Life as Lou

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That Other Thing They Don’t Mention Much About Hysterectomies

  • March 20, 2012 1:47 pm

Did you know that when you have a hysterectomy, even one where you leave the ovaries so you don’t get thrown into instant menopause, you still turn into a big hormonal wreck?

It’s true.

And it sucks.

I have been so off the past few weeks. I can’t sleep. I have hot flashes and cold sweats. I have at least ten new pimples. I laid in bed and sobbed for an hour straight at midnight the other night, because I’m just that tired, and that over this whole one-problem-after-another-life I’ve been leading. Add that to feeling totally alone and a little sucker punched by the Universe, and some of this hysterical, snot producing, ugly cry makes sense. Then I wake up in the morning, shaking my head in exasperation, wondering where that strong, sensible, faithful, hopeful person I used to know went, wondering who this new person with her eyes swollen half shut is, and when she’ll leave.

I have seriously considered doing things that are crazy. Maybe I’ll leave my religion. Maybe I’ll get a divorce. Maybe I just don’t care about my family. Maybe I’ll run away. Maybe I’ll go get totally drunk and just see what happens. Maybe I’ll take all those pills at once. Maybe I’ll just give up. We’re talking dark, wild impulses and suggestions that are so fundamentally opposite of who I am and have always been that it is at once terrifying, and yet, thankfully, insane enough for me to spot the hormones at play. What an odd thing to be grateful for. At least I’m ridiculous enough to realize it, eh?

I spent days wrapped up in my brain, fixated on what ifs and changes, afraid by how empowered these hormones made me feel to do all the wrong things- make all the wrong choices.

So I temporarily rescinded my life-altering decision making privileges.

And I shut my mouth to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.

Apparently, your ovaries can go into shock and just forget to work for awhile or go to work overtime. Add that on top of a pregnancy and a miscarriage all in the space of a few months and well. . .I definitely need to be cut some slack.

The past few weeks have been really hard.  But people don’t mention the emotional side of this recovery. They say you might mourn your womb, your childbearing ability, or somehow feel less feminine. They forget to mention the fact that you may, and likely will, feel like you are losing your mind for awhile.

Well, it is true. And it is normal. And they say it passes.

I am feeling a lot more myself now, but the first two weeks were like a trip through the looking glass, into the bell jar all via an upside down roller coaster.

I’m mostly ok now. Happy again with a lot less dramatic swings.  But I wanted to put this out there in case someone else felt the same way and needed to know she was ok, and normal, and that it does pass.

(If you are new here, and want the whole story click here: my hysterectomy story).

Step Right Up And See The Amazing Hysterectomy Survivor! (And Get An Earful of TMI- Also, A Link To An Actual Photo Of My Actual Uterus!)

  • March 15, 2012 6:06 pm

Parts one and two should be read first, thanks.

The next day in the hospital my new nurse Sherri took over. I slept most of the day away, just as I had before, but I triumphantly got out of the bed and ate my breakfast in a chair because Sherri made me for my own good. I even combed the rat’s nest out of my hair and brushed my teeth.

I also discovered that despite my best efforts, I could quite literally not pee once I was in to the second half of my anti-inflammatory medication dosing period, because it wore off and left certain parts too swollen to function. I told Sherri that something was not right and a quick ultrasound that showed a very full bladder proved that right. More pressure equaled more pain, so I was pretty stoked to take the next dose of Ibuprofen and get things working again.

Once it kicked in, Sherri was very helpful, both running water in the sink and handing me a copy of the Ladies Home Journal for me to read while I tried really hard to do what used to come pretty naturally to me. This entire situation had me laughing my head off, which was painful, but oh so funny. Nursing! Not just sponge baths and shots; sometimes you get to cheer people on when they pee! As silly as it sounds, I really was grateful. It hurts to not pee!

That night, after sleeping all day, I woke up to another really great nurse, Marietta.  She helped me start walking around outside of the room and humored me when I decided to take a shower at 3am.  I really liked her; I think we would be friends if we knew each other outside of the hospital. I felt my strength and balance returning at that point, and I had finally kicked the vertigo that had been spinning things in circles every time I dared move.

