I’m glad I had my surgery – Helen’s story

I had a total abdominal hysterectomy, omentectomy, appendectomy and removal of a rugby ball sized ovarian cyst and another not so large cyst on the other ovary. They have cut me from my bikini line up past my belly button to under my rib cage so they could get the cyst out on one piece.

I felt so unwell before I had the surgery, I looked pregnant, I was severely anemic, I was out of breath, I found it difficult to fasten my shoes, my pants crippled me, I couldn’t eat as I would vomit and the heartburn was constant and incurable.
I was working right up until surgery day, I look back now and wonder how I managed to do so, I’m a nurse in a very busy mental health unit, without sounding whiny my workload is immense. I spoke with a couple of my colleagues recently and they told me how worried they had been because of how I looked, one of them said they actually thought i had cancer and that I might die, obviously they couldn’t tell me at the time.

After the op I was in hospital for 4 days and then home. At first it was very difficult to get comfortable and I was very anxious and squeamish about the wound, you hear of stories where other people’s wounds have come open. I slept on the couch for a week as not only was it difficult to get into bed but I feared my partner might knock me in my sleep. The recovery was really good, I’d say 3 weeks and I felt I could cope with the wound, the pain was much better although physically I was weak.
I had a couple of set backs, at week 5 the biopsy results came back and they found that the larger cyst was cancerous, the consultant however was confident that they removed all the cancerous tissue therefore I do not need to have any further treatment ie chemotherapy.

There was also a small infection in the wound but antibiotics cleared that up. It was the lower part of the wound the bit I felt took the longest to heal, apparently it is quite common to get an infection there, it’s where they have knotted the invisible stitching. I was told that infections like this normally go when the stitches dissolve however because of the redness and swelling they gave me antibiotics.

I have been getting increasingly worse hot flushes as time has gone on, I went to see my GP at week 6 and he advised me that I will have to have HRT there is a high risk I would develop osteoporosis without it, no ovaries = no estrogen. There is a history of breast cancer in my family, my nan died of it and my mum had it but luckily and thankfully survived after treatment. There is an increased risk of breast cancer with HRT however my GP advises me the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks, despite this he is sending me for a breast screening and in the meantime I am to take calcium and vitamin D tablets to help strengthen my bones.

I am 37 years old and it is a little daunting to hear I may have to take HRT medication to well into my 50’s, I do not usually take any medication, is rare i take paracetamol these days. The whole adventure has been like a whirlwind and overwhelming at times but i have to say that if I had to do it all over again I would do the same, compared to how I felt before the surgery I feel a hundred times better.

They said 12 weeks off work but I will be taking longer, I don’t know if it’s all I’ve had removed or the anxiety that goes with it but I certainly don’t feel ready and my abdomen continues to be tender, a knock in work would only set me back again so I’m gonna make sure I’m well enough first. Ideally I would like to have had my apt at the breast clinic and a trial of HRT before I return to work but we’ll have to see.

Recovery will be different for everyone, I’m at week 8 of recovery now, I feel fantastic (again compared to before the surgery) but I still have pain and still feel tired and get tired easily and when I over do things it sets me back a bit again. Mentally I’m worried, It’s all the “what ifs” like what if they didn’t get all the cancer, what if I have breast cancer, what if I can’t have HRT and I end up with osteoporosis, what if i can’t have HRT.

I have a different mind set these days I don’t feel empty like I thought I would but I feel different and more delicate. I’m gonna focus of getting better in my own time, if that means longer off work then so be it, you only get one life there’s no way I’m wearing myself out for someone else. Helen


in my own words book coverNow available on our online store and all other online book store’s. In My Own Words: Women’s Experience of Hysterectomy is full of many other real-life stories from women the world over.

Other people’s stories help women feel less isolated. They show that they aren’t going mad, missing the point or stupid.

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