June 5, 2012 ~
‘….we were put into the prep room, and met with the nurses, anesthesiologist and finally the surgeon. She was on her way promptly at 7 a.m. The surgery was scheduled to last 2 hours. Staff notified me at 9:25 a.m. that she was in recovery and the doctor would be with us shortly. I figured that less than an hour and a half was a good sign.
I met with the doctor a little after 10 a.m. Everything went very well. Due to her diligent prepping for surgery, he had plenty of room to work and did not have to make a large incision. So hopefully that will be better for her recovery. She was in her room around 11 a.m., groggy and in pain. The pain was brought under control with more meds and she is resting comfortably.
Needless to say, the past month has been very difficult. I would like to thank all of Ellen’s readers who offered support and encouragement. I know it means a lot to her and also to me.’
I am coming up on my 15 month anniversary since my hysterectomy last year. I’ve only read the above update that Craig posted on this blog one other time, and it was shortly after my surgery. Craig wanted to have my approval before posting but he quickly realized I would have agreed to just about anything considering the heavy doses of pain medication I was on at the time. Reading through it for today’s post has me sitting here with a swell of emotion and a lot to write about.
Surprising Facts about Life after my Hysterectomy
1. I Am a Pleasant Person! (who knew?)
One of the reasons why I allowed myself to suffer through so much pain all those years was because I was afraid that I’d turn into a crazy person once my body started entering menopause, post-surgery. I’d already been through a series of medical treatments for endometriosis which put my body into a chemical induced menopause for 6 months. Those six months were not pretty. You can read all about that kind of Crazy right here.
Since surgery my moods have dramatically stabilized. No longer do I have the extreme highs and lows that I experienced when in my ‘temporary’ menopause from years ago. In fact, I’m pretty pleasant to deal with most of the time.
2. I’m Happy I Had The Surgery. I Regret Having The Surgery.
Now that I am pretty much healed it is a lot easier to say that I don’t regret it. However, I have had many, many days where I’ve wished that I’d never had the surgery. Why? Because recovering from a total abdominal hysterectomy is a bitch. Pain meds were a blessing and a curse. Turning over in bed was considered a major milestone, and having a bowel movement was news worth shouting from the rooftops. That was my existence the first 8 weeks. After that it was one day at a time, learning how to rebuild the stamina I once took for granted. This took several more months. However the constant bloating and tender tummy were the largest of my complaints. My normal wardrobe was in storage for 6 months because I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes.
3. The phrase ‘Six-week Recovery’ doesn’t mean what you think it means.
I read everything I could get my hands on before surgery. From ‘What to Expect’ to ‘What you need to know’ and everything in between. Every site I visited contained a line or two about there being a six-week recovery. Little did I know that what this actually means is that after six weeks, your doctor can technically release you from his care because there’s nothing more he can do for you. From the six week mark forward, your body does all the work and it takes months. And months. I wish I’d gone to some blogs that had personal stories of recovery. Doctors never tell you the part about your body taking a FULL year to heal. They also don’t tell you much about the massive amounts of swelling that feels like it will never, ever go away. You also don’t hear about how long it takes to regain your energy, or do simple things like vacuum the carpet or sit straight up in bed. Only until after my surgery did I begin finding sites that had personal stories just like mine. I remember one in particular that read, ‘On your one year anniversary you will find that you have more days when you don’t think about your surgery than days when you do think about it.’ That is very true. Only now do I go days at a time when I am not physically reminded in one way or another. These days the only time I think about it is when I get a pang at my incision site from overdoing abdomen/core work, or when I’m at Yoga and a deep stretch sends a twinge of pain through my stomach muscles.
…and speaking of recovery:
4. For the Love of God, PLEASE stop asking why it’s taking me so long to recover and that YOU were back to doing Zumba one week post-op!
I cannot tell you how many women came up to me several months after surgery, asking why I was still looking so pale and tired. (Note: insert a very snarky voice here) ‘I just don’t understand why it’s taking you so long,’ they’d say. ‘I was outside breaking up concrete with a sledgehammer only three days after MY surgery.’
Okay, maybe they weren’t doing THAT much physical activity, but many women did tell me they were back to doing their normal daily activities within 2 weeks of their surgery, which would leave me fretting about my own recovery and worrying about what was wrong with me. Only later did I find out that many of those women had vaginal hysterectomies (um, WAY less invasive than a hip to hip incision). Lesson? It takes as long as it takes. Period.
5. There IS life after Chocolate!
For decades I knew where I was in my cycle from the sudden spike in my craving for chocolate. I always kept some on hand. For me, it wasn’t a ‘want’ but a serious ‘need.’ Many times I also craved salt (specifically, salt and vinegar potato chips) but for the most part nothing came between me and a bar of dark chocolate. In fact, whenever I had dessert say, at a restaurant – regardless of where I was in my cycle, I’d simply scan the menu until I found the word chocolate and then I’d just order accordingly.
I can honestly say that since my surgery I haven’t had a craving for chocolate like I used to. Sure I still crave sugar, but now when I have dessert I search for other flavors – like lemon. Go figure!
As you know, I am a firm believer of things happening for a reason. This may sound corny to some, but I also try to open myself up to receiving signs that will guide me in this life. Looking back at the last year I see definite signs that I take great comfort in. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Pivotal moments in my life, whether emotionally gut-wrenching or physically brutal have always led me to exciting and extremely satisfying places. I used to get frustrated for not deciding to have this surgery earlier in life. I could have spared myself so much discomfort and spent more time participating in life instead of watching it pass by, I’d think to myself. But now I firmly believe that I had my surgery exactly when I was supposed to. It allowed me to paint while I healed, which led to meeting amazing mentors and friends and ultimately, pursue my lifelong dream of creating art full time. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that I need to live my life based on today and look forward to the possibilities that await me tomorrow; it’s not about mourning the past.
It’s taken me 15 months to post this declaration, but I’m glad I had my surgery. It’s certainly taught me a lot about my body, what it can endure and ultimately recover from. Get ready menopause, cause I’m coming - Full. Steam. Ahead!!