosis, the surgeon may prefer to do an open abdominal surgery.
People often praise laparoscopic and/or robotic as being the “best”. This is simply not the case. It may be best for some, but not all. And vice versa. People also think that these types are easy peasy. Um, nope. Just because the incisions on the outside are smaller, doesn’t mean the inside is less disturbed. You will still have your shit yanked out, many stitches and cuts and cauterizations will still be in there and you will still need to rest and be careful.
Laparoscopic/Robotic surgeries take longer – perhaps even a couple hours longer, but there is often less bleeding and for those whom are already anemic due to heavy periods this can really be a blessing. So while you are under anesthetic longer (which is sometimes not a great idea), your risk of bleeding/infusions is lessened. Usually.
Laparoscopic/Robotic surgeries usually come with at least some gas pains. Not just the digestive farty gas pains, but also leftover Co2 which is pumped into the abdomen allowing for a clear view during surgery. This gas is often one of the top complaints about hysterectomy recovery pain. Some women experience the pains all the way up in their shoulders and down to their thighs. Those bubbles can move faster than crabs in a whore house. I was very lucky in that department. I talked to my surgeon beforehand and he said that he was almost OCD about getting as much out of the abdomen before closing. And he really did great. The Co2 pain, for me, was minimal. (see tips on treating this pain below)
Abdominal surgery comes with a big ole incision in the belly. With this there is always risk of incision infection or hematoma. You may have itching while it heals. And there will be a scar. There can also be scars with Lap/Rob but they are typically smaller.
So is one type of procedure better than the others? Yes. For you, there probably is. Do I or anyone else online know what that procedure is? Nope. That is between you, your surgeon and your anesthesiologist. And maybe your psychic – if you’re into that shit.
Will my surgery hurt?
You’re having innards that you were born with removed via knives, heat and machines. Yes. You will likely experience some pain. If you don’t feel any pain, you really need to start considering the fact that you are an android and probably never REALLY had a uterus at all and are part of a mass conspiracy formulated by the government designed to fill the world with walking talking Barbie dolls. Congratulations.
Really though, pain meds are awesome and most doctors are very good about keeping your pain under control. Make sure you stick to your drug schedule and waking up to take your dose may be a good idea for a couple of days. You always want to stay ahead of the pain. If your don’t, it can take longer to get it under control. Just make sure you don’t take more than prescribed and you should TRY to stop them sooner than later. Addiction is a real concern and I did feel some withdrawal symptoms, so weaning off is also a good idea. But don’t be a hero. Take your meds if you need them.
It should also be mentioned that everyone has a different pain tolerance level. Me? Total pussy. If the wind hits me a little hard, I will ache. There are others who are Vaginal Warriors and feel very little discomfort. Again, do not compare. If you need your meds a little longer, this is not a failure on your part. Blame your stupid nerve endings and brain receptors – it’s their fault.
How do I deal with people who say I should be better by now?
Tell them to fuck off and then key their car.
I went back to work a week after my C-Section. I am planning the same with my hysterectomy.
Why these two procedures are constantly compared is beyond me. One involves having a child removed – a child that is meant to come out. The other involves having parts of your body cut and burned out of your body. Not the same. And for those of you who know someone going through a hysterectomy: unless you want to make someone cry or get punched in the vagina, don’t equate your c-section to her hysterectomy. And if you had a c-section, please do not expect the same outcome. Not only could you feel very differently, but carrying around an old, icky uterus in a Bjorn will not go over very well.
I won’t even get into hormonal and emotional differences right now. I am saving that blubbering for a blog topic of its own.
What helps for gas pain and bowel movements?
Gas pains and pooping are a major topics on the Hyster forums. You may suffer from two different types of gas pains: digestive and Co2. Digestive issues happen because during any surgery, your bowels are affected by the anesthesia. During abdominal surgeries, they can be moved around or disturbed. Also, pain medication can be extremely constipating. The Co2, as mentioned above, is from laparoscopic and robotic surgeries. Fortunately, some of the remedies help for both and work quite well. Here is a list of what you will want to have handy to end gas pains and get those bowels movin, movin, movin…
colace (stool softener)
warm baths (if doc allows)
warm pear juice (I think it worked better than prune juice and it tasted better)
and most of all WALK WALK WALK
What do I need/want/fuck it, what can I buy because I need to shop so I can stop thinking about this scary ass operation?
Well, certainly it will be different for everyone. But here is a list of what I bought before surgery to make recovery easier/more tolerable. Make sure you buy whatever you want ahead of time because your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/mother will likely get the wrong thing. This is YOUR time so make sure you pamper yourself with your favorite things.
New, comfy robe
Easy, comfy, roomie nightgown (not pjs because you wont want anything around your waist when you are resting)
Non skid socks
Big water mug with a straw
Soft, high thread count sheets
A warm blankie
A little basket or bag thingy to carry your necessities from the couch to bedroom with ease
Bathtub chair (I didn’t think of this beforehand and had to MacGyver something with a rubbermaid and, quite frankly, I am lucky to be here right now)
Moist heating pads
(and above mentioned pooper products)
I hope some of these thoughts help someone out there. Next time, I will be writing more about my recovery…fun shit, man…fun shit.