A few years ago I noticed some pain in my abdomen. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I typically ignore aches and pains these days. I’m 44. Random aches and pains have been part of my life for a while. But for whatever reason, I noticed these pains even though they had probably been around for quite a while. It wasn’t cramps, although it did feel a little cramp-y. It wasn’t severe pain. It was just simply a dull ache as if my body was saying, hey! You’ve got a little something going on here. Turns out it was fibroids and they had made home in my uterus for a lot of years, multiplying like little tumorous rabbits. The pain slowly increased to the point where I realized they were going to have to be evicted somehow. Since I had so many of them, my doctor suggested a full hysterectomy. I was fine with that since I didn’t plan on having any more children anyway. This was the fall of 2016, my first year of teaching high school. Over the course of the next few weeks, I made plans, appointments, and eventually came up with a date for the surgery: May 30th, the Tuesday after school was out for the summer. The date was far enough in the distance where it didn’t really seem real. Life went back to normal.
About a month away from the date of the surgery, I started getting a bit concerned. I had never really had surgery outside of an emergency C-section almost 20 years ago. I had never been put out completely with anesthesia and for someone who has a bit of trouble giving up control, that was a bit of an issue. Then I did the worst thing possible. I started Googling it. DON’T DO IT! the discussion boards screamed. YOUR DOCTOR IS WRONG! *sigh* I read about all the horrific things that could happen before and after surgery. Even my nurses were jumping on the band wagon, lamenting that my body will look old before its time. I quit Googling. I got a haircut. For bravery.
The weekend before the surgery was the first weekend after school let out. I had a bunch of friends over for cards and we had a great time. It was the perfect distraction. Sunday was pretty quiet. I worked my second job delivering pizza. Monday was spent vegging. We ate a quiet dinner and I went to bed. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink after midnight which was just fine with me as I had to get up at 4:30 anyway. That next morning, I packed, looked at my coffee pot in longing, and my boyfriend drove us to the hospital. I had bathed in Dial soap, I was lotion-less and makeup-less. I did wash my hair.
That day was a bit surreal. I checked in and we waited until it was time for me to go back and get prepped. I had to wipe myself down completely with antiseptic pads, clean out my nostrils with some type of antiseptic iodine (gross), and crawl into the traditional backless gown. And wait. We talked. We laughed. We left the TV off. They set me up on an IV. One of the nurses explained that the nose cleaning thing was part of long-term research, looking at ways to cut down on bacterial infections (cool!). The doctor came in to chat and gave me the disclaimer – all the things that could go wrong. I listened with half an ear. I figured since I was already on the table, I was pretty committed anyway. I wonder if anyone has ever backed out after hearing about all the bad things that could happen during surgery? The two nurses came back in, told me they were putting something in my IV to help me relax and proceeded to wheel me out of the room. I’m on my back, idling looking at the ceiling, watching the fluorescent lights float by, and that’s where my memory stops.
My memory comes back when I’m in my room. I have no memory of the surgery, of course. I have no memory of the recovery room. I first remember my parents and Bryan walking in, talking to each other and talking to me. The surgery was over. I was now minus a uterus and two ovaries and the scar tissue that had built up over the years from my C-section incision was now cleaned out. I have a nice, even horizontal scar that stretches from leg to leg.
Day 1 post-op: Wednesday. That first day was a a blur of nurses coming in and out, checking things, administrating medication, and me chatting with Bryan. Mom and Dad left after a while. I had some pain in the beginning, but they got it regulated pretty quickly. It was nice and hazy and cozy. The room was huge. Bryan was impressed with the size of the bathroom. The TV had horrible reception. The nurses were friendly. At some point during the day, I realized I was on a catheter which was weird. I had never been on one before and it was odd not having the sensation of needing to go to the bathroom. A nurse occasionally came in and emptied the bag and if it weren’t for my seeing that, I would never know I had urine going out of my body. After about an hour or so of being in my room, they came in and removed the monitor once my vitals were stable. I have no idea what Bryan and I talked about.
By the time night came, I was a bit more aware of things. I was able to talk to the nurses without sounding drunk.
By morning, I was attempting to sit up and eat some actual breakfast – oatmeal, yogurt, and some juice. The plan was to get me out of bed and moving around. They removed the catheter about mid-morning and by mid-afternoon, I was up, going to the bathroom on my own, eating solid foods even though I still didn’t have much of an appetite. I was sent home that evening, with a binder for my waist, prescriptions for pain meds and a stool softener, a patch on my arm that gave me the hormones I was now missing, and the cool yellow socks they issue (a friend says I am now officially part of The Yellow Sock Club). I had been advised by one of the nurses to not pick at the glue on my incision. It was a little bit unnerving knowing that my incision was held together by glue and dissolvable stitches on the inside of my body. I was a bit panicked that first evening – what if something went wrong? I no longer was under the safety of the hospital where if things went badly, I could have the nurses and doctors right there to fix it. We made it through, though. I tried eating some soup, just enough to get something in my stomach for the medication. I crawled into bed and slept through the haze of pain medication. I really was happy to be back home.
