My Hysterectomy Story: How I am REALLY doing

Truthfully, this has been a hard journey.  In the midst of one of the busiest seasons of my life, I faced a health crisis.  I am tired and overwhelmed.  There has been several days where I just want to curl up in a fetal position in my bed and sleep the day away because I didn’t want to face the pain or the decisions that I had to make.

Other troubles within my family have reared their heads during this crisis of mine and I have felt I was just one step away from tumbling down into despair.

Yet, I have SO MUCH to be thankful for in my situation:

  • The treatment for my health issue is reasonable.
  • Not only is the treatment going to remove the fibroids, It is going to be cutting-edge with a minimal recovery period (1 night hospital stay, 1 week until driving, 2-3 weeks until normal activity).
  • I have a supportive husband
  • My family is stepping up to give me a community I can count on.  They are THERE for me in this.
  • My kids are praying for me and their faith is growing in this  

For these reasons, I am truly thankful.

I am struggling the most with loosing my uterus.  Even though we have already taken steps to not have children anymore, the truth that I CAN’T have children anymore is a struggle emotionally.  

I hope that some of my symptoms will disappear after surgery, but it is not guaranteed.  Dr. S has told me that the only thing he can guarantee from my surgery is that I will not have the fibroids anymore and that I will not have a period anymore (can I get a Hallelujah????),  but my other symptoms may/may not improve, though he thinks there is a chance they will.  I understand that he can’t guarantee and I appreciate his honesty.

I am also concerned how my body will respond to not having my uterus.  I know that my hormones are affected by my ovaries, which I am keeping, but still…

I wonder how my sex life will be post-op, both physically and emotionally.

I wonder what recovery will be like, how painful will it really be?  Will I really recover as quickly as Dr. S says?  What will life be like during recovery? How will I cope? How much pain will I really be in?

Will I be able to handle anesthsia?

How will my kids respond in all of this?

What about my husband?

Really, in all honesty, I am at peace with this surgery and that this is now part of My Story.  I am hoping that My Story will help others with their story, just like others stories has helped me with mine.

I have fear and questions, but I mostly have peace.

What about you?  Are you facing a major health issue?  How are you feeling about it?  Is fear is gripping you about something and you long for peace?  Where have you found peace in the fear?  I’d love to hear your story!  Please leave me a comment, share with me your story.  

My Hysterectomy Story: The Fourth Appointment and More Opinions

By the time I had come to February 4, 2016, the appointment at the 2nd OB/GYN practice to receive another opinion about my surgery, I had been to 3 appointments, the ER once, and suffered from anxiety, which I finally overcame after cancelling my abdominal hysterectomy.


Before this highly anticipated appointment, I made sure that the new doctor I was going to see had all of my records from Dr. H back in TN and Dr. J, who was the first OB/GYN I saw in Greenville, and all my ultrasound images.  I wanted to make sure I did not have to reschedule anything due to my lack of preparedness!!!  Everything was set by the time February 2 rolled around.


On the day of my appointment, Patrick took off from work so he could go with me and my parents drove into town to watch the kids.  Oh, the support I was receiving filled my cup!  I was so thankful for the sacrifice of these precious people.


The doctor I was scheduled to see, Dr. B, was extremely nice and calmly listened to my story.  He asked me a series of questions and made sure he understood what I wanted to know: was I eligible for a minimally invasive surgery.  After taking my history and examining me, he gave me his opinion, which was this:


  • After his analysis of the ultrasound, my fibroids were bigger than I was originally told: they were 11cm, 6cm and 6cm.  That’s pretty much a large grapefruit and 2 small oranges growing in my uterus!
  • And speaking of which, my uterus was the size of a 16-17 week pregnancy (!!!!!)
  • Based on my medical history, he did not feel that I was at risk of cancer and that an MRI and an oncologist on-call were not necessary for my case (the only way to truly tell if my fibroid was cancerous is through a pathology report after the hysterectomy).
  • He felt that with the size of my fibroids and uterus, a vaginal hysterectomy (the least invasive of hysterectomies) was out of the question for his practice or any of his local colleagues.
  • He felt that with the positioning of my fibroids, a laparoscopic hysterectomy would not be a good fit for me.
  • Though regular laparoscopy would not work for my case, there was a newer robotic-assisted laparoscopy that may work for me and that one of his colleagues was an expert on the robotics procedure.  He wanted to see if we would allow this doctor, Dr. S, to evaluate me to see if I was a candidate for the robotic-assisted laparoscopy.  Otherwise, the abdominal hysterectomy would the best procedure for my case.


