I’ve reached a new milestone in my hysterectomy surgery recovery, having hit my one year mark on February 12, 2021. What a year it has been! Expectations one year after a hysterectomy include several changes I have experienced.
More about my hysterectomy (or oophorectomy) story here, including my checklist for how to prepare for surgery and my recovery process. Because both of my ovaries were removed, the procedure is referred to as an oophorectomy.
I had no clue a year ago that as soon as I was released to go back to work on a part-time basis, I would be going back home to work through the beginning of a global pandemic for several weeks.
Pretending this didn’t affect my recovery process would be untrue, because the global coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in a variety of ways. My physical health had just undergone quite a transition. My mental health did too, and pandemic isolation compounded that.
Expectations One Year Later in Menopause from Hysterectomy
Because I had a complete hysterectomy, or oophorectomy, I woke up immediately in menopause, although I fully believe I was already in the beginning stages of it prior to my surgery. I discussed options for dealing with menopause with my doctor prior to surgery.
UPDATE: HRT HAS BEEN LIFE CHANGING!
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) wasn’t totally off the table for me but it was and still remains a last resort. Menopause is different for every woman and I highly recommend talking to your own doctor for advice whether you have had a hysterectomy or you are in a perimenopausal or full menopausal phase. I always believe we must do our own research and be prepared with questions!
HRT works well for many women; however there are also side effects associated with taking hormones. Again, do your research, know your body, and your mental capacity for what surgical menopause and having a hysterectomy will do.
Having a complete hysterectomy at the age of 50 has forever changed me: physically and mentally, mostly due to the loss of hormones. Some research points to having an oophorectomy actually speeds up aging for many women.
In talking to other women who have undergone similar procedures at my age, I am grateful my symptoms are not as severe as they could be.
- HOT FLASHES: I do have hot flashes and night sweats. Again, I have heard horror stories from other women who wake up completely drenched with sweat. I did have a few of those occasions the first six months, but my symptoms have somewhat decreased. Maybe because it’s winter now? I’m not sure, but time will tell when the seasons change again.
My best investment was a fan! I learned quickly that I needed to have cool air blowing on me at night. This space saving fan, takes up little space in my 500 foot living area and it oscillates, has a remote, and a timer for cooler nights when I don’t want it blowing on me all night long. It’s also very quiet. Highly recommend!
HOT TIP: The top sheet is your friend! I can comfortably sleep under a sheet and lightweight quilt, stick a leg out from under my bed covers and get instant relief.
- IRREGULAR SLEEP: Sleep itself became an issue after my initial surgery recovery. I have always been a good sleeper. I actually wrote a blog post about how sleep became my ‘frenemy’. I have taken steps toward changing some habits, such as scrolling my phone at night and getting in bed earlier to help my sleep pattern and natural circadian rhythm.
There are many over-the-counter and natural remedies for sleeping. I have been taking a low dose, 5 mg melatonin and it has has worked pretty well for me. Regulating when to take it was the biggest obstacle. I discovered I had a window of time at night I needed to take it for maximum effectiveness. Many women swear by CBD gummies for sleep also. The one linked also has melatonin. Again, talk about options with your physician and leave a comment if you have other safe, sleep options.
- FITNESS PROGRESS: Mentally, I have struggled with the slow progress in getting back to my pre-surgery fitness routine and shape. As someone who has made a healthier lifestyle change over the past 5-6 years, I recognized it was more difficult to get back in the swing of higher impact workouts. I have not stopped and I won’t stop! I just have to work harder to make myself work harder – the struggle is real. I won’t lie about that.
I have backed off of doing high impact workouts and have incorporated more yoga, more walking and hiking, more pilates and barre, and other strength exercises. There are so many fitness options. I tend to be hard on myself but have learned to give myself grace for the movement and work I AM doing instead of focusing on what I am NOT doing. (I do love closing my rings on my Apple Watch!)
- BODY ACHES: My aging body has become more prone to aches and pains. I feel like I wake up everyday with a new ailment! I’m not as flexible, my joints creak, and my “get-up-and-go” is only going at about half speed. Osteoporosis is a symptom for women as we age, but I am determined to fight it as long as I can with exercise and diet. My ice pack and heating pad are my BFFs!
- DIET CHANGE: Another area that can’t be overlooked is what we put into our bodies during menopause. Again, I made some rather big changes in my eating habits a few years ago and although it is tough for me to pass up a plain glazed donut from time to time or French fries on occasion, the majority of my diet is whole, unprocessed foods.
The cold, hard truth here is that there is not a cookie cutter diet, or a shake to drink, or a pill to take that will miraculously make us look or feel like we did when we were 25 years old. It is a lifestyle change and we have to know our bodies, do the research, and learn what food we need to be eating. Finding anti-inflammatory foods, lower in processed sugars and carbs, has been my best defense against excess belly fat; but the myths about menopause belly are true.
Making different eating choices is tough at times, especially when my Southern American ways are large portions, lots of flour and sugar, and deep fried everything! I have learned more moderation, more ways to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and how to make better food choices from a menu. Again, each woman is different and talking to a doctor or a registered dietitian is strongly recommended.
Hysterectomy and menopause are life changing to say the least. As women, our bodies change throughout our lives, menopause is no exception. I am learning to be accepting of my own body in its new post-hysterectomy, menopausal state. Some might say the changes are negative, but I am choosing to make it positive.
I am strong, wise, and fierce! I am embracing my female body in all its glory.