My hysterectomy Do’s and Don’t list!

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Today marks week six since my hysterectomy. I am going to give you a list of everything I bought, cooked, did and didn’t do leading up to and post surgery plus some of the associated costs.

These were things unique to my experience and I hope they help you on your journey.

Pre-operation to-do list:

  1. Purchase antibacterial pre-surgery soap from a pharmacy. This was prescribed by my surgeon and I used it the day before my surgery and the day of my surgery. It really dries out your skin so be prepared to feel itchy, do not put lotion on to ease the itching. Also, buy one box of mid-flow pads, you will need pads for about 10 days post-op. Cost: soap $12 pads $6
  2. New pajamas. I knew I would be laying in bed for a couple weeks and would feel like complete hell, I didn’t want to be laying there in moth eaten pj’s. I bought 4 new pairs of jam jams, laid them out near my bed so there would be no bending or searching for them. I should have warned you, I am neurotic when it comes to order. Cost $100
  3. Make food! I cannot stress this enough. Fill your freezer and cupboards with all your favourite comfort foods but nothing that is super gassy, farting post-op is scary stuff! Make sure you have all your favourite drinks, snacks, meals, absolutely anything that makes you happy ready to go. BUT I will stress this, try your best to eat healthy food. This isn’t the time to become a nutritional goddess, this is the time to treat yourself like a goddess and eat the healthy versions of your favourite foods. Cost: $300
  4. Walk. If you aren’t a fitness person it doesn’t matter, you will not realize how much you miss walking freely until you can’t PLUS you need a base and strong muscles. Cost: FREE, get outside, the mall, whatever, just move!
  5. Wash everything! Get your nest ready! Wash your sheets the day before your surgery, clean your bathroom (super important, no germs), put lots of pillows in your bedroom because you will need to propped yourself up in bed (no side sleeping for you), vacuum (it will be your last time for several weeks), wash that cozy blanket you love snuggling with on the couch, get your house in order!        Cost: FREE – elbow grease
  6. Paperwork. If you are employed you will have a boat load of paperwork to deal with. Clear a spot at home where you safely and easily can access a computer and your files. Keep everything together, and fill out any paperwork in advance of your surgery. If you live in Canada you can fill out your EI paperwork online prior to your surgery, it’s good to do this to get the ball rolling.
  7. No more Netflix! That’s right stop watching all your favourite shows NOW and bank them all for when you are off! You will literally want to do nothing for at least the first 10 days, save up all your shows. If you don’t have Netflix you can sign up for one month free trial. Cost: $12 your Netflix subscription
  8. Distractions. If you are a reader, knitter, crafter, comic book artist, whatever get your occupation station ready! *side note: I know you are a little scared right now but once the initial surgery is over and you are home this will be a wonderful time to just focus on you! Keep your hands and brain busy when you are getting stronger. Your only job is to get better, nothing else matters! Cost: I bought a couple magazines so $20
  9. Pack your hospital bag! Slippers, scent free hand lotion, I packed a bottle of lemonade (it made me happy), cellphone charger, headphones (you’ll thank me when you are wide awake at midnight), and fresh loose fitting clothes for home time! Cost: $4 for the lemonade.
  10. Warmth and weight. I survived for the first 2 weeks thanks to my Magic Bag, I had 3 of them on the go at all times. The warmth relaxed me and the weight of the bags added a nice easy compression feeling. Cost: On average $20/bag I got mine at a craft sale so they were a little cheaper.
  11. Homeopathy. If this is something you believe in (I am really on the fence) give these 2 a whirl. I read peppermint tea helped with swelling so I bought some, drank a cup a day, I cannot confirm nor deny if it worked but it did help me relax. My girlfriend had a laparoscopic hysterectomy (mine was c-section) and she took activated charcoal tablets a couple days pre-op and post-op, she said it really helped with the air build up in her abdomen which is common with that style of surgery. She said the medical staff supported this treatment. Cost: $8 for peppermint tea.
  12. Attitude: Get your head in check. This surgery is no joke but stressing and freaking out isn’t going to get you anywhere. The week leading up to the surgery I listened to one song and one song only and it was my mantra… “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch! Set your vibe, set your mind and smile because freaking out is waste of time. Cost: $1.29 Itunes.

