I am now 5 weeks, 6 days post hysterectomy and am healing well. I am encouraged to share my experience so other women might have more information and feel more prepared for this surgery and the recovery process.
I am so grateful for modern medicine to have this surgery so refined it is usually an outpatient procedure now. A big thanks to the surgeons and patients before me that has helped get it where it is today.
My surgeon was Dr. Chong at Salem Clinic and anesthesiologist Dr. Delude. They both are wonderful people to work with, have great bed side manners, are compassionate and respectful. The procedure I had was a laparoscopy hysterectomy. There are 3 small incisions in the abdomen for the instruments to enter and after everything is loosened they take the uterus and cervix out through the vagina and sew the top of the vagina together and reattach the ligaments to the sides of the vagina that used to be on the cervix. She also took my fallopian tubes (where most ovarian cancers start) while leaving the ovaries which were in good health. At the 2 week follow-up she notified me that there was no cancer in the fibroids.
I began to have pain last summer in my belly and having just gotten insurance for the first time in 20 years I made an appointment with my Dr. and began the process toward the hysterectomy. The first step was a pelvic ultrasound. I had never had one where they used external ultrasound and internal through the vagina. My recommendation at this time…Take a non-latex condom (that lab doesn’t allow ANY latex within the lab) with you for the covering of the wand. What they use currently use has a plastic edge on it, so every time they turned it to change the view, it felt like they were slicing the inside of my vagina. I did let them know that was unacceptable and have heard back that they are working on another solution as they have had other complaints as well.
The results of my ultrasound were that I had several fibroids, a couple the size of squash balls and many other little ones. This would explain the pain I was having in my abdomen. I did attempt alternative health methods for the fibroids for the 6 months in between pelvic ultrasounds, to no avail. They enlarged by 1/3 in 6 months and my pain was increasing. It was an easy decision for me based on the support system I had in place and my confidence in Dr. Chong; based mostly on her disposition, meditation and several people who recommended her.
The bodywork I do and continue to learn, IMT (Integrative Manual Therapy) is not widely known as there are fewer than 500 therapists in the world who have trained in it and do it on a regular basis. Many people look at me like I have 3 eyes when I attempt to share with them what it encompasses because they had no idea it was even possible to affect the organs, blood vessels, nerves, and bones; especially with such a light touch and generally no pain. IMT therapists regularly help a person’s kidneys function again even in one session. Because of my trainings in IMT since 2004, I knew I needed to prepare for the surgery and plan for my recovery.
The first part of my preparation was done with my counselor who helped me consciously grieve the loss of my uterus. It has served me well. It grew three healthy babies and though I didn’t want more children at 49 years old, I would no longer have the choice. The hormones and orgasms I shared with it would be different. How would my orgasms change? I felt confusion about motherhood changing. She helped me know that the transition from mother to crone was not an abrupt end and a new beginning; it is a transitional dance between the two. I am still mothering two children at home and one (when he wants input) that has already moved out.
The pain I was experiencing was due to the weight of the fibroids which affected my right ureter and wasn’t allowing urine to flow from the ureter into the bladder, therefore; my kidney was enlarging and creating great pain. I also had a different pain on the left side that was occasional and to date, I cannot fully explain. One therapist thinks it is a diverticulitis pouch that occasionally causes me pain.
I am incredibly fortunate to have a few therapists in the area who do this work so I started making appointments. Pre-surgery the focus was to get my organs unstuck from each other which make the surgery easier for both me and the doctor. Also, to make sure the kidneys are functioning well so they can detox the anesthesia and pain medicines afterwards.
Immediately post surgery, in the 2nd recovery phase in the hospital, my husband, dear friend, lovely mother-in-law and my sister were there initially to support me coming out of the anesthesia. They all had specific goals/gifts to support me and I am so grateful for their friendship, love and support. I especially appreciate my IMT therapist and friend, Rhonda, who came to support me as well. She worked with my kidneys so my blood pressure would come up to normal and then my bladder (catheter and surgery caused issues) so I could urinate. I especially appreciated the cold clothe over my kidneys which helped me pee for the first time! Wow and ouch! Once I peed, they got me right out of the hospital. I was amazed! They wheeled me into surgery at 7:30am and I was home by 5:30pm. Amazing that a hysterectomy is now an outpatient procedure!
For post surgery I lined up a variety of appointments with my support team. My surgery was Thursday, April 2.
First and foremost, my husband Tim who tended me very well, took me to appointments, cooked for me (he is an amazing cook!), helped me off the couch regularly, kept track of my pain meds for the 4 days I was on them and the host of other little needs I had. I lined up a couple hours at a time for a friend to come and sit with me so Tim could have some time to run errands and have alone time.
On Saturday, I arranged for some very dear friends to come to my home and do an NFP (Neurofascial Processing) session for me. The goal of this was to get my organs talking to each other again, especially since one had been taken out, they needed help reestablishing their communication.