After the assessment by Dr. B, we agreed to see Dr. S to get his opinion.  So, Dr. B stepped out of the room and spoke to Dr. S about my case.  Dr. S came into the exam room and heard a brief rundown of my history and proceeded with an examination.  After his assessment, he gave me his opinion, which was this:


  • The size and positioning of my fibroids and uterus would, in fact, allow him to do the robotic-assisted laparoscopy.  He had performed over 200 procedures with the robotic machine and all but one were successful (on that one, he proceeded with an abdominal hysterectomy). He thought my procedure would be successful, too.


Oh, I was so grateful to hear this news!  Dr. S told me that if I agreed with the procedure, he would have a scheduler call me and get my surgery on the books.  I agreed!  I left the 2-hour appointment with the promise of a MIVS and a light heart. There was grace in this!!!  I tell you what, God is totally in this!!!   I clearly see grace in my life with a hysterectomy on the horizon!!!


On the way home from the appointment, Patrick and I chuckled at the amount of doctors that have examined me or given me advice in the prior weeks over my large Fibroid:
  1. Opinion 1: Dr. J at the first OB/GYN practice who helped me make the discovery
  2. Opinion 2: Dr. H from TN who encouraged me to seek a second opinion
  3. Opinion 3: Dr. B at second OB/GYN practice who referred me to his colleague for a specialized MIVS
  4. Opinion 4: Dr. S who told me I would be a good candidate for Assisted Robotic Laparoscopy and was willing to perform the surgery for me


I told Patrick that this whole situation I was reminded me of that episode of Friends where Ross finds a “Thing” on his rear-end and when he went to have the “Thing” checked out, the doctor called in all his colleagues to see it.  That’s been me!  I was TOTALLY Ross!!!

***Watch from about 2:07 - 2:37, which is the part that I can relate to, but the whole video is funny!!!

SEEING THE GOOD:



  • My parents came to watch the kids so Patrick and I could attend the appointment together
  • The 2nd OB/GYN I saw, Dr. B, thoroughly listened to my concerns and directed me to the doctor who would best meet my health goals, even when it wasn't him.
  • The 3rd OB/GYN I saw, Dr. S, told me that I was a candidate for MIVS and he gladly took my case.
  • I am able to see comedy in my situation. :-)

My Hysterectomy Story: Moving Past Anxiety and Seeking Help

I consider myself a fairly strong person.  


Yet I am also very weak.


This Fibroid/Hysterectomy/Anxiety thing has proven that this dichotomy is true about me.


I have realized over these past few months is that if I try to do this all on my own, I will fail.  I need the support of my family and friends to get me through the mental and physical strain this is taking on me.


Over the course of several weeks, I have discovered my uterus was full of large fibroids and along with my doctor, we have made a plan for their removal.  Through all of this, I have leaned on the support and love of my family.  


My father told me that he thought my cousin had the same issue as I did, so I reached out to her and discovered that she had an abdominal hysterectomy because of Uterine Fibroids about 2 years prior and she was about the same age as me during her procedure.  I asked to hear her story and she graciously and willingly told me it.  Her symptoms were a bit different than mine and she had some minor complications in her recovery, but overall she felt great and had no regrets after her procedure.


I also remembered a friend of mine from TN who had a hysterectomy when she was younger and I reached out to her as well to hear her story, which she also graciously and willingly gave me.  