Day 2 post-op: After about three doses of the generic equivalent of Percocet, I’m done with it. It makes me feel as if my head were detached from the rest of my body and I don’t like that feeling at all. I stop taking it and instead start taking the generic Tylenol-3. Much better. I feel like my couch is going to have a permanent butt-print on it. I don’t feel like doing much other than watch movies on TV. I’m gassy and gurgly which I’ve been told is actually a good thing because that means my gastro system is functioning.
Burning question of the day. What happens to that gaping blank space where my female innards used to be?? Turns out that my bowel takes up a lot of the space. So basically, I’m even more full of shit than I was before. haha
Day 3 post-op: Friday. I’m still eating foods that are easy on my system – soup, things like that. Breakfast has been oatmeal or yogurt. Bryan gets take-out from Dixie café and I’m able to get some mashed potatoes, turnip greens, squash, and black-eyed peas. I’m still drinking a ton of water along with some cranberry juice. He had brought me some coffee that morning and I was able to drink half of it. By now, my stomach has been rumbling so much that I fear I’m going to have the Mount St. Helen’s version of a bowel movement at some point soon.
Day 4 post-op: Saturday. I’m reading my books, playing around on my computer, and watching TV. I have a new appreciation for high-fiber foods. I’ve been able to poop little poop nuggets at this point. I’m feeling pretty good. My incision was a little achy, but I haven’t had to worry about any adverse reactions to the Tylenol-3 or the stool softener. We watched the Nashville Predators game that night (Go Preds!).
Day 5 post-op: Sunday. I’m not able to go to church, but a couple of my church buddies stop by afterwards with some altar flowers which made my day. They’re beautiful. White hydrangeas. One of the parishioners had a wedding there the night before and typically the flowers are always left for the next morning.
Day 6 post-op: Monday. While everyone else is at work, I’m looking forward to a week of Netflix binging and guarding the couch. Today is my first day eating REAL FOOD. Pizza. That was the best thing I had ever put in my mouth. I ate two pieces and a couple of the little mini-cupcakes that Bryan brought over. He’s been the best care-taker.
Day 7 post-op: Tuesday. I’m paying for the pizza. But it’s worth it. My gastro system is obviously working. Today is follow-up day, one week since the surgery. The doc is happy with my progress and how my incision worked. The nurse removes the tape that was on either side of my incision. She pops a small blood blister that had formed through a part of the glue (ow!). I mention that I have a bit of restless leg syndrome at night and that I had a bit of diarrhea. Both are part of the healing process, nothing to worry about. He says I’m free to drive a little if I want to. That seems a bit soon for me so my plan is to wait until the beginning of the third week unless I just had to go somewhere. Luckily, I live in town so everything I need is a 5-minute drive away, tops. He encourages me to walk as much as my body would allow. We go to Arby’s for lunch and I can eat about half of my food. I spend the rest of the day relaxing on my back patio. I hadn’t been wearing the binder since I got home, but I did use it for the first time that night and slept like a rock. I think I’ll probably continue to wear it to bed for at least the next week.
Day 8 post-op: Today-Wednesday. I have regular bowel movements (you don’t realize how much you appreciate those until you’re not able to have them), I’m no longer on any type of pain medication, and I’m on hormone therapy. Hormone therapy was another hurdle to jump over. I’ve heard opinions from both camps on this and yes, I Googled it, which was another mistake. Don’t do it! they screamed. I stopped Googling. My plan is to stay on hormones for a few years until the time that my body would naturally go into menopause and then start weaning myself off of the hormones at my doctor’s direction.
Here on out, it’ll be continued recovery, but so far, so good. I don’t miss having a uterus. I don’t miss having ovaries. I do wish the doctor had sucked out some of the fat while he was in there, but whatever. I have another battle scar on my stomach which is fine. It’s just a physical thing and I never really worried too awful much about what my body looked like. I’ll wear it with pride. As long as I’m able to walk and do the things I want to do, I could care less. I’m thrilled the surgery went well, I’m thrilled I’m recovering well, and I’m looking forward to enjoying my summer break in a way only a teacher can enjoy it.