My Hysterectomy Anniversary

It’s six years today since I had my hysterectomy.

I really really didn’t want one. Well, I didn’t want one until all the other options had been explored. And to begin with I thought I had a good chance of getting away with not having to have one.

I was diagnosed with fibroids – benign tumours in the womb. Some women live with them for years, and they tend to shrink after the menopause – so, aged nearly 51 when I was diagnosed, the hope was that I would hit the menopause before the fibroids caused a problem.

It didn’t happen. Two courses of hormone injections (six months for each course) and the fibroids came back – as if the rest had done them good. And so did the periods. Heavy, heavy periods. I was 52 by this point. Menopause?? What menopause?

I looked six months pregnant, which I found unbelievably embarrassing. Fibroids are generally described as being about the size of a grapefruit – by the time I had my op, mine was 22cm by 15cm by 10cm. I spent my time bundled up in a big chunky cardigan and stopped wanting to go out. But worse, the fibroids started to hurt, which they hadn’t before.

Off to the GP I went, again  – and I was sent home with an urgent appointment to see my gynae, and strict instructions not to bend, stretch or lift in the meantime, as the fibroid was in danger of rupturing.

So, I had to have a hysterectomy. As I said, I really didn’t want to, I guess no-one ever does – but once there was no option I resigned myself to it. I’d done my best to avoid it, but it couldn’t be helped.

I’d had serious concerns about having a hysterectomy. I’d worried that I would feel less of a woman, less feminine. I’d worried about the long-term side-effects, the effect on my sex-life, weight gain, and a whole host of other things (the internet is a mixed blessing).

I genuinely feel no different. Everything still * ahem * functions. I haven’t gained any weight.

The menopause started, of course (I came round from the anaesthetic with a hot flush…) – about blummin’ time, I felt. I was nearly 53 by the time I had the op! No longer having the industrial-strength periods was simply heaven.

Do I wish I’d made the decision sooner? No – if I’d felt like I was on some sort of conveyor-belt the outcome might not have been so positive emotionally and psychologically. It was a decision that I had to make when it was right for me – and for me that meant exploring other options first. If I’d been diagnosed with something more serious than fibroids, I wouldn’t have hesitated. It also helped that I felt supported by my gynaecologist.

The first gynae I saw had been very scathing about ‘people like me’ who look things up on the internet. He also asked my husband’s permission before he examined me, which I found odd.

Anyway, the second gynae was much better – a healthy disregard for the rules and a wicked sense of humour – shook me by the hand after the op and said, ‘At your cervix…’

The recovery period afterwards was long and boring – no lifting or driving for six weeks – but after the first week, when I hardly made it out of the bedroom, it was really just a case of getting on with it. I watched every episode of Downton Abbey, right from the beginning. Time well spent!!

I found very useful – good for getting an idea of what to expect before, during, and after. And if nothing else, it lets you know that you’re not alone.

Six years on, and the scar is barely visible. It had to be an up-and-down incision due to the size of the fibroid – and now it just looks like someone has drawn on me with a white crayon. I scarcely think about it. I have absolutely no issues with anyone seeing it.

And the muscles have recovered, despite being cut in two. I went back to Pilates a couple of months after the op, and I was very sensible and followed the instructor’s advice. And I built things up gradually until I was back to where I felt I ought to be. And then I kept going – I can do sit-ups, crunches, even V crunches these days.

I think I originally thought a hysterectomy was the end of something, and I guess it is.

But it’s not the end of everything.

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