The next day I got to go home, but not until after my friend, Melissa came to see me and bring me food from Ruby Tuesday. It was sad to see her because when I hugged her goodbye, it was probably the last time I’ll see her because she just moved down South.  The great thing about both Melissa and Tanya is that when their friend says, “so, you wanna see my uterus?” They both jump up and say, “YES!” Like of COURSE! How COOL is that? Those are some good friends.

I asked my doctor to put the uterus in a jar for me, but apparently, they needed to send it off to pathology where they would slice and dice and determine if it had any dangerous abnormalities.  Dr. Buehner took a picture of it for me instead, and if you would like to see the very womb that once manufactured a Jonas, a Maggie and a Gabriel – well, click here to my flickr page and prepare to understand the KFC comment my doctor made after surgery.

Chris picked me up and the drive home was horrible. I get very, very motion sick on a good day, so being driven home when I was already fighting serious nausea was not a good experience. I learned that I can manage pain or nausea, but I cannot cope with both without wishing I was dead. Obviously, being all cut up inside and feeling every bump made the thought of puking with those muscles sound like a nightmare. When I got home, I went straight to bed.

The next several days passed in a big blur of sleeping, eating just enough so I could take my pain medication, adjust my heating pad, and go back to bed. Somewhere in there, I checked Facebook on my phone a lot and read the Hunger Games books one day, which I didn’t think were all that great.  Not bad, just not great either.  That was about all I did.

My parents came to visit during this time and they took care of all those things I usually do and then some. It was nice to see them, but I wish I had been a little more conscious to enjoy it.  I was really only present for the last two days. My parents brought me the most beautiful silver, Norwegian solje necklace to commemorate my womb.  It has a beautiful design of three open spaces and three spoons, the first to represent my three losses, and the second to represent my three children. It is so beautiful, and so special and very, very me. I will have to share a photo sometime.

The very worst part of the entire recovery was dealing with the pain from the incision in the rectum. You do not EVER want to have stitches in there. Now, I was, of course, on three different types of laxatives and stool softeners, but there was still one, completely normal, average sized turd making its way through my body, and when it came time to come out- well- I will sum up roughly 12 hours of intense discomfort with: WORSE THAN NATURAL CHILDBIRTH. MUCH WORSE.  And, all you get for hours of sobbing on the toilet, clutching a pillow, and trying not to die is poop. When you push out something that painful, you’d think you’d at least get to name it and give it a christening, but no, I just flushed, took more painkillers and went to bed where I hoped to never poo again.

That complication cased me more pain through this whole ordeal than anything else. The hysterectomy was a piece of cake by comparison.

At about one week post surgical, I woke up and realized I wasn’t in pain.  This was great, because I had had timers going off all night to keep me on top of my meds, and I had hardly needed them because the pain usually woke me up before my alarms.  Feeling very encouraged, I slipped out of bed and headed to the bathroom when I felt a very bad sensation of warmth running down my legs.

There was blood everywhere.

Understandably, I panicked just a tish, and I started hollering, “Mom! Chris! Mom! Chris! Mom! Chris!”  It was six am, and no one was up yet, and there I was, blood dripping all over the bathroom tile, feeling frozen in place and freaked out. I silently assessed the situation, realizing that the blood wasn’t bright red, which is good. I wasn’t light headed, which was good. I also mentally reminded myself that a little blood looks like a lot of blood, and so even if that scene from Carrie at the prom was flashing in my brain, it was really nowhere near that bad.

My poor son was the first one to come running, and I am sure he is scarred for life after seeing his mother half naked with blood everywhere, but he was pretty cool about the whole situation and we had a long talk about it later that day about how sometimes that happens. Egads.  Jonas, when you read this in a few years- I am so sorry. Maybe you’ll grow up to be a doctor?

