Saturday, June 21, 2008

Life After Hysterectomy

It's been a year now since I had a total hysterectomy. A total hysterectomy is where they not only take out your uterus (no more periods,) but your ovaries as well (no more hormones driving your emotions.) The boys in the audience might want to come back another day--unless of course you’ve got a wife or girlfriend going through this sort of thing, then you might want to stick around--you might learn something helpful!

The first doctor to tell me I needed to have a hysterectomy was back in 1999. He said I had two choices: Either I needed to get pregnant, or I needed to have a hysterectomy--NOW. Well, since for nine years I had been unable to get pregnant and sustain the pregnancy, the first option was kind of out. I needed to have a hysterectomy because I was bleeding into my pelvic cavity behind my uterus which not only caused a tremendous amount of pain, but the degrading blood was actually burning through my pelvic bone like acid.

That's where IVF and the birth of my twins comes in--but that's a story for another day. Right now I'm telling the story of my doomed uterus.

Funnily, after the birth of my twins in 2000, I got it into my head that I was now 'fixed' and we would be able to complete our family the old fashioned way. Month after month when I turned up to be not pregnant, I was devastated--just in the days of old when I used to think I could get pregnant.

The pain I endured was nearly unbearable, sometimes incapacitating. Sex was a torture to be endured for the purpose of producing life. Needless to say, it did not make for a happy husband or wife.

Finally in the winter of 2007 I could stand it no longer and I demanded a hysterectomy.

My doctor (a different one from the guy in 1999 but one who had been singing the same tune since the day he first examined me in 2001,) nearly jumped for joy at the news and quickly arranged for the surgery. We didn't waste any time.

Once the uterus was out, it could no longer be referred to as a uterus--it was now The Thing, because it barely resembled a uterus at all. Perhaps only because of its location within my body would the trained eye say "this is a uterus"--it was so far gone.

We thought I had endometriosis, but in fact it wasn't endometriosis at all, but something called adenomyosis, which I had never even heard of. It's basically the same as endometriosis except instead of being on the surface areas of your uterus, it inhabits the muscle itself.

Through all those years I'd thought I could maybe get pregnant after the birth of my boys, my uterus was simply not capable of doing its job. I could have saved myself a whole lot of pain and misery if I'd just listened to doctors way back when and had the darn thing out.

Anyway, so they took everything out because I was so messed up down there and my doc (who is awesome by the way) said a lot of people with histories similar to mine come back short time later needing their ovaries out, so we might as well do it all at once.

Prior to my hysterectomy, my period had loomed like a sleeping dragon-everyone was afraid when it might wake up and what kind of mood it would be in. would it be in a foul mood? Or would it be in an eat-the-villagers-alive kind of mood?

It's hard for me to reconcile the life I once lived with the life I enjoy today. Once, my whole life was shaped by my period. When it was coming, and the rotten way I would feel; it's long stay and the horrendous way I would feel; and the when it was gone and I was recovering from its visit and preparing for its return. I spent a good two and a half weeks of each 28 day cycle nearly bedridden because of the pain.

Today, I am a happy camper:)

About three months ago I got a *little* moody. We realized that my pharmacist had put me on a generic of my hormone supplements and for some reason my body didn't like it. I went back to the name-brand and voila! Happy again. There was a time when such a small thing as being moody would not have seemed out of place at all. For me, getting this surgery was like getting IV anti-depressants. I'm way more anti now than I've ever been.

My surgery went beautifully. The recovery was harder than I expected, however. I thought I'd be feeling so fabulous (and I was) that I could hop up and get right back into my life (which I could not.) It took my body a good three months to recover sufficiently that I could resume some of my previous activities.

I thought the weight I had put on over the past few years would magically drop off. It made sense, right? I'd eaten a lot to distract myself from the constant pain. No constant pain, no eating, right? I could exercise as much as I wished because of the constant pain. No constant pain, I could learn to run a marathon, right? And without that 12 pound five-month gestation sized belly taking up precious real estate in my bod, I'd be slim and trim in no time, right?


Well, right ... sort of. I mean, all of those things are better, or just outright gone. Thing is, I am still the things I was before the surgery.

I still overeat, I still procrastinate exercising, and while my belly is full of a hard rotting mass, I am now in menopause and as such my body is hording extra fat and stuff as just a part of getting older.

I've discovered that a hysterectomy was not a total-spirit makeover. My body is better, oh yes. I don't regret the operation in the slightest. However, the bad habits I developed over eighteen years of pain and depression have not magically melted away. I am still that person. I am also a new and improved person, but they both exist within the same person and both demand their due.

So while the surgery repaired so much of what was wrong with me, the rest is up to me. Bad habits were not something that could be removed with a sharp knife. At least not of the physical kind. I'll need a different kind of knife for this kind of excision.

So a year later, I can definitely recommend a hysterectomy if you're considering getting one yourself. However, don't expect it to be a magic cure-all for all that ails you. There's some healing you just have to do yourself.