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There are so many places to look for information on what to expect when you are expecting a baby, but a hysterectomy? Not so much. I asked some of my girlfriends, but they didn’t have much to say. Either it had been too long and they really didn’t remember, or they weren’t really chatty about the details. The details I really wanted. So now that I’ve gone through mine, I thought I would share. All. The. Details. (that’s your warning)
Prior to surgery
You begin by discussing what type of hysterectomy you will have. These are very personal decisions that have to be made by no one but you and your doctor. Don’t let anyone else influence your decisions. Do what you feel is right for you. A Subtotal hysterectomy will remove the uterus, but leave the cervix. A total hysterectomy will remove the uterus and cervix but leave the ovaries. A radical hysterectomy will remove it all. This is what I had done. This type will automatically throw you into menopause, so you also need to discuss this with your doctor. Most of these are done laparoscopically. I have three very small incisions on my abdomen and they didn’t even use stitches to close them. They just glued me shut.
Once you have discussed with your doctor which procedure is best for you, you schedule your surgery. Then you have a few weeks to go nuts waiting. Or maybe that’s just me.
Day before surgery
Bowel prep day. Wait, what? Yes, in most cases, your doctor will want you to do a bowel prep before your surgery. This is in case there are any small nicks or tears in your bowel during surgery. If anything occurs, they can repair it, but you really don’t want that spilling into your gut and making a fairly routine surgery much more difficult.
To prepare for this, buy lots of toilet paper, maybe some wet wipes, and diaper cream is not a bad idea either. Put some magazines in your bathroom, have a fully charged phone, whatever can keep you entertained during this long, long, long, process. Did I mention you were going to spend some time on the toilet? Don’t be dumb and wear clothes that are hard to take off either. If you are lucky and you don’t have to just sit on the toilet for hours, then you need to be able to get in there quickly at the very least.
The drink tastes nasty. I am not gonna lie. Get it cold, drink it fast. That’s all the advice I’ve got. I’m not Willy Wonka, I’m not gonna sugar coat shit.
Not that you are going to feel like it after sitting on the toilet for hours, but don’t eat or drink anything after midnight. Not even sips of water. If the doctor says it’s ok, you can take any meds you usually take that morning, but with a very small sip of water. Don’t chug a quart of water to take one tiny pill. I have to take medication daily because of my missing thyroid. Well, it’s not missing. I know where it is, it’s just not in my neck where it used to be.
Morning of surgery
If you managed to sleep at all, now you have to wake up at the absolute crack of dawn. Which may or may not be a good thing since you can’t eat or drink anything before your surgery. Not even a cup of coffee. You know I’m talking to you. Wear something comfy, but know you won’t be in it long. Once you get checked in, sign a zillion forms, pay your co-pay or whatever ungodly amount your insurance says is your portion, they take you back, put you in the super sexy open backed night gown and scratchy socks with non-slip bottoms. I’m the weirdo who gets a pedicure and wax before going into surgery, but don’t bother. They make you wear those ridiculous non slip socks the whole time. No one is going to even see those perfectly pedicured toes. The wax? That’s just me being nice.
Once you get in the gown, they start your IV. Or if you are me and have the worst veins in the history of veins, three nurses try a total of seven times before the anesthesiologist comes in, pissed off that it’s not done yet and starts it right away, cause it’s sort of his thing. Things get a little hazy at this point. I remember faces with masks, people talking, music that was awful. I mean, seriously, who listens to smooth jazz when they are doing surgery?
You don’t hurt yet. The surgery drugs are still around, but you wake up, disoriented. For some reason, the recovery area is the loudest, brightest room in the whole damn building. For real, people, now would be a good time for that smooth jazz. Whatever you do, try not to wake up and start yelling at nurses. Yelling at the nurses to get you the hell out of this loud ass room will not make them like you. You do not want your nurses to not like you. They control your meds. Make the nurses your friend.
In your Room
Once you are back in your room, you sleep. A lot. They will wake you up when they come in to do vitals. Apparently they need to take vitals, every. single. hour. You have several things connected to you, inserted in you and attatched to you. The IV is important because soon those surgery drugs are going to wear off and you need the good stuff they are putting in that IV line. They may also be giving you oral medication. When you swallow you will notice that your throat hurts for some weird reason. That weird reason is called intubation. And be glad you were asleep when it was going on. Very. Glad. This can cause difficulty with swallowing. I had problems with choking on food for several days if I did not chew things extremely well. I stuck to soft foods to make it easier for me because trust me when I say you do not want to make yourself cough because you choked on a hunk of cheese. No Bueno.
You will also have a foley catheter. You may feel like you need to go to pee really badly, but you don’t. Basically because you are peeing. You don’t stop. You won’t really feel like hopping out of bed every two hours to go pee, so this is not a bad thing.