My husband and mother were there shortly and we figured things out, my mother being practical, “It was probably not more than a few tablespoons; it always looks like more than it is!” and my husband being. . .my husband and responding with a lovable and slightly funny over-protectiveness amounting to “we should go to the hospital right now!”  I called the Same Day Surgery Center and got to talk to my nurse Sherri, who confirmed with me that it was likely no big deal, and gave me details on what would be a big deal.  I spent the rest of the day as a borderline big deal, chatted with my doctor’s office and didn’t worry too much.

The next morning my doctor’s nurse called me back, after having pow wowed with Dr. Buehner and realizing that my surgery had been a bit more exciting than is standard, and that this bleeding could be more problematic than is typical, and I ended up being seen right away.

Dr. Buehner said the bleeding was all from places where that sort of thing is classified as “ok”, so that was really good. I gave him crap about the exam, since he was the one to specifically tell me both verbally and in writing “nothing in the vagina for eight weeks,” and here he was bringing up speculums and the like. We got to chat about how the surgery went and his take on things. I told him I thought he handled a bad situation very well, and I was glad he was capable enough to take on a body that was breaking the standard laws of anatomical correctness. He said I was very nice, and then I said, not really, and told him I would probably always refer to him as my pain in the ass. He then agreed with me that I wasn’t nice, and laughed. Yes, I do get punchy at the OB/GYN. Sorry, Dr. B.

Now I am at the two week mark after the surgery and I am feeling pretty well. I didn’t take any pain medication, narcotic or over the counter today, went out for lunch, bought shoes at Target and even walked around the whole block.  That sounds like a lot, until you consider that that was ALL I did ALL day long, not including a nap and several episodes of Friends and hours sitting here playing on the interwebs.  Doing almost nothing is completely draining, and it doesn’t take much physical strain for things to ache, so I am just living this slowed down life until I can continue on at my usual breakneck speed.

My parents went home, and my in-laws came and took my children, so it is very, very quiet here. I miss them a bit, but I am loving the quiet and grateful for some time to just heal and focus on myself.

I am getting better.




The Ones Where I Use The Words Rectum and Vagina A Whole Lot, Because I Can No Longer Complete A Sentence With Out Them.

  • March 10, 2012 5:33 am

Dear, gentle readers, where shall I begin?  I have mentally blogged so much of the past few days, and then had it twisted into fiction and butterflies and eaten by lovely, lovely drugs classified as narcotics. So I shall do my best. This will likely take a few posts.

Ten days ago I went into surgery, planning on having a vaginal hysterectomy, a rectocele and and cystocele. All this had come about because my internal organs were being dysfunctional and attempting to exit my body via my va-jay-jay. I am sure many of you are familiar with the concept of pelvic prolapse, but for those of you who aren’t, let me be the one to leave you shaken and clutching your girlie bits while I simply say: yes, your uterus, bladder, rectum, and other organs can actually fall out of your vagina. And it is not uncommon. I’m sorry to add that to your reality; I know my world was happier before that possibility entered my paradigm.

So, anyway.  Surgery day was on leap day, at the Rapid City Same Day Surgery Center, even though it is not same day surgery, being performed by my OB/GYN, Dr. Buehner, who came highly recommended and who deserved every bit of praise he was given.  I’m going to give you a little back-story on all of this.

During one of my first girlie exams I was asked what I did.  This question always poses a bit of a conundrum. After all, I manage a small, international business and have done so for five years. I moonlight as a freelance designer for scrapbooking companies who need some good example art for trade shows. I’ve also written this blog for seven years, raised three kids at home at the same time and now teach an early morning seminary class on the Old Testament. What do I do? The complete answer is just too cotton picking long, and more than most people really care about in the course of small talk, so I tend to answer with whatever answer strikes me at the moment and I answered writer. This does, after all, bring me the most satisfaction, and sounds a heck of a lot better than dilettante.

Well, my doctor’s resident (Hi!) latched on to that and ended up looking me up. In fact, when I walked in for my second exam both she and Dr. Buehner had looked me up to see what I’d written about them, and they announced this with big grins on their faces before even saying hello. Now, our exam was pretty funny, and very blog-worthy, but I’m just careful enough to avoid saying anything potentially upsetting at the risk of leaving the man who will be holding sharp, pointy objects around my my girlie bits put out. Also, I was really busy. That being said, here’s what happened at the appointment.

