Category Archives: Hysterectomy

The tick-tick-ticking of the clock…

In two months it will have been a year since my hysterectomy.

I try so hard not to let January 6th, 2014 have any monumental significance.  I have read that it takes about a year to feel normal again, my doctor has told me it can take up to a year to heal.  When a year was seven, six, five months away it was a reassuring thing to tell myself.

You aren’t back to where you were, but it’s okay, they said it can take up to a year.

Now that a year is two months away I stare at my swelly belly and wonder;

What if I am not better after a year?

So much has happened this year that I haven’t had time to deal with my sense of grief, my anger, my loss.  I feel like the whole world has moved on and I am just now finally feeling it.

I am deeply sad.  I am ragingly angry.  Nothing about having a hysterectomy before I was ready to be done having children is ever going to be okay.  This will always be a pang I feel.  I feel as though so much of me was literally ripped out and tossed away and somehow I am supposed to go on as though I am normal.  Somehow I am supposed to reach a point where I have healed.

This was the hardest part of my life and it was overshadowed by marital strife and relationship drama.  It was the experience that cemented in my own mind that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you try to do about it, things will suck.  You can work as hard as you can, harder even, and the world will keep on moving while you fall apart.  I lost my home, my friend group, my intact family.  Those are the things people saw, commented on, dealt with.  But I lost so much more.  I lost my fertility.  I went to bed a 37 year old woman and woke up in menopause.  I can build a new home, I can make one with my family, I can work on my friendships.  I will never get that back.  It is gone forever.

Motherhood is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me.  It is the only thing I have ever felt truly amazing at.  I grow strong, intelligent, beautiful children and I am a wonderful mother.

Except now I can’t grow strong beautiful intelligent children.  And please don’t tell me I already have two so it’s okay.  It’s not. It never will be.  I can be a wonderful mother to the children I have, but that doesn’t take away the pain from not ever being able to even think of having more.

I have had my heart broken before.  I have had it torn out of me by death, divorce, anger, violence, and more.  It always healed.  Now I doubt it will.

The clock ticks away the minutes toward the end of my first year without a reproductive system.  It ticks away toward physical health.  It ticks away to a new period in my life, a time of health and happiness.  Each ticking second carries with it increasing expectations.  From my family, my friends, and from me.  Everyone, including me, is waiting for the healing to end.

The thing is, it won’t.  I am forever scarred by this, forever changed.  The year will roll around and my core muscles may be strong again, I may be able to run and box and chase my kids.  I may feel better than I have in years, but it won’t be me.  I have had to let go of the 37 year old woman who went into surgery on January 6, 2013.  For all intents and purposes, she died.  The person who emerged from that surgery has a lot of similarities to her, but she is not the same.

I don’t think I ever will be.

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The last baby.

It’s a distinction he bears with pride.  It started when he told me he wanted a younger brother, so he could have a boy to play with.  My heart constricted in my chest and tears welled up in my eyes.

“I can’t have anymore babies my love, you are my last baby.”

“Your last baby? Why am I your last baby?” He asked, eyes widening as he tried to wrap his six year old mind around a very adult concept.

“Remember when mommy had the last surgery?”

“Yes. You couldn’t pick me up forever, and you cried.”

“Yes” I managed to whisper over the lump in my throat. “When I had that surgery, they took out the parts that let me have another baby. So that is why you are my last.”

He was silent as he absorbed this.  Maybe it was something in my tone of voice or the look on my face but he sat with my statement for a long time, treating it with more seriousness than I thought he could.

“That’s really sad mommy, that you can’t have another baby.” He threw his arm around my neck and snuggled into me, giving me a chance to breathe in the unique smell of his sweat and shampoo. “But I am a little glad I got to be your last  baby.” He kissed me on the cheek and snuggled in close, pulling me towards him with both of his little boy arms.

“I am glad too sweetheart” I murmured as I rested my chin upon his head and closed my eyes.

“And Mommy? Don’t worry, I will always be your baby.”

The wall.

It’s been nine months since the final surgery that removed my uterus and remaining ovary.  I have been getting more active, more energetic, better.  Sometimes better enough to forget that it’s only been nine months.  Often, better enough to forget that my doctor told me it would be, at minimum, a year before I felt completely better.