During the course of my discovery process, my aunt send me an encouraging card, telling me that she and my grandmother also had a hysterectomy because of large uterine fibroids.  I never knew this about these two special ladies and it meant a lot to me that I had this connection with them. 


All of these ladies were a great support to me and reaching out to hear the stories and being encouraged by them is one of the reasons I am writing my own story: I want my story to offer encouragement to others.


But even with all of the inspirational stories, I was still having anxiety symptoms: tight throat, difficulty swallowing, indigestion.  I still needed to dig deeper to seek solstice for my mental and emotional healing.


In my hours of research, I came across a hysterectomy support group called HysterSisters.com, which is an EXCELLENT place to have questions answered and receive/give advice from/to women who are in the same health position as one like me who is facing a hysterectomy.  I started watching some of the informational videos and read some articles about preparing for a hysterectomy and two points stuck out to me:
  1. I should not hesitate to seek a 2nd opinion
  2. Most HysterSisters had a minimally invasive procedure for their hysterectomy


At this point in my Hysterectomy journey, I was about 5 weeks away from an abdominal surgery, the most invasive type of hysterectomies performed.  My husband, sister, Mom and Mother-in-law were already making plans to take off weeks of work to help me with my children and recovery.  I was hesitant to seek a 2nd opinion because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, even myself.  I knew if I had a 2nd opinion it would push back the timeline for weeks or maybe even months.  I didn’t want that at all!


But since most hysterectomies were minimally invasive, having a significantly less recovery time and being better for a patient’s body, I really wanted to know if that was an option for me.  


My current doctor, Dr. J, told me that laparoscopy wasn’t an option and abdominal was the only way to go. I was confused and concerned and wasn't quite sure what to do.   


More than once on this health journey, I wished I was back in TN where I could be treated by my former OB/GYN, Dr. H,  whom I trusted implicitly.  Not only did he deliver 3 of my 4 babies and help me tremendously with my pelvic floor care, he was always extremely candid with my gynecological health.  He’d patiently answered any question I had and offered his advice confidently.  I honestly believed he wanted what was best for me in my health care and I just wanted his opinion in this situation.


Well, way back in the day when had my 3rd baby (in 2009), I "friended" Dr. H on Facebook and kept up a relationship with him on social media since.  I’ve sent him a few messages on Facebook through the years, in addition to a few Christmas cards, and so I decided to ask him his opinion on all of this.


So on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of January, about 3-4 weeks pre-op, I sent him a message on Facebook to ask him his opinion about my case: what kind of procedure would he do if a woman with large fibroids came to him about a hysterectomy and was there a chance for a minimally invasive surgery? 

 He responded to my question within 1 minute...his response being “What’s your phone number?”.  I gave it to him and he immediately called me.


We talked for over an hour about my situation.  He brilliantly discussed his opinion on my case and his argument that I should be able to have MIVS (Minimally InVasive Surgery). He willingly gave he his advice: seek a second opinion and find a surgeon who is able to complete MIVS.  He said that in his 7 years of practicing Gyno, that he only performed 2 abdominal hysterectomies.  His advice encouraged me immensely and I decided to heed it.  We ended our conversation with his encouragement that no matter which procedure I was going to have, MIVS or abdominal, the likelihood of having a full recovery was extremely high.  He wanted to make sure I knew that I was going to be OK.


After I got of the phone with him, I started researching OB/GYNs in my area who were MIVS specialists.  I made a list of a few surgeons and called them first thing on Monday.  The earliest appointment I could find with one of my preferred surgeons was Feb 4, 2016, about 3 weeks away, which I went ahead and scheduled.  I spoke with my husband and family and they all agreed that I was making a wise decision to seek a 2nd opinion. Their support gave me great relief that I wasn’t disappointing anyone and that they all thought I was being wise with my health.


Later that week, I called Dr. J's office, the OB/GYN whom I had scheduled the abdominal hysterectomy with, and cancelled the MRI, the surgery and all pre-op/post-op appointments I had scheduled.  


