This is where the real story about a hysterectomy begins to be honest: The recovery process.
For someone like me who rarely slows down and doesn’t like to need or accept help, this part was super tough. I am also not a fan of taking pain medication for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of the “C” word: Constipation! (Did I mention I’ve had struggles in that department?) Well, I was not so stubborn that I didn’t take the hydrocodone and ibuprofen prescribed. I did wean off the hydro after 5 or 6 days, but continued pain control with ibuprofen and managed the constipation pretty well.
That first full day home, I walked around the house a lot to try to get things moving. My belly was rumbly. I was also a little congested so I used the respiratory contraption as directed and walked as much as possible. In fact, I walked outside over to my cottage so I could get fresh air. This was the beginning of my quest to walk outside daily. I was fully committed to it in fact – and I was committed to walking a little further each day no matter what.
I highly recommend a tea called Smooth Move. Yep, you guessed it, it is a tea with a natural laxative. I swear by it and keep it on hand. In fact I drink a cup most evenings. I drank a cup before turning in with the belly gurgling. The next day, there was lots more gurgling and gas and finally, it hit! BINGO! I had bathroom victory! It was literally my highlight for the day because I had dreaded this part more than anything from the get go. The things that make us happy at this age are hilarious!
The gas from the anesthesia had started settling in my back and shoulders, so I continued walking around the house as much as I could tolerate it and the following day I used a heating pad to try to get relief. A friend told me about charcoal capsules, which I never ended up getting, but would definitely add to the hysterectomy prep list now. The walking and the heat finally helped the gas pain work out thankfully.
I kept walking a little more each day and somedays I had to take an umbrella and bundle up in a heavy coat. By day five I walked to the end of the driveway and back. I was also really having some soreness set in.
I started going over to my cottage during the day to spend a little time to get used to being alone. I was eventually going to have to do things for myself and I felt I was getting stronger each day. It was a small exercise in independence.
By the end of week one post op, I had spent some time watercoloring, and even helped mom cook dinner one night. Progress! However, I was also starting to have issues with sleeping and my hot flashes were becoming noticeably more intense.
A few more days (about 10 days post op), I took my first outing with a friend to lunch. I also decided to try to stay at the cottage for the first time.
Almost two weeks after surgery, I hit a wall. I just didn’t feel good at all for about three days. In fact, I didn’t walk one day and barely left the chair. It was depressing and I felt so defeated after putting in the work to feel better (yes, I said I worked to feel better and I recognize how counterintuitive that seems).
I had my two week check up and things were looking good. She took out my stitches and scheduled another appointment and we discussed a plan for me to go back to work on a part-time basis after another full week at home. She advised me that I could do some very light stretches as I could tolerate and she was pleased with progress, but warned not to overdo it. By the weekend, I decided to start searching out some exercises for post hysterectomy. I did some small bridges, light kegels and pelvic work, and standing leg lifts.
That weekend, I drove myself to church. It was my first time to drive after my doctor told me I could only drive when I felt well enough to stomp my foot down hard. I’m not sure if I was all the way to that point but I felt confident in driving to church. It was glorious to feel that small bit of freedom!
The next week was about pushing myself to feel like a whole human again. My sleeping patterns were so terrible. I researched and discovered it was a major symptom of menopause, along with some other dreadful things to go along with the hot flashes. I would just keep fighting and working. I got myself a mani-pedi on that Friday and met my goal of walking to the highway by Sunday, which equates to a 5K – 3.2 miles.
Monday would be my first day back to work – part time. However, I decided to attend an all day meeting in Little Rock on Wednesday of that week and it was a full day of travel and meetings. It was admittedly not my best decision. I was incredibly sore the rest of the week and by the weekend I was completely spent. Also, ironically, while at that meeting, the news broke that Arkansas had its first case of COVID-19 and the world as we knew it started changing rapidly.
The following weekend, I did my first hike post surgery. It was awesome to be out but it was exhausting.
The recovery progress has been slow. Much slower than I had anticipated even with everyone telling me what to expect.
- I have learned to rest.
- I have learned what it means to hit midlife.
- I have learned that I can’t bounce back as quickly.
- I’ve also learned that I am strong.
- I am resilient.
- I am independent, but will accept help when needed.
- I am also a woman who can do hard things.
I have respect for every woman before me and after me for having the bodies God gave us. As beautiful as it is to be able to bear and nurture children, it is really hard to live in the female body.
One final tip that I found very helpful, especially the first couple of weeks, is learning how to get in and out of bed. I actually found this video one morning as I was wanting to try to get up unassisted. It was a game changer: Learn how to roll yourself out of bed after surgery
I am still recovering and am finally getting back to full fitness and improving my nutrition again to deal with the pesky belly fat and fatigue that has come about with menopause.
If you have come across this information and have any other questions, I will do my best to answer.
I hope my hysterectomy story will help just one other person who might have to face this life change because it is definitely a life change. Respect your body. Nourish it with real, whole, colorful foods and limit the treats. Move every single day. AND advocate for yourself and your body.