So I get busy. I work, I work out, I play with the kids, I see people, and the whole time I am thinking “Woo hoo! I am getting better!” I feel energetic and great!  Even with migraines I feel miles above where I used to be.

Then I run smack into the wall.  BAM!

Yesterday I hit the wall after I saw the doc for a nerve block for my migraines.  I got home, blearily handled the kiddos while I waited for their dad, and then went to lie down because I could not keep my eyes open.  I am not exaggerating.  I could not stay awake any longer.  I hit the bed and I slept for three and a half hours.  Then I ate something, went back to bed, and slept ten.  I am exhausted and distracted today, unable to focus for very long on much of consequence.  My energy level is super low.

This has happened before.  It’s like I have used up all my spoons, and have to recharge before I get any more.  It’s not unusual, in fact I should expect it, but I never do.  I did when I was super sick, when I had to spend all my energy just not screaming at the kids or Lee or crying all the time because I hurt too much to be a human being much less a wife and parent.  Now that I am much better I forget how much farther I have to go.  I get greedy and impatient with myself, eager to return to the levels of energy I had before all this madness started.  Eager to leave behind the woman who watched the world rush around her while she lived in a quiet little room, too hurt to participate.

Unfortunately, the wall has no pity.  It is relentless.  I run into it and there is no running past it, no getting around it, no breaking through.  All there is are days of sleep, rest, and the feeling that I can’t do anything.   The feeling that I am right back in that room.  The wall will not let me by until I have taken the space and time I need to recover.

So I dial it back.  I spend less energy.  I try to regroup and build myself back up.  I hope this time I will have more energy than last, that I will be that much closer to healed.

That this time I will finally get completely out of that room.

Chronicals of Chronic Pain

If you had asked me ten years ago where I would be this certainly isn’t it.  I didn’t think I would be volunteering to spend weekends working on nature preserves.  I didn’t think I would be a college professor.  I certainly didn’t imagine I would be going through medically induced radical menopause.

It’s been a hard two or three years. Being chronically ill sapped all my creative energy, patience, and spirit.  I felt entirely alone, isolated to my fears, pain, and sorrow.  I don’t think I would have lived through it without my cat.  (She features strongly in my life, being of a mind to sit by or on me at ALL times.) My children were amazing, but I couldn’t ask small people to understand what I was going through. My husband did his best, but I learned that some times your partner can’t understand, chronic pain can kill a once strong marriage.  I learned that as the terrified and chronically ill person you can’t always forgive your partner when they can’t meet your needs. I learned anger and hurt are vast and seemingly limitless aquifers bubbling up underneath your heart. Many of my friends were wonderful sources of patience, love, and support during this hard time, but many others were absent, dealing with their own lives (and rightfully so.)  In the end it was a small handful of people and one furry animal that helped me climb out of the darkness to see the light again.  I learned a lot during the journey.

For example, suicidal tendencies are a side effect of opiate use.  I went from being a person who couldn’t fathom suicide to someone who thought about ways to do it all the time.  I couldn’t stop thinking about ways to do it.  Every possible sharp object in the house became a potential mechanism of destruction. I went to therapy, got on anti-depressants, but it wasn’t until I weaned myself off the opiates that the desire to swan dive off my rooftop balcony disappeared.

I learned to ask for help.  I learned pretending you can get through it on your own is a stupid, egotistical way to torture yourself and those who love you.  I learned to accept help, which is the harder lesson, with grace and thankfulness.  I learned to stop keeping score and tallying up how much I owed people for lending me a hand.

I learned that I can’t do everything I set out to do.  My once indomitable spirit is now aware that I can be beaten. There is a new timidity to my life as a result.

I learned that no matter how done you think you are having children, having that choice taken away from you will break your heart.  Further, it will eat at the very core of who you think you are and what you think you are worth.  I went from super fertile to menopause in a single day.  I am still, nine months later, trying not to cry when I stop and actually think that I will never have another child.  Each step my children take away from babyhood pricks my heart and makes me wish, just for a moment, that I could do it all again.  I cling to them and their waning childhood, desperate to catch as much of this time as I can, more aware than ever before of how fleeting it truly is.

I learned about menopause.  I began to understand why women wore moo-moos and why there can never be enough air-conditioning.  I watched my kids shiver under blankets in mid summer and wondered why on earth I was sweating.  I learned to stop wearing make-up because eyeliner and mascara sting like a bitch when sweat drips them into your eyes.  I understood how a person could indulge in one of those Hollywood laughing fits that quickly turns into a complete sobbing breakdown. I learned puberty hormones have nothing on menopause.