There are also several things they have strapped on you to monitor vitals, like a blood pressure cuff, some finger thingy, etc. If you are like me and you are allergic to almost every pharmaceutical pain medication (yes, it is super fun, thanks for asking) then you may also have a pain pump. Mine had tiny little tubes coiled up in my abdomen administering some kind of topical pain treatment. It sounds bad and in reality it is much worse. But I didn’t have a choice. They said it would last for three days and that the pump was set and I shouldn’t adjust it. Well, someone can’t do math because that didn’t last 48 hours before it went dry. When we (as in my husband and I) pulled it out, it didn’t hurt. But you could feel that tubing that was coiled up in my abdomen snaking out. He couldn’t pull it quickly because there was so much in there. I’m going to hope you can just take the pills. Pills are your friends.
If you have your surgery done laparascopically, which is the predominant surgery choice nowadays, then your recovery time is supposed to be substantially easier. Now laugh. Because if this is easier, I definitely don’t want to try it the other way. With laparascopic surgery, you will have three small incisions. I have one right at my belly button and one on each side of my lower abdomen. To make room for the tools, they will inflate your abdomen with gas. This can cause a little rib pain, but hopefully you can take the good stuff and you won’t really feel that. There can also be a weird side effect from this that causes shoulder pain. It has nothing to do with your shoulder hurting, its something to do with nerves in the area causing referred pain.
In summary, your shoulder hurts. Your ribs hurt. Your abdomen hurts. Your hoo haa hurts. Very little doesn’t hurt.
Preparing to go home
Most people, myself included, go home 24 hours after surgery. Yes, this is ridiculous. But 24 hours of hospital food is about all they can make you take before breaking some clause in the Geneva convention regarding cruel and unusual punishment or something.
Before you go home, they have to take out the catheter and you have to prove you can go pee on your own. You also have to prove you can walk back and forth from the bathroom without falling down. Once you accomplish both of these feats, you get all the other junk removed from you and then you get to put on real clothes. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not bring your favorite skinny jeans to come home from the hospital in. You will be sore and bloated and things touching you will send you into a mind numbing rage. Bring something lose and comfy. I went with stretch leggings, but in hind sight, should have chosen a mumu. I’m sure my grandmother has one that I could have borrowed for the occassion. She called them her housedresses. Whatever you want to call them, just don’t snub your nose at them.
Take it easy. Please. Now is not the time to be superwoman and clean shit or cook a four course meal. Order pizza or eat a frozen dinner. Hell, your children will not die if they eat cold cereal and milk for dinner. If you are super concerned with healthy meals, then prepare about two weeks worth and throw them in the freezer prior to your surgery. If your husband isn’t great about helping out, make sure you have paper plates and disposable junk. Bending over is not something you want to be doing, so loading the dishwasher is not really going to happen. Most people start feeling better after a week and then start thinking they are back to normal. Think again. They did not tell you this would be a six week recovery just to make your husband pitch in and do a load of laundry. He should be doing that anyway, but that’s a whole other blog post.
Take your pain pills the way they’re prescribed. If you wait until you feel bad, it is a heck of a lot harder for those pills to do their job. Take them regularly so you aren’t miserable. And just because the pain pills are working does not mean you feel well enough to fold a few loads of laundry. Overdoing it means you can bust an internal stitch. You really, really don’t want to do that. Just because you don’t have a big incision on your abdomen does not mean that you have not been through a major surgery. Just because you can’t see those stitches, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. If after a few days of no bleeding, you start bleeding again, that means you have not followed these instructions! It means you have overdone it and now you will face the consequences.
Things worth mentioning
Pooping. Yes, I said it. The pain pills can cause constipation and you sure as shit do not want to be straining anything down there. The hospital will give you stool softeners. You either need to keep taking them until you go, or try adding some coconut oil to your diet to make things go smoothly. Drink plenty of fluids and don’t eat foods that will constipate you. If eating cheese usually backs you up, DON’T eat the damn cheese.
Sex. Don’t do it. Six weeks means six weeks ladies. There is a damn good reason they say six weeks. For most of you, you will have had entire organs pulled out of there through that location and you don’t need to be sticking anything back in it until you are 100% sure that everything is healed up. If he is too pathetic and you can’t keep telling him no, find some other ways to get the job done. I won’t go into your options here. I may use lots of bad words, but this is still a family friendly blog. Figure it out.
Baths. Again, don’t do it. You may think your bath tub is clean enough, but there can be germs in there and you don’t want them getting up in your good stuff. Stick to showers until your doctor clears you, which again, should be about six weeks.
Just do what your doctor tells you to do. You may have to only do this once in your life, but they deal with this all the time. Lady parts are sort of their thing. If you have any questions, then call the doctor’s office. That’s what they are there for. You don’t really think all that money you were paying was just going to their new Mercedes did you? They have nurses on staff to help answer questions also.
Relax, take care of yourself and don’t try to be superwoman. Before you know it you will be all better and now you never have to worry about cramps or bleeding through on your adorable white skinnies again.