I am 48 years old and in January 2016 I had a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy for multiple large fibroids. I have suffered for years with very heavy and painful periods, which became steadily worst over time. I tried hormonal management together with pain medication and whilst it did help a bit, the problem was still there.
I fitted my life around my periods, as even with medication, the bleeding was so severe that I could not be far from a facility to change for any period of time. I started using mostly black trousers and skirts so any leakage would not show. Over the years my lower stomach became larger, and it was the size of a 5 months pregnancy at the time of my surgery. My decision was to either continue living with the problems or doing something about it. I was concerned about having major surgery but it got to the point that realistically this was the only real option.
Having made the decision, my practical approach to life then took over. I read about the operation and what to expect in hospital and afterwards. I cooked lots of healthy meals and put them in the freezer so eating well would be easy after the surgery. I got lots of books and DVDs lined up for my time back at home. I set out to get my body and mind ready for what was to come.
It is hard to believe how much we rely on our stomach muscles to do every day activities, until we are no able to use them. When this happens, all other parts of our bodies need to make up for it to allow us to move. In preparation for this, I got myself as fit as I could in the time I had. I wanted my legs and arms to be strong to help me get in and out of bed and chairs. I wanted my body to be in the best possible shape to deal with the massive challenge it was going to face. It doesn’t really matter what one does, it can be walking, swimming, going to the gym … anything is better than nothing and will give the body a better change of a quick recovery.
As part of getting myself ready for the operation, I also cleaned up my diet and had lots of fruits, vegetable and protein. Forget the 5 a day, I was aiming for 8 to 10!
Finally, I started practising breathing exercises to help ease the anxiety and get me to sleep.
And then the day arrived… when I woke up from the operation, all I can remember was the pain and at this point the morphine was my best friend. It was there for a reason and it did help a lot in the first day after the operation. After that, it was amazing how much better day 2 feels.
I had a very good recovery and I put it down to a few simple things:
In hospital and at home after the operation I continued doing the breathing exercises to calm my mind and relax my body so it could heal.
I continue eating healthy with a good balance of fruit, vegetable, good quality carbohydrates and plenty of protein. These helped my body heal and gave it all the good nourishment that it needed.
I listened to my body: when it needed a rest, I rested. When it needed to move, I moved. I tried to walk a bit every day, on my first day back home, a 5 minute walk was very tiring but I just had a little nap afterwards. I kept pushing, I walked every day building up the time and distance over the days and weeks, and then having a sleep if I needed it. I was cleared to swim after 2 weeks and started doing a bit of swimming too. I challenged myself to keep improving but always making sure that I did not push it too far. Over the days and weeks it becomes easier, moving becomes easier, sleeping becomes more comfortable and the energy levels get better.
After 6 weeks I returned to work on a part time basis, building back to full time over the next 6 weeks. After 12 weeks I was cleared to do “everything”. Life started getting back to normal, but it took 5 months or so for the tenderness in my stomach to go away completely.
It has now been 7 months since my surgery and I can say that it was absolutely the right decision to have the hysterectomy. The debilitating pain and bleeding are gone, my fitness level is now back and for the first time in years I can use a white dress without the worrying.
None of us relish the prospect of major surgery, but by focusing on what we can do to help our bodies deal with it, can make a big difference to the recovery.