I learned that I miss my damn period.  I get ready to leave the house sometimes and look around for what I have forgotten, only to figure out it is my bloody annoying menstrual cycle.  I even get nostalgic when I see tampons.

I learned this is all too much to talk about when you are in the middle of it.  That in order to survive it, you have to hide away, pull inward, and nurse yourself.  I was a wounded animal hiding in my cave, waiting to heal.  I wanted very little to do with most people.  The thought of talking about how I felt was crushingly impossible.  I think my distance was off-putting to many, I believe it may have been hurtful, I had no control over it, at all.

Finally, I learned that there comes a time when all that you didn’t want to say starts to choke you.  You start to feel like this huge experience in your life is something no one else understands and then you realize it’s because you failed to tell them.  So here I am, telling them.

In the past 14 months I have had two abdominal surgeries.  I lost both ovaries and my uterus.  I am in menopause and dealing with killer migraines.  I am starting over, it seems from scratch.  I have to rebuild my body, my spirit, my career, my friendships, and my heart.  In the past nine months I have gone from a woman who couldn’t consider getting out of bed most days to one who gets up and about daily.  I walk, I swim, I bike.  I play with the kids, get them to school, do their homework.  I work.  I am picking up the threads of my former life and weaving a new one.  I am still worn from my ordeal, but I am hopeful for the first time in years.

I feel I have finally come through the darkest hour and into the dawn.

Hysterecto…me.

It’s been a long time since I blogged here.  Actually, it’s been a long time since I blogged anywhere, outside of a professional capacity.  I left because my life as a lawyer and a mom took all my time. I left because I no longer had the need to reach out into the internet and share feelings, thoughts, and experiences with everyone and no one.

I came back because the need arose in me strongly today.  Nine weeks ago today I had a full laproscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy. A LAVH as the cool kids call it.  Nine weeks ago today a beautiful and brilliant surgeon went into my body and removed my uterus and remaining ovary.  They are gone, poof.

I had the surgery because I had serious recurring ovarian cysts.  Those painful suckers popped up on my ovaries and inside my fallopian tubes again and again.  I had one ovary and tube removed hoping it was the culprit, but a new cyst arrived two months after that surgery, so we yanked it all.

I am supposed to be happy about it.  I guess. I was in less pain the day after surgery than I had been in for years.  I should be relieved, ecstatic, excited.  Instead I feel loss. I feel empty. I feel irrevocably changed.

I don’t get periods anymore, I don’t get that slight contraction of the muscles I used to get when I saw brand new babies. I get my hormones from a bottle.  I read articles about “dryness” and “bone loss”.  A huge part of my life experience as a woman has traveled through time and stopped about twenty years in the future.  I feel old.

I look in the mirror and I swear I look different.  I see someone else.  This new me can’t have babies.  This new me waits for my mood to change around the full moon and stares up at the sky painfully aware there is no wave of hormones coursing through me.  I have lost my connection to the moon.

Initially, as the hormones disappeared and before the HRT (hormone replacement therapy) was balanced out, I felt crazy.  I had hot flashes and chills, I had no idea what temperature it was anywhere and I cried at the drop of a hat.  Now, months later, my hormones are stable, the hot flashes are gone, and my tears are less “out of nowhere” then before.

Now when I cry it is because I am reading an article on intimacy after hysterectomy and get angry that at 37 I this is my reading material.  I see an ad for a baby stroller online and cry because I went from fertile to barren overnight.  I see myself in the mirror and cry because I look hesitant, uncertain, less sexy than before.

I am sad. I grieve for the person I was before all these painful cysts and invasive surgeries.  I am angry, I am furious at the toll this has taken on my family, my work, my self.  I am at a loss.

I feel a bit like Tokyo after a Godzilla film. There is much to clear out, there is much to rebuild.  I have to figure out what this sudden and unnatural change means to me, I have to incorporate it, become used to it.

I think most of all, I have to let go.  I have to say goodbye to those annoying, painful, messy, expensive monthly visits I have had for the past 25 years.  I have to say goodbye to worrying about wearing white during certain times of the month.  I no longer belong to that club.

I will have to find another.