Later that afternoon, my anxiety symptoms disappeared.

SEEING THE GOOD:

  • There are women who are not afraid to tell their stories.  Sometimes you just have to ask them to share.
  • I know an incredible OB/GYN who is willing to give up a portion of his Saturday to consult with a former patient.  I wasn't afraid to ask him to help.  And he was willing to help.  It's a beautiful combination.
  • I had the support and encouragement from my family to seek a 2nd opinion.  They were willing to strike all their formulated plans for my good.
  • My anxiety symptoms went away

My Hysterectomy Story: The Anxiety

After three visits to an OB/GYN (one, two, three) and one ER visit, I was certain I needed to move forward with a hysterectomy.  I was confident with this decision.


What I became anxious about was the details.


Oh the details!!!!  For a person like me where plans, calendars, and checklists make me happy, the details are necessary, important and require attention.  The more details I know and plan for, life tends to run more smoothly.  Therefore, details with this hysterectomy business were extremely important to me.


But the details of this surgery was making my throat ache.


Literally.


A few days after my third OB/GYN appointment where I scheduled my abdominal hysterectomy, I started having some throat issues.  It felt like I had a lump in the back of my throat that didn’t go away.  Shortly after, I started having swallowing issues, where every swallow I made, I could feel the food/saliva/drink move it’s way down my esophagus VEERRRRY slowly.  Then I started having terrible indigestion.  


I was getting concerned about my throat.  I literally thought I had some kind of horrible esophageal cancer because I had no respite from the issues.  I couldn’t escape this throat tightness and swallowing hypersensitivity.  So, I started googling again:


causes of lump feeling in the throat
what causes difficulty swallowing
symptoms of esophageal issues


And what I found in my reading and research is how anxiety and stress can lead to feelings of having a lump in the throat or issues with swallowing.  I found websites that outlined how stress can cause anxiety which leads to a multitude of health issues, including issues with the throat.  And here I made another self-diagnosis: my throat abnormalities were associated to anxiety (which made more sense than the other random disorders I came across).  


So, the cure for my esophagus issues?  The best advice was to not think about whatever was causing me anxiety.  


Yeah, right!!!  Easy to say, very hard to do!  


But, once I convinced myself that I didn’t have a rare, incurable disease, I decided to pinpoint the root of my anxiety and conquer it.


So, I did some self-reflection and more research about the details of my situation.  What I reflected on:
  1. I was going to have a hysterectomy.  I was OK with this decision.  We were already prepared to not have any more children (thanks to the Big V a few years ago).  I knew a hysterectomy was better than any other option for my Fibroid Condition.
  2. I was being treated as if I could have cancer.  Though I was not OK with this, I was fairly certain I do not have a cancerous fibroid, mainly because the risk of it being cancer was <1%.  But my doctor wanted me to have an MRI (which we would pay a huge chunk of) and wanted me to have the surgery with an Oncologist on call.  Both of these factors, I believed, were not necessary for my case, but my doctor insisted on them and I didn’t like that. I don’t think this was the root of my anxiety, but a portion of it.
  3. I was going to have an abdominal hysterectomy.  I was NOT OK with this.  The abdominal procedure was going to give me a 6-week recovery and I had no idea how I was going to handle a 6-week recovery with my 4 kids.  I would have to rely heavily on my family and Patrick for help (yes, I see the pride in that statement).  I needed to figure out the details logistically as to how I would have an another adult with me to care for the kids and help me with my recovery.  I was concerned about how my body would heal as well.  The abdominal hysterectomy is the MOST INVASIVE hysterectomy option and has the longest recovery period.  Dr. J did not think I was a candidate for laparoscopy and she did not give me a minimally invasive option.  I think THIS was the deepest root of my anxiety.  


To sum it up, I was OK with the hysterectomy thing.  I was not OK with the cancer thing and the abdominal thing.  Once I figured out my anxiety triggers, I set about trying to have some sort of mental resolution to my situation.

SEEING THE GOOD:

  • Google has helped me so much!!!!  I love Google!!!!
  • God helped me see past all the crazy diagnoses and allowed me to figure out my throat issues were merely anxiety related.
  • In the quiet self-reflection, I was able to determine what my anxiety triggers could be
  • God has given me a determined spirit

My Hysterectomy Story: The Third Appointment

At this point in my Hysterectomy Story, I had been to the OB/GYN twice (visit 1, visit 2) and the ER once in a matter of 3 weeks.  I was weary of the visits and was ready to make some decisions, but not really quite ready to face the reality of my situation which was to have a hysterectomy.


Patrick came to my third appointment with me.  I knew that we’d be talking surgery and my options for that and I really wanted his support.  We got a babysitter for the kids and he was by my side.


We waited for about 20 minutes in the waiting room and then once we got back to the exam room, we waited for almost another hour, which was highly frustrating.  When my doctor finally arrived, she told me that she had received my records from my former OB/GYN and my fibroids had more than doubled since 2009 and she was concerned about that.  


She told me that when fibroids grow rapidly, they can be cancerous.  Since she didn’t know how fast they had grown, since we had no record of the size except for 2009 (they were about 4cm) and 2015 (the sonographer saw at least 3 fibroids, ranging in sizes from 4cm to 10cm).  


She said she didn’t want to take any chances on my case.  She wanted me to go through an MRI and schedule me for an abdominal hysterectomy to take place at the downtown Greenville hospital campus rather than the hospital in Greer, which is the hospital we live close to and the hospital she was associated with.  She wanted to do the surgery at the downtown campus because they had a gynecological oncologist on call, which she wanted to have because of the chances I could have of cancer. She started talking about everything she wanted to remove in the surgery (cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, keeping the ovaries) and how she would remove it (about a 10+cm horizontal incision on the lower abdomen).  She seemed to be filled with caution about my situation, which didn’t relieve any fear I had. And the dreaded cancer possibility started to weigh on me.

I was feeling really uneasy about all the news I was receiving.  After previously exploring my options, I knew a hysterectomy was the best course of action, but I didn’t realize my case was going to be a concern for cancer.  I left that appointment with a surgery date, Monday, February 8, 2016, about 6 weeks away, and mounting anxiety of what was to come.

SEEING THE GOOD:

  • There was a sitter available to watch the kids so Patrick could come with me to the doctor
(Sorry, but there is not much other good I can see in this situation...)

My Hysterectomy Story: How I determined my Fibroid Treatment

When I found out that my gynecological issues were uterine fibroids, I immediately started googling treatments, both medical and natural treatments.  In my research, I quickly ruled out natural treatments because there are so few of them and the few there were showed very little results.  Therefore, I was going to research what the medical community would offer me.

There are several ways to treat fibroids and you can read the details about the treatment options here.


Generally speaking, though, the treatments fall into 3 large categories:


  1. Watch and wait
  2. Treat the fibroids without removing the uterus
  3. Remove the uterus


Watching and waiting
This option was out for me; I was already symptomatic and it was obvious my fibroids were growing.  I needed to do something.  Fibroids naturally shrink during menopause, but I’m still years from menopause (hopefully!!!) and it was not in my best interest to “wait it out”.


Treat the fibroids without removing the uterus
As I researched this option first, I came to the following conclusions:
  • Depending on my symptoms, I could have possibly trie hormone therapy, like an IUD.  But, since I was not experiencing heavy, prolonged bleeding, this option did not appear to be beneficial for me
  • If the fibroids are removed (myomectomy) or shrunk (embolization), there is no guarantee that the uterus wouldn’t grow more fibroids. I  DID NOT WANT the fibroids coming back!  I may have considered this option if I was closer to menopause, but again, I am 37 and should still be years away from that stage of life.
  • This is a good option for women who still want to keep having children, since the uterus would still be in tact.  My husband and I have already taken measures to prevent us bearing anymore children, so this conclusion was not a weighty one for me.
  • There still could be surgery or other invasive procedures involved with this option, except for hormone therapy, which I was not a candidate for.


