For many years I have had a hate-hate relationship with my uterus. This year, a few days before Mother’s Day, I finally got to say goodbye! Good riddance! Adios! Sayonara!
That’s right- at 43 years old, I got a hysterectomy!
I suffered from multiple issues related to my uterus and entire reproductive system for years and years. Beginning with unexplained infertility more than 10 years ago which led to multiple rounds of unsuccessful IVF treatments and more poking, prodding and injections to last a lifetime. I was wrong to think my troubles were behind me once we put the IVF chapter behind us.
For the past several years, I suffered from heavy bleeding, irregular periods and a lot of pain, all of which were caused by a decent sized fibroid growing in my uterus.
Although most fibroids are asymptomatic and will not cause many problems if untreated, mine was another story altogether. During the last several years, it caused a range of problems including irregular periods, heavy bleeding, and severe cramps – all of which I thought I could and should be able to deal with.
Why is it that as women sometimes we feel like a certain amount of suffering is par for the course – most men would not deal with more than one month of what I went through!
Having a fibroid meant I had to undergo regular ultrasounds so my doctor could monitor its growth. The continued problems and a cancer scare due to its rapid growth meant that I needed to have a serious conversation with my doctor about options. We had already tried birth control pills and the Mirena IUD which were disastrous experiments. The Pill made me an emotional wreck and the Mirena made me spot EVERY DAY for six months in addition to my horrific periods.
According to my doctor, there weren’t many options left that were less invasive than surgery. We talked about surgery and I was so hesitant. I didn’t want the downtime, or the scar, and I was scared of major surgery.
I still kept thinking that the surgery seemed elective – because all women deal with their period right? And was I a wimp for not being able to deal with my issues?
Meanwhile, I was dealing with issues that were certainly not normal. Continued heavy bleeding – so heavy at times that I could not leave the house, cramps, bloating and unpredictable periods every 2-3 weeks made my quality of life pretty miserable. I decided to try the last non-invasive procedure available to me. An endometrial ablation, a non-invasive procedure that destroys the uterine lining with heat. I was hopeful as everything I read about this procedure made it sound wonderful. It’s an outpatient procedure and I would have no downtime. After the ablation, I would not have any more periods because my uterine lining would be destroyed. I was excited, even though I was warned that although the ablation would be an effective treatment to deal with the bleeding and pain, the fibroid would still be in my uterus but it was unlikely that I would have continued issues because of it.
After the ablation, I did not get my period for several months. I was thrilled that the ablation had worked and I would be free of all the problems that had plagued me for years. Then less than six months after the procedure, my periods were back- as heavy and as frequent as before. The loss of blood was draining me and almost landed me in the ER several times. I was also an emotional wreck and in pain much of the time. And to top it off, an ultrasound revealed that the fibroid had doubled in size measuring at 11 centimeters. That is the size of a GRAPEFRUIT!!!
I was done. I wanted the suffering to end- for good.
I had a talk with my doctor who recommended a surgeon who specialized in hysterectomies. At that appointment, I learned that surgery wasn’t really up to me anymore either- the fibroid was dangerously big and because of the presence of only one fibroid and its rapid growth, there was a major cancer risk. The recommendation was to schedule a Da Vinci assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy as soon as possible. I would have my uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes removed and keep my ovaries. Keeping my ovaries would not accelerate menopause and thus- not require me to take hormones for the next decade.
Although still considered major surgery, this procedure is much less invasive than the traditional open incision operation that I thought I would be getting. My doctors told me that my surgery would most likely be outpatient, I would need about 4 weeks to recover, and that I would only have several small 1-2 inch scars on my abdomen. Even though I was so ready, my only reservation was that my family and I had planned a big family vacation, and scheduling the surgery right away could possibly interfere with the trip. I talked to my surgeon about postponing the surgery until after my trip and she agreed as long as I got a chest x-ray putting her mind at ease that I had no additional tumors that they could identify.
The surgery was a huge success and one of the best decisions of my life.
In fact, I think that the pre-surgery anxiety was the worst part of the entire experience. Waiting for major surgery is never fun and I think it’s worst when you have to wait almost 6 months. My surgery was scheduled for the first procedure of the day at 7:30 am and I was at home in my own bed at 7:00 pm the same day. The fibroid measured at a whopping 11.5 centimeters and weighed almost 2 pounds. Once they got in there, the doctors discovered adenomyosis which caused a lot of the pain associated with my periods. Adenomyosis is extremely difficult to diagnose and a hysterectomy is the only treatment for this condition.
It is now eight weeks post operation, and I feel great. Better, in fact, than I have felt in a really long time.
My energy level is up – not losing so much blood will do that to you, I am exercising and not anxiously eating everything in sight. The pathology came back normal – yay- no cancer and I am so happy to report that I will never, ever have another period as long as I live. The recovery was so easy that I wondered why I suffered for so long – but I have learned to look forward and not to think too much about the past.