At 43 I was way too young to have a prolapse and need a hysterectomy, however that was the deal… my insides were out!

I was sick of wetting myself when I laughed, cried, coughed, sneezed or bounced on the trampoline with my son.  The sad fact is that I partially caused this, not by having two babies but also by having Bulimia since I was in my early twenties.  Bulimia damages your pelvic floor. Its a fact, and when I’m in the grips of it, my head’s down the loo and I wee on the floor. Thankfully in the months running up to the op I got the help that I needed and it worked, finally I could go ahead with the hysterectomy without doing further damage down the track.

After 2 children, and 20 years of vomiting, my nether regions were in a bit of a mess.  It felt like a weight was in my belly… constantly, like a baby’s head just waiting to POP out. Then there was also the pee problem.. I simply couldn’t! Ironically it was never an issue when I coughed etc., that was unavoidable, but on the loo … nope, nuh uh, no way – it wasn’t happening! I became an expert at Toilet Yoga: the art of encouraging peeing through various precarious positions, breathing & FOCUS!

That is how I found myself being wheeled into theatre, about to have my womb (did you know that your womb was also your uterus? I DIDN’T!) whipped out and bladder hitched up (I’m keeping my ovaries). Last time I had an anesthetic I was 7, my appendix was removed and what still haunts me, is the cannula thingy. I DON’T LIKE CANNULAS.  A hysterectomy is a major op, but that cannula had me in a right state! The anesthetic took hold and off I drifted on a lovely cloud of bliss. Which didn’t last.

Hours later, the first op had gone wrong!  I had internal bleeding, my blood pressure was dangerously low and I was back in theatre where they drained a litre of blood from my stomach. I woke up hours later in Intensive Care, feeling a bit rough but obviously not that bad, because the patient next to me was getting on my nerves (feel quite bad about that now). Horror of horrors I wake up to find, I had not 1 but 3 cannulas’!!

The rest of my time in hospital was pretty normal – oxygen, catheter, Zimmer frame and huge sanitary pads, trying to pee without a catheter, not succeeding and ending up with the pesky thing back in again.  I read lots of books, slept a lot and ate Prunes, LOTS OF PRUNES, they are the food of the devil.  Prunes you see, are needed because the medication constipates you, so although they are evil they are a necessary evil, the alternative is much worse.

Hospital wards are a hive of activity in the morning: nurses, catering, cleaners, physio etc, all arrive to do their stuff, but why oh why must the physio come after the prunes and Movicol?  It’s just not right! This is when your extra-large sanitary pads come in handy. Twice during my zimmer power walk around the ward the prunes went into action.  It’s impossible to move fast when you’ve had an op like this, I crossed my fingers that the extra large mother of a sanitary pad would not let me down, and moved along at Zimmer pace, willing that nothing would escape down my leg whilst en-route to the loo..  Upon arrival at the loo, reality kicked in, this was a logistical nightmare! How do you pull poo-filled undies down, remove the pad (and poo) all whilst standing on one leg and leaning on a Zimmer? Oh and did I mention that you can’t bend?.  The answer is, you don’t!  You end up dropping the crap filled pad, poo flies everywhere, you swallow your pride and ring the bell for help.  Mortified does not come into it, but hey let’s look on the bright side, at least I didn’t run the Zimmer through the poo and trail it all the way back to my room.

I was in hospital for just over a week,  I had 2 blood transfusions which made me feel amazing, the change you feel after one of those, is so quick.  I wish I could give some back when I’m better, but because I have lived in the UK I can’t. I had very little pain around my tummy, it was all down the back of my leg which surprised me but is apparently normal.  After a week I came home and a week later went back and had the catheter removed.  You aren’t allowed to go with out the catheter until you are emptying your bladder satisfactorily, which involves drinking a lot, weeing and having an ultrasound on the bladder to measure how many mls are left.  I had mine removed with 150ml still inside.  This will be monitored at each check up.

Recovery: The surgeon will tell you, “you will be uncomfortable” for a few weeks, believe me that is an under statement – it hurts like hell.  I could not stand or walk for long without my leg giving up on me and had a limp for at least the first 4 weeks. Sitting upright for too long or on a hard surface was also very uncomfortable, even at 8 weeks down the line.

Before the op I couldn’t find practical advice from other patients about what to expect or what to take with me, which is why I have written this blog. I hope it helps women who are planning a hysterectomy understand a bit about what to expect.  I know, that no two experiences are the same but maybe sharing mine will help.

Below is my essential kit for your op and time in hospital.

  1. Get in shape I didn’t lose weight (because I like wine too much) but I swam as often as I could and ate well, to get myself ready
  2. Take night dresses (one for each day), not Pj’s you need comfort around your tummy area and  nurses need access to your nether regions to check  healing etc.
  3. Wax or shave down below, I didn’t, so the nurse did it and sheared me like a sheep in a shearing contest!
  4. Take big cotton knickers, cheap ones that you can throw in the bin if they get in a mess.
  5. Sanitary pads, 2 packs of night time ones and a pack of lighter ones. Required for both ends I’m afraid.
  6. Eat the prunes, drink the pear juice and take the Movicol, the last thing you need is more pain and straining in that area.
  7. Take books, magazines, puzzles anything to keep you from boredom. Keep visitors to a minimum until you get home. If they do come half hour tops, then kick them out. They will understand.
  8. Move around your room or walk around the ward (before Prunes or after they’ve done the job)
  9. Drink plenty water.
  10. Take lip balm, for some reason your lips are very dry when you come out of surgery.
  11. Keep a toilet bag of essentials next to your bed to help you feel “nice” face wipes, moisturiser, body lotion. I like essential oils so I had some of those with me too.

It’s been 12 weeks since the operation, I still have pain in my leg but it’s getting better each week with physio. I pace myself each day, do work in the morning and rest in the afternoon.  On days after physio I don’t do much as I’m always a bit tender. Toilet yoga is still required and probably always will be, but that’s ok I can cope with that.  I can drive now, the surgeon said 2 weeks post op but I found I wasn’t fit enough until 4 weeks and even now only short distances.   My biggest frustration is that I am desperate to get back in the pool but can’t until the wounds are healed and stitches gone, as the risk of infection is too great.  So I am taking the time to read a lot, write and watch Netflix!  I have received gorgeous visitors baring gifts and helping me while away the hours with their chat.  Take the recovery time to have a break and try out some things that you’ve never had the time to do before.

It’s not an easy road but even with the bumps along the way  I am very happy that I made the decision to have the op,even just for the wonderful down time.

The exact procedure I had was A TVT, Vaginal Hysterectomy, Anterior and Posterier Vaginal Repair, Sacrospinous Fixation and Cystoscopy.  Mouthfull huh?