Things You Need to Know About a Hysterectomy That Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You

I believe in doctors and am super impressed by what they do, but sometimes they just don’t give you the whole story. I don’t blame them, our society as a whole has a thing when it comes to talking about our weird, wonderful, and disgusting bodies. I hung on my doctor’s every word, read every pamphlet, and even did some research on the internet (webmd is awesome – they don’t try to scare the hell out of you), but still wasn’t completely prepared for my hysterectomy.  

My hysterectomy was what they call non-invasive which means that I had three small incisions, two on either side of my lower belly and one in my belly button. They removed my uterus, my fallopian tubes, and a fibroid tumor measuring in at about eight centimeters. This type of hysterectomy cuts down on the recovery time and severity by a bunch. The only bummer part is that you don’t have any scars worthy of having a body part removed. It seems anti-climactic.

Here’s my list of what I wished I knew:

  • Prepare to slow way down. After the first few days you might feel pretty good, but don’t let it fool you. You will pay in pain and exhaustion if you overdo it. When the doctor says that full recovery will take four to six weeks, she means it. First, listen to your body. It warns you with a twinge of pain, a bit of swelling, or even a weird tightness across your midsection. If any of these occur, stop whatever it is you’re doing and relax. Second, become a nap taker. If you’ve never taken naps, enjoy the fact that you can now and your family has to let you – doctor’s orders. In short, your uterus, even though it’s gone, is still going to dictate your daily routine for a bit. You should let it have its last hurrah.
  • Slowing down is not the same as becoming stagnant. Walking as much as you can is a great idea. Your doctor will tell you this. At first, just a trip around the house feels like a two hour workout. You can increase it a little bit each day. When you walk around the block for the first time, you will feel like the winner of the Boston Marathon. Avoid sitting, especially upright, for long periods of time. Do you know how long Hamlet is? I do, three hours and thirteen minutes. By the end of the first hour sitting in a hard plastic patio chair, I felt like I was in labor. By the end, I was right there with the characters writhing in pain after being poisoned. To move, or not to move, that is the question. Move!  
  • Take the drugs. Don’t be me where you do this stupid thing and believe you are super tough and can handle pain without pharmaceutical help. You’ll learn quickly that you need the drugs. After all, a body part was removed. Your body has to deal with that and it’s going to be painful. I only did the heavy duty drugs and the anti-nausea meds for the first couple days. After that, Aleve became my best friend. Getting and staying ahead of pain is a real thing. Your body will let you know when it’s ready to abandon the meds.  
  • Pooping is an issue. Religiously take the stool softeners the doctor gives you. In short, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or poop, in this case. Know that mere softening may not be enough and you may have to move up to more invasive measures. I had my first experience with Milk of Magnesia. I will say here that movies like Dumb and Dumber do not exaggerate the laxative experience. If you get to the point of needing this kind of help, you don’t care how explosive your body becomes. Passing gas hurts, pooping hurts, but it’s better than allowing your body to keep that stuff captive for too long. Like the other hysterectomy nuances, this doesn’t last for long.  
  • Peeing feels weird. It’s really not that I’m obsessed with bodily functions, I promise. It’s just that all these things happen in the same general area as where your uterus used to be. Weird is the best word I can come up with to describe how peeing feels. Peeing is not painful, but it’s not, not painful. See, weird. I did ask my doctor about this one. She told me that she hears the weird pee thing a lot. And it makes sense. The uterus and the bladder are right next to one another. It goes away after a few weeks, and then you become a champion pee-er, even better than you were before.
  • I actually can’t believe I’m writing this one, and I’m going to be really embarrassed if I’m the only woman who experienced this. I actually felt some sexual arousal during the healing process. Not only is that crazy, but it’s incredibly cruel because you can only imagine following that urge would lead to unimaginable pain. It could possibly ruin sex forever! This is definitely the time you need to get up and move. Give your lady parts something else to do.  

There are some Hell’s Fridays involved with a hysterectomy, but all in all, it wasn’t bad. The best part of the whole experience was when I handed over all my monthly “treats” to my teenage daughters and really realized that I don’t need that crap anymore!

The dictionary says ‘hyster’ means womb, and ‘ectomy’ means remove. Makes sense, until you think of the words hysteria and hysterical which in essence both mean bat-shit crazy. Anyway, the point is that not only did you have your uterus removed, but also your crazy. Our language is super sexist, isn’t it?

I would love to hear your hysterectomy experience, so leave a comment!

Your Peace is in Your Hands

For my grandma, who I called Gram, naps were for lazy folks, meditation was for hippies, and too much TV would rot your brain. Relaxation for her meant working with her hands and creating something. The only way to relieve stress, to exorcise the Hell’s Fridays, was a project that required sweat equity.

Gram’s favorite project was making bread once a week. She hummed or talked to whoever was in the kitchen as she threw dry ingredients into one bowl and liquids into another. There was no recipe, and the use of measuring cups and spoons was optional. I remember bits and pieces of this part of the process. I think potato water was involved because Gram took living in Idaho very seriously. I also remember the artist’s care she took when creating the crater in the flour mixture for the liquids.

What I will never forget, and the part that taught me all I needed to know about relieving stress, was the kneading. When Gram spread a handful of flour onto her yellow formica countertop, I knew it was time for reverent silence. She placed the dough gently on the counter and gave it a few reassuring pats. Gram took a deep, complete upper body breath and closed her eyes. Then she thrust the palm of her hand violently into the doughy mass and pummelled the hell out of that dough exactly one hundred times. If I listened closely I could hear her counting under her breath. Breadmaking was how Gram reached nirvana, recharged her chi, released the dopamine in her brain, and simply prepared for another week of life.

Exercise is awesome, drinking is divine, even watching TV is great, but if I really need a break from my brain and the thoughts coursing through there, I take on a project. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you enjoy it. I don’t do baking. For me, it’s like the Indigo Girls song says, “I gotta get out of bed/Get a hammer and a nail/Learn how to use my hands/Not just my head.”

Try a project and let me know how it goes!