Monday, January 6, 2014

Everything you never wanted to know about a hysterectomy

Things have been so super crazy since my last update.  I've taken nearly a year off blogging and just needed to relax after blogger burn out! 
However, I felt the need to write a post in honor of this month being Cervical Health Awareness Month! 

In my last post, I let you all know that I had recently been diagnosed with "pre-cancerous cells" after a routine
 pap smear in August.  I know pap exams are far from any woman's list of favorite things to do, but they are so very important to follow up with!  If I had put mine off just a few more months, things could have ended very badly for me, and here's why:

To update you all since that last post. . . . . I ended up spending my birthday Oct. 21 having a "cone biopsy."  They basically hollow out your cervix in the hopes of getting most or all of the cancerous cells out of there so they can biopsy it.  The surgery can be both for diagnosis, but also the treatment you needed if they're able to get it all!  Unfortunately for me, what I had was not "pre-cancerous" as they initially thought.  As it turns out, I had a cancer called Adenocarcinoma, which I was told is a pretty invasive cancer and aggressive as well.  It doesn't just grow a tumor that you can lop off of whatever organ it grows on.  It spreads throughout your soft tissue and other organs so they have to get every little bit out of there.  The cone biopsy was on Monday, pathology came back Friday that I had stage 1B2 cancer and I got a call from my surgeon that they were scheduling me for pre-op again the next week with a radical hysterectomy on Nov. 4th.  
That was NOT the news I was expecting to get.  No matter how cool those awesome hospital socks are, two surgeries back to back in your hoo-ha region is never a fun idea!

The surgeon was an OBGYN surgeon, so he had to refer me to another surgeon who was an oncologist for the surgery.  I met her for pre-op a few days later and she SOOO reminded me of Dr. Yang from Greys Anatomy if you're a fan of the show.  Not just cause she's Asian, but because she had that "I'm good and I know it," attitude.  Her confidence gave me confidence.  I knew I was in capable hands.  She was also one of the hospitals premier surgeons for the robotic assisted hysterectomies and after hearing that I would have a quicker recovery, I was all for robots!  This is the style they used, only I had five incisions that now spread from one side of my belly to the other like a rainbow of scars.

November 4th, hubby, Grandma Honey and I arrived at the hospital bright and early, checked in, and prepared for a very long day.  Mostly for them since I would be asleep!  I remember waking up much later that night being wheeled into a hospital room and being told to try to scoot over onto a new bed.  I was confused because I was supposed to be going home after the surