What I write below is very personal. Many will also consider it graphic or gross. I am not writing this for entertainment purposes. I am writing this for those who are out there and in the same boat as me…to know they are not alone. I am also writing this for my own cathartic reasons. It helps. And I hope that maybe it will help someone else too.
It has been almost a month since I last spoke about my glorious gynecological issues. As I explained at that time, it looks as though a hysterectomy is in my future. My symptoms are getting worse and I felt so awful last week that I made an urgent visit to my original OB/GYN here in Racine. As soon as he walked through the door, the tears began to stream. Partially because of how awful I felt, partially because of my fear and partially because I felt guilty for going to another Dr. in the past months.
I have been with this Doc for over a decade. He helped me through a cancer scare and some in office and out-patient procedures. He delivered my daughter 9 1/2 years ago. And he has always been very good to me. I decided in that moment that it was indeed time to have this surgery and that it should be preformed by my long-time doc.
When having a hysterectomy there are many options to consider:
Do you keep your cervix? Do you keep your ovaries? If you do not keep your ovaries, will you use hormone replacement therapy? How much recovery time? Possible complications? Hospital stay? Medications? Anesthesia? Surgery duration? Cancer possibilities and pathology? These are just a few.
For me, I will not be keeping my cervix due to past cancer scares – why take the risk of having to have another surgery later. It’s basically just a cancer catcher at this point. And taking it actually makes the surgery easier from what I have read.
I will be keeping my ovaries because the hormones and blood flow provided by the ovaries are very beneficial to a woman’s health. Not to mention, the thought of going into menopause at 39 sounds pretty miserable and depressing. I do have ovarian cysts and since my grandmother had ovarian cancer – I need to be careful. So he will take a good look and biopsy if needed. Because I am keeping my ovaries, some symptoms will likely remain after surgery.
Recovery time really depends on the particular surgery, patient and the extent of the problems in dat der plumbin’. Hopefully, my issues are not extensive. They usually do not know what they are getting into until they get in there for a look. The amount of fibroids, cysts, adenomyosis, endometriosis, the size of the uterus (the more disease, usually the larger the uterus), possible adhesions to other organs, etc…can all play a role in recovery, surgery time, type of surgery, hospital stay and possible complications. There is so much uncertainty when going into a procedure like this. I really won’t know much until I wake up. Scary.
What is expected for me:
Thursday March 20th. I will go in at 11am. Surgery is scheduled for 1pm. I will be put under general anesthesia and intubated. I will be placed onto a table that inverts me backwards so that my feet are higher than my head (this is going to be WONDERFUL for my back and neck issues…sarcasm). I will then be pumped up with carbon dioxide so that there is room to see everything and for the mechanical instruments to move freely. As long as it is an easy enough case – the plan is to use DaVinci Robotic Surgery (you can actually watch video of the DaVinci surgery HERE from the internal doctor’s eye view – if you are not too squeamish). There will be 3-5 incisions. He expects the surgery will be around 2 hours. You can kinda see the set up below. The surgeon is the one at the video game looking console.
After surgery I will go to a recovery area while I wake up. If everything goes well, I will be transferred to a hospital room for an overnight stay. If anything is iffy, I will stay longer. I will be given pain medication and they will probably try to get me drinking and walking that same day. This helps encourage the organs to wake up, helps get rid of some of the gas they pump into ya and also helps protect against blood clots. Chances are, I will be released the next day.
I will have my comfy area all set up and waiting for me at home. I am going to prepare as much as possible. I already ordered some nice new sheets, soft jammies, a robe and comfy undies. I have a whole list of supplies yet to purchase. But I will have everything ready because aside from a little walking every couple of hours – I will not be able to do anything anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. Like I said, everyone is different. I will not be able to lift over 5 lbs or drive for 2 weeks, I believe. And bending to do anything will take quite some time. I have known people who feel great after a week and others who still feel crappy after 2 months. One thing I hear from just about everyone is that the fatigue is just insane. Just have to wait and see. Sucks. Thank God my husband and mom will be here to help a lot of the time.
Apparently, some of the worst pain is the gas they pump into you. I guess it goes into your legs and up to your shoulders and causes a great deal of pain. I will be taking meds to help with this but I guess it really hurts – sometimes even more than the surgery itself. This is a worry of mine because my biggest fear in all of this is developing a blood clot – abdominal surgeries carry a higher risk for this. Dying of a pulmonary embolism has been a fear of mine for many, many years. I have never had a real reason to worry until now. From what I hear, the pain from this gas feels very similar to symptoms of a PE. Knowing me…I will likely be a panicky mess. So, yes. As stupid as it sounds…I am very worried about my having to worry.
There are many possible complications with hysterectomies:
It is very rare for serious complications to occur after having a general anaesthetic (1 in 10,000 anaesthetics given).
Serious complications can include nerve damage, an allergic reaction and death (death is very rare; there is a 1 in 100,000 chance of dying after having a general anaesthetic).
Being fit and healthy before you have an operation reduces your risk of developing complications.
As with all major operations, there is a small risk of heavy bleeding (haemorrhage) after having a hysterectomy.
If you have a haemorrhage, you may need a blood transfusion (where you receive blood from a donor).
Bladder or bowel damage
In rare cases, damage to abdominal organs, such as the bladder or bowel, can occur. This can cause problems, such as infection, incontinence or a frequent need to urinate.
It may be possible to repair any damage during the hysterectomy. You may need a temporary catheter to drain your urine, or a colostomy to collect your bowel movements.
(my own mother actually lost a kidney this way…they nicked it during her hysterectomy about 25 years ago and it died. she didn’t know until many, many years later when she received a CAT scan for back pain. she had to have it removed and that was a rough surgery. but she is very lucky she never became septic with a dead kidney inside for 20 or so years.)
There is always a risk that an infection will develop after an operation. This could be a urinary tract infection, a chest infection or a vaginal infection. These aren’t usually serious and can be treated with antibiotics.
A thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a vein and interferes with blood circulation and the flow of oxygen around the body. The risk of developing blood clots increases after having operations and periods of immobility.
You will be encouraged to start moving around as soon as possible after your operation. You may also be given a blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin, to reduce the risk of clots.
If you have a vaginal hysterectomy there is a risk that you will have problems at the top of your vagina where the cervix was removed. This could range from slow wound healing after the operation to prolapse in later years.
Even if one or both of your ovaries are left intact, they could fail within five years of having your hysterectomy. This is because your ovaries receive some of their blood supply through the womb, which is removed during the operation.
If you have had your ovaries removed, it’s likely that you’ll have menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, sweating, vaginal dryness and disturbed sleep, soon after your operation.
This is because the menopause is triggered once you stop producing eggs from your ovaries (ovulating).
This is an important consideration if you’re under the age of 40 because early onset of the menopause can increase your risk of developing brittle bones (osteoporosis). This is because the level of the hormone, oestrogen, decreases during the menopause.
Needless to say, all of this info is a lot of digest and deal with and is causing me great anxiety. But with the help of family, friends, a therapist and medication I may just get through this without canceling the whole thing. I am not gonna lie. I have had a couple of panic attacks and have been having some obsessive worry about the whole blood clot thing. But I am really trying to be as positive as I can to get me through this next month.
Leaving Cassidy is an impossible thought for me. I cannot bear it. So I absolutely HAVE to make myself believe that I will be okay. I have my moments where I think that laying in bed sick and miserable for a few more years would be better than the risk of death. But really, what kind of mom would that make me? Not a great one. And we never really know how long we have…I am almost 40 already! I want to live life. And I haven’t done a really terrific job of that. Especially lately. The list of pros and cons is indeed very difficult to reconcile. But I think this is the right thing to do.
So, that is what I have for now. I am scared shitless. And I really hope I can calm down soon.