I always get a little silly at exams. This is the byproduct of me handling stress with irreverent humor and the fact that after my first girlie exam my grandmother (who is hilarious) teased my virginal prudence and general discomfort about the whole situation with a finger crooked up in the air in mock exam form, a few well timed one liners and imitations of her own first exam.  Throw in a seven week hospital stay where I rocked the backless hospital lingerie and basically lost all sense of modesty whatsoever and suffice it to say, I’m a little cracked when it comes to gynecological medicine now.  So when we were about to put my feet in the stirrups and I said to my charming doctor, “bottoms up!” Well, he lost all composure. Apparently, in 29 years of being a doctor, that was a first.

The exam got progressively more lighthearted until, while trying to assess the extent of my uterine prolapse he asked me to stand up, spread my legs and bear down so he could reach up there -that is the actual medical terminology for that you know, “up there”- and feel around to see how low my womb was hanging. Now, picture a woman who already has the giggles, plus a resident who is cracking up and a very kind, endearing man who is trying hard to hold on to some small shred of medical professionalism.  Then use the word “Squat”.

I laughed so hard we barely got the exam completed.

In the end, we decided that surgically removing the offending body parts and putting the ones that ought not to be removed back where God intended was the best route for me.

I showed up on surgery day and they promptly took away my clothes and gave me a huge, one size really doesn’t fit all, purple hospital gown with an interstitial area sewn into it, hooked to plastic tubing with a heating/cooling device that blew air into the gown and left me perfectly temperature controlled and looking like a massive, purple sumo wrestler.  I was supposed to go into surgery at nine am, but my doctor was delivering a little leap year baby boy, so I got to wear the hot sumo gown for an extra two and a half hours.

While I waited for this little guy to make his entrance into the world, I got to meet my surgical staff, including a matter-o-fact nurse named Sue who told me she had a hysterectomy at 31 and it was nothing but good, didn’t affect sexual function at all and saved a bundle on birth control and menstrual supplies. I appreciate matter-o-factness and her no nonsense, straight talk tone set me at ease considerably more than all the soothing individuals who came to tell me about more medically pertinent things like how they didn’t intend to kill me with anesthesia. They were all very nice, but when people are collectively soothing it always makes me nervous, as if the kindness and gentleness triggers my brain to think there might actually be a problem big enough for me to require emotional mitigation, and then I want to panic.  I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that, but I’ll go with frankness over calming any day.

My doctor finally arrived and they brought me back to the operating room. That room is intimidating, all sterile and bright and people milling about and trays of sharp objects, so I was grateful when they didn’t waste time giving me the good drugs that made the room swim and fade into nothingness.

I was out for a few hours, about two and a half, and when I woke up my awareness was focused on only one priority, the fact that I was in pain and lots of it.  Coming out of anesthesia is a slow process, and I was in the recovery room for an hour and a half and still have no recollection of being moved to my hospital room after that. I do remember saying one thing over and over during that time in the recovery room, “ow. Ow. Ow. OW. Ow. . .ow.” And just in case they didn’t catch it the first hundred times, more “ow. ow. OW. ow. . .ow”.  At some point during all this OW-ing, I realized what I was saying and said, “Gee, I’m so articulate! Ow. Ow. Ow.” This probably came out garbled beyond recognition, but, hey, I thought I was funny, so I laughed, which only served to prompt more, “Ow. . . .ow. . .ow.”

Somewhere in between all the ows, my doctor checked on me and gave me the picture he took of my uterus that I had requested, and then teased me saying he had sent it off to KFC because it looked like a drumstick. I kid you not. Then he told me he fixed a hole in my rectum during the surgery, and I really hoped that was said as tongue in cheek as the KFC remark, but unfortunately, it was not. I’m sure more was said during this lovely time in the recovery room, but it is all lost amid the drugs, the KFC comments and the word OW.

OK- it is quite late here, and I just took more painkillers, so I will finish this story in the next post.

Part TWO