Remove the uterus
As I researched this option last, I came to the following conclusions:  
  • Since there is no uterus, there would be no more fibroids
  • This is a good option for women who do not want any more children
  • There would be no more menstrual cycles since there is no uterus and no lining of the uterus to shed (which is what happens in the menstrual cycle)
  • Removing the uterus does not mean the ovaries have to go as well, which is one of the primary hormone producers in the woman’s body.

In my case, I was not planning on having any more children and I did not want the fibroids to grow back.  The obvious choice for me was to go ahead and have the hysterectomy.

My Hysterectomy Story: The ER Visit

I had spent over 24 hours in pain during our Christmas visit to my parents house.  The pain was in my lower abdomen and I figured that it was from my overly-large Uterine Fibroids. The pain was so intense that I had decided to go to the ER to get some answers and relief.  My sister offered to take me to the ER while Patrick took the kids home and got them settled after the trip.  And let me tell you, the trip was SO MUCH MORE manageable with the help of my sister!  She really stepped up when I needed her.


The 1.5 hour trip to Greenville was challenging; I was trying to get comfortable and was quasi-successful in that, but like I said before, it just hurt to sit!  So, I had to focus on the conversation my sister kept up with me in order to ignore the pain.  Once we got to the ER, Amanda dropped me off at the door, parked, and came in with her ER stash (she is a PRO at ER visits since she takes care of her aging mother-in-law, who has had her fair share of ER visits):  a book, snacks, big drink and my pillow.  I questioned the choice of bringing in my pillow to this germ-infested place and she said to trust her because pillows are few and far between in an ER and she knew I would want the pillow once I got in the hospital bed.


And boy, was she right!!!!  Once we endured the waiting room, I was taken back to a room to be evaluated and lo and behold, there was not a pillow on the bed.  And once I did climb into the bed, I wanted a pillow to get comfortable, just like Amanda had predicted.  And she had my pillow right there for me.  I was so grateful!!!!  


The ER nurses took good care of me and kept asking me how I felt.   Amanda had previously told me to be flat-out honest with the staff about the amount of pain I was in; she told me not to say my pain was a 5 on a scale of 1-10 when my pain was really a 9 or 10. 

So that's what I did. I told the nurses and the doctors my pain was a 9-10.

Once I was settled, I was evaluated by the doctor-on-call, who happened to be an orthopedic specialist. I explained to the doctor my new diagnosis of Uterine Fibroids just a few weeks prior and that I suspected that was where my pain came from.  He gently prodded and poked my belly, which was VERY sensitive, and went to order an ultrasound, which he couldn’t do because the ultrasound tech had left for the day (sound familiar?). We also discussed testing for appendicitis, which he would order if I wanted, but he said that my symptoms did not fully point to that problem. After discussing the information with Patrick via phone, we agreed that we wouldn't proceed with the tests.

The ER doc reluctantly told me that he could do a pelvic exam on me (remember, he was an orthopedic specialist!!!).  I told him I was scheduled to see my OB/GYN in a few days for an exam so I didn’t think that was necessary (he looked a bit relieved!!!).   He went ahead and called my OB/GYN and discussed my care with her before he made any decisions on how to proceed.  In the meantime, the nurses got me some pain meds and a handful of prescriptions to take to the pharmacy. The Ortho Doc and the OB/GYN eventually agreed that it was just best to manage my pain and send me on my way, with the promise to see my OB/GYN in a few days.

Relieved to be home and in my own bed, I spent the next 3 days popping a cocktail of pain medications, awaiting my third visit to the OB/GYN on the 30th of December.

SEEING THE GOOD:

  • I was served. No questions asked.
  • I had relief from pain.
  • I knew beforehand that I had uterine fibroids and I did not have to go through a serious of unnecessary tests to find out my issues
  • I was already scheduled to see my OB/GYN again in a few days so there was already a plan in place. I just needed to rest.