Post-operation

  1. Pill schedule. It is critical to have someone stay with you for at least the first 5 days when you get home. Getting out of bed without help is nearly impossible, you are essentially a turtle flipped on it’s back! AND this person needs to be in charge of your meds, set a timer and wake you up every 4 hours for your pills. DO NOT sleep through your pill time, your goal is to stay on top of the pain and not chasing it! This is very important!
  2. Stand up straight. The first couple days you will be hunched over holding your stomach taking baby steps and wincing over every movement, ok fine but quit that after week one and warrior up! You know that old lady at the supermarket who is all hunched over and she makes you sad, you aren’t her!
  3. Pets. OOOoooooooh I love my little fur family and I love sleeping with them. Absolutely not post-op. Kick them out! The only thing hogging the bed is you! Sorry Ruby, Lewi and Yoshi see you in a couple weeks!
  4. Poop. Before you leave the hospital they will want you to pee, poop/fart. All will be terrifying. The hospital will probably give you a laxative before you leave the hospital. Take it and try to get off the narcotics as soon as you can, they aren’t bum friendly. Take whatever you need to take to not be backed up because straining is not an option with weak lower muscles.
  5. FaceTime. You feel awful, you miss the outside world, you want to smile – Facetime someone! You don’t have to get out of bed, you don’t even need to put on a bra for that matter. Smile, chat, see your people! Don’t go into hiding!
  6. Walk again. My surgery happened during the winter from hell, it’s been freezing cold and snowing non-stop. At week 5 I needed to start moving but I didn’t want to spend money so mall walking was out of the question (I am a shopaholic) and going outside was not an option. Luckily, my local community center offers free access to the track twice a day and I have been slowly increasing my mileage. The first time I went I walked for 20 minutes, got lapped by everyone, went home and napped for 3 hours! But girl, it felt great getting dressed, seeing people and the nap felt so good!
  7. Sanitary supplies + undies. They will give you gauze panties post-op and a pad, you can ask for some more to come home with (I kinda loved the gauze gitch, super comfy). BUT my favourite part has been giving away all my unused tampons and pads to my friends and women’s shelters (I buy stuff in bulk). Guess what, you are now saving $10-$15 a month on period products! YES! My doctor recommended wearing tighter underwear around the 3 week mark because it acts like  compression on your lower abs. I don’t like tight gitch so I have been living in tight wide-band waist band leggings.
  8. Blood flow. It’s important to promote blood flow to the incision area, it promotes healing so…when you are ready try some light abdominal work. I have been doing these 3 exercises from YouTube. DO NOT OVER DO IT! No set backs! Also for all you horny toads out there, no S-E-X until the doctor says so, as my friend who also had a hysterectomy said “You don’t want your crotch to blow out” – thanks for that image Lisa!
  9. Honesty. If you feel terrible that’s ok. If you feel tired that’s ok. If you want to watch trashy television for 6 weeks (looks at self right now) that’s ok! Just be honest about what you want to do right now! AND be honest with people about your surgery, do not believe for one second there is a stigma here! Please do not shrug off the significance of your journey by call it a “lady surgery”, you had your guts ripped out, do NOT down play that!!
  10. One chance. You have one chance to heal properly. ONE!! If you are tired, you sleep. If you are hungry, you eat. These are the only 2 things you have to do!!!! I took a shower every single day, put on fresh pj’s, made food (I ordered a couple times too, I love Skip The Dishes) and laid on the couch for 3 solid weeks. Car rides were extremely painful so I limited those and walking more than 5 minutes was exhausting. Do…NOT…rush…..yourself!!! We all heal at different paces but girl, this surgery is not like the sniffles! I repeat and in the voice of RuPaul “You have one chance to heal properly, don’t fuck it up”.

 

You got this! And just think, without your period you are about to get 3 months of your life back every year. What are you going to do with all that extra time?

Be great, be strong!

F

*My favourite message post-op came from our veterinarian “Geez, that’s a big uterus. I am so glad I didn’t have to spay you!” Truth!!! funny-veterinary-signs-6

Meet my 6 pound Uterus!

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*Warning, this post contains images some may find disturbing. Don’t keep scrolling if you are sensitive to medical photos.

So here goes nothing, I’m putting it all out there. Here are all the gory details.

Recap of how we got here to this moment: years ago I was told by my family doctor I had fibroids in my uterus but was never told how they could/would evolve or even if it was something I should keep an eye on. All I ever worried about was getting pap-tests to make sure I didn’t have cancer. I didn’t have cancer so, in my world all was good.

Then over time, my lower stomach area got bigger and bigger which I thought was all part of getting older. WRONG. Plus, I have never been flexible so when bending over got more challenging I blamed myself for not keeping up with stretching or my lack of dedication to yoga. WRONG. Then my period, it was always “normal”, always every 28 days and no issues until the last 2 years where it became all consuming, BUT again I brushed it off because everyone said “you are perimenopausal”. WRONG!

And then there was this photo shoot. We were taking pics for work and I decided to wear IMG_2106a fitted dress and honestly in my head I said “It’s OK that your stomach isn’t flat anymore, embrace who you are and you are OK with who you are” which is how I try to live my life every day but to be honest, in this picture I am also wearing 2 layers of Spanks. Look at my stomach, this¬† picture is unedited and you can clearly see my stomach area looks pregnant even with heavy duty compression.

Then there was my bunk gallbladder, thank you for being terrible! Without you I wouldn’t be here! Thanks to the stones in my gallbladder it triggered an ultrasound and the discovery of my¬†extraordinary uterus. I had my gallbladder out the week before Christmas 2018 n an emergency surgery because the stones had gotten infected and then on January 23rd, 2019 I would have my hysterectomy surgery where I believed I a single fibroid thatt had grown to 10 cm.

Here is the play by play of my hysterectomy.

My husband and I arrived at the hospital at 10am, by 1pm I was in the OR holding area, my doctor came to chat with us and Derek (my husband) asked him “How big is the fibroid now?” to which Dr. Sheridan replied “It’s about 21 cm now” WHAT!!! OK that was not what I thought but it’s all starting to sink in that perhaps I am actually sick. *Note nervous smile below.IMG_6323

The surgery lasted about 3 hours, when I got back to my room I was super drugged out and in terrible pain. The nurse told me the incision was bigger than originally planned and that there were over 25 staples holding me together.IMG_4166

The next morning at the crack of dawn in walked my doctor and the first thing he said to me was “Boy, do I have a story for you….wanna see some pictures?” UM YES! As it turns out my uterus was HUGE! 6 pounds huge, over 30 cm huge and had grown up and over my belly button. It had pushed my bowels out of place and forced all of my lower organs out of their comfort zone. Dr. Sheridan said in the 27 years that he’s been a doctor he’s only ever seen one has big as mine. In a surgery like this they use a cork screw (yes, like the kind for opening a wine bottle) to pull out the uterus, they had to use 2 to get mine out (something her had only every had to do once before). He said they tugged, tugged and tugged thinking after one pull it would just pop out, nope! To put it in perspective, the average uterus weighs between 5.5 to 6 ounces and should look like an upside down pear. Mine had grown completely out of control and he said it was like I was pregnant for years. Here she is!IMG_4160

That first day post-op was a revolving door of doctors and nurses who were in the OR with me and they all had the same question “You felt no pain? You had no idea that was living inside you?” and the answer was NO! But now looking back the signs were all there!

Trouble bending over, constantly feeling tired, upset bum all the time, never feeling good were all not as I thought “just getting older” or “not taking working out enough” – I had a monster growing inside me.

It’s been 5 weeks since my surgery and it’s still tender, I am not quick yet to go from sitting to standing but I am so unbelievably excited for the future. I realize now, I haven’t known “healthy” for years and I can’t wait to see myself in 6 months from now. The human body is amazing and watching the changes in the past few weeks has been incredible.

I am not grossed out by my 6 pound uterus, I am impressed with myself that I kept running marathons, mountain biking with 6 pounds of dead weight hanging off of me and most of all that I didn’t let the norms of society make me believe I didn’t belong on TV, big belly and all.

Be Kind,

Fiona

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