“How would you feel if we offered you a hysterectomy…?”

This is the question my gynaecologist asked me after reading the scan report and examining me. I wasn’t really a question I was prepared for – my GP had said that the hospital would avoid a hysterectomy if they could because it’s such a major procedure, so I was a shocked that it was the first thing he said. I asked if he couldn’t just remove the fibroid, and he smiled (gently, to be fair, he wasn’t laughing at me) and said no because the fibroid was part of my womb.

So that was that, I went to the appointment expecting to be sent for a more detailed scan (CT or MRI, which my GP had mentioned), and left having signed away my womb, my tubes, my ovaries and my cervix. I remember I was a bit numb as I drove away from the hospital.

Having consulted Dr Google, I had known hysterectomy was an option, but wasn’t really expecting it. There is a procedure called a myomectomy (warning: site includes a surgical photograph), which is removal of just the fibroid, leaving the reproductive organs intact, and there are drugs that can be taken to reduce the size of fibroids. Neither of these were mentioned to me: I know my large fibroid was actually growing inside the front wall of my womb so myomectomy wasn’t an option and I’m assuming it wasn’t large enough to need reducing before surgery. I don’t know if I would have been offered this option if I’d been younger and not had my children. It’s worth bearing in mind if you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids and are young. It’s also worth asking if hysterectomy is really the only option, or even the best option, for your particular condition. I can only write about my experience with fibroids, of course.

One more thing, I had read that fibroids tend to shrink after menopause and mentioned this to my consultant. He told that that they only tend to shrink by about 30%.Something to be aware of, especially if you are younger than me (48).

There does seem to be a huge variety of information out there, and it’s really important to ask questions at your initial consultation – I went with a list and still probably didn’t ask everything I should have asked.

So, to answer my consultant’s question, I felt a bit shocked and a bit numb. By then, of course, I was in constant discomfort and couldn’t sit properly for any length of time, which was affecting my work as a teacher. Planning and marking had become physically painful and I just wanted it sorting.Nine weeks on, I’m not yet at the stage where I’m more comfortable physically, but I will be and that’s the important thing.

Having signed away my lady bits, I then had to prepare myself for what is a major, life-changing surgery – both physically and emotionally. More in my next blog.

 

Advertisements

Finding out about fibroids

Okay, so here we go…

My hysterectomy journey started back in January of this year (2016) when I visited my GP to have my Mirena IUD changed. I’d used Mirena for about 11 years for heavy, painful periods and intermittent bleeding, and it had been great.

This time, when I went back to have the threads checked, the nurse couldn’t find them and neither could my GP, who arranged for me to have an ultrasound. I ended up having an ultrasound and a pelvic probe scan which finally revealed that the threads were caught up in my cervix and that I had a “considerable” fibroid in my womb, which meant the Mirena wasn’t sitting in the correct place.

I’d heard of fibroids (and knew they aren’t dangerous) but didn’t know much about them so went away to learn more. I found out that:

  • there are three types of fibroid, depending on where they grow
  • most women get them at some point, but don’t get symptoms
  • there is more than one treatment for those women for whom they cause a problem
  • hysterectomy is apparently a last-resort treatment

To find out more, look on the NHS site. The British Fibroid Trust might also be helpful, though I must admit, I didn’t really use it.

The thing is, with my age (I’m 48), I was getting symptoms but just put them down to my age and being perimenopausal so it was a bit of a surprise to learn that fibroids were causing my symptoms.

I was getting some pelvic pain and finding that sitting upright, and especially leaning forward, for instance over a computer, was getting more and more uncomfortable as my fibroid was sitting in the front wall of my womb. I could actually feel it through my abdomen. I was also having some issues with my bladder and sometimes couldn’t empty it as much as I wanted. It’s worth being aware of the symptoms and not assuming that everything is “just my age”.

Since my surgery, I’ve found out that as well as the larger fibroid (about 7cm long), I also had “multiple small fibroids”, and that I got away quite lightly – some women have fibroids that are truly huge.

Finding out I had fibroids reminded me that I’m not really a young woman anymore, which was a bit of a shock! Finding out I needed the hysterectomy was even more of a shock. More about that in my next blog.

About me

Well, I am now 9 weeks post-hysterectomy and am coming to terms with what I’ve experienced, both physical and emotionally.

I’ve decided to try blogging (never done this before, so bear with me!) for several reasons:

  • I wasn’t really told much about the effects of hysterectomy, physical or emotional
  • I knew hardly anything about fibroids (my reason for having this surgery)
  • most of the information, advice and support I’ve appreciated has been from online sites like the Hysterectomy Association
  • I thought it might be helpful for other women who have had, or are having, this surgery
  • hysterectomy is a MAJOR, LIFE-CHANGING procedure – far more so than I was prepared for
  • I thought it might be helpful for ME to write about my experiences and emotions

I don’t yet know how helpful or useful this blog will be; it might be simply a self-indulgent exercise for me to deal with what’s happened to me. I hope, however, that some of what I write will be of interest to, and maybe even helpful for, other women at whatever stage you’re at in your hysterectomy journey.

Anyway, here goes.