Next was seeing my acupuncturist, Beau Vandendolder in Silverton, OR on Monday following the surgery. The first couple appointments post-op he focused on stabilizing my nervous and circulatory systems from shock/trauma. Subsequent appointments he focused on scar therapy +. He helped me understand that scars in the body along any trajectory inhibits healthy circulation of blood. Scars across the midline such as hysterectomy, c section, sometimes gallbladder, does not allow energy to flow through the conception vessel. After the first scar needling I felt sooooo much better. Like a light got turned on. I felt even better after the second scar needling. Beau also shared with me that according to Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture texts, needling the navel is prohibited. So does it seem appropriate to assume surgery through the navel also ought to be contraindicated? With that information I offer this: Ask for the incisions in the abdomen to be made ‘above’ the umbilicus (belly button) rather than ‘in’ the umbilicus where they normally hide the middle scar. Great for esthetics, not great for the acupuncturist to get to for the scar needling.
For scars I also I recommend cold laser treatment on the scars daily. When the scars are healed over, at least 10 days, use sesame or wheat germ oil on the scars daily.
On Tuesday, I saw Rhonda for a follow-up. She found that all of my intestines were on the left side of my abdomen. She was able to get them back to midline which relieved a lot of tension in my pelvis. She also worked on my bladder more which helped with urination and the mobility and integrity of the large intestines. Meanwhile, in the same session, another therapist and friend, Mitzi, worked with my diaphragm and lungs to get them to inflate again as I was not taking full breaths yet since the surgery (caused by the anesthesia).
I found that riding in the car thus far created anxiety for me. For four weeks I applied doTerra essential oil of Lavender to my lower belly and scars, as well as arnica cream on my belly twice daily. I took a stool softener every night, plus my magnesium citrate which keeps me regular anyway and had glycerin suppositories on hand to ensure I did not get constipated. The stitches at the top of the vagina are right next to the rectum so I wanted to ensure all bowel movements went smoothly. Even though they did go smoothly, I ended up having excruciating pain with peristalsis through the sigmoid and rectum for a while. Apparently this is uncommon for women to experience. For about 2 weeks I had great pain with bowel movements. The Dr. said they were likely due to adhesions in the intestines. I made sure to drink a lot of water as well. After a couple weeks, the discomfort with peristalsis was now just a noticing.
10 days post I saw 2 clients per day at my home office. I gave myself 2 hours between them so I could rest. I wish in retrospect I would have waited one more week as I was unaware of a particular aspect of the healing process that is necessary. That is to rest continuously so your intestines find their new home and knit together. It really is worth being down for 2 solid weeks to take the time to rest and heal properly. The deceptive part of the healing process for me was the fact that my abdominal muscles felt fine even when getting up out of the chair. However, when you use them a lot during the early stages of healing you are putting compression into the lower abdominal area where there are fresh stitches and raw wounds. Being still during the first 2 weeks is highly recommended! Wearing a girdle type apparatus is also helpful for keeping the intestines in place.
The 3rd week I began seeing 3 clients per day at the office with nap time scheduled in. I otherwise wouldn’t have made it through the day. The 4th week I was seeing 4 clients per day and was full time the 5th week and not needing as much nap time, though I still enjoy them as often as possible.
There has definitely been a mental/emotional component to this as well. There were times in the first week of recovery where I felt completely helpless and would just cry. I would have a realization of an accomplishment and cry. When someone spoke of a gift of mine that I have yet to share much with the world, I would cry. I could feel the entire spectrum of emotions through my tears. I experience life with great richness now. I feel less confused. I’m not sure yet how to explain that further.
Year ago I read from Christiane Northrups’ book “The Wisdom of Menopause” about the veil women experience when they menstruate. How this veil goes up after ovulation and comes down after menstruation. This veil acts as a buffer to promote procreation.
For me, this veil came out with the uterus. In the last 5 weeks I have ovulated 1 x and have yet to experience the veil at all. I feel moved to make changes in my life that promote my work and to take it further into the world finally. This veil seems to have been a factor in this for me by interrupting my vision every month, therefore losing momentum. Now, I have the vision continuously and am moving forward with my goals.
I still cry often with the rich tears of joy, sorrow, and sadness. Life has been fast and furious since my awakening post hysterectomy. I have accomplished a great deal since April 2, 2015. Having a clear and consistent vision of what I felt I could contribute to the community/world has driven me to actually accomplish more in 1 year than I feel I had in the previous 10 years (besides parenting). In a state of exhaustion recently I had the realization that it would be ok if I slowed down a little. It wasn’t required of me to accomplish something by a certain time period. And who was actually requiring this push? Me of course! I have just been so excited to do what I love on a larger scale.
My abdominal pain has slowly subsided. Over the last several months I have required monthly abdominal massage to keep the fascia loosened over the intestines. This is caused by the co2 they use to bloat your stomach. I found out pretty quick that I needed to keep up on this or I would end up in great pain and unable to have a mobile sacrum which created pain in my low back.
If I could do my hysterectomy over again…I would rest much longer after the surgery and do the abdominal massage at week 6 instead of 12 when I was in a lot of pain from it. I hope this information is helpful for you or a friend of yours who has or will be getting a hysterectomy. There are many things IMT can do for a person post surgery of any kind even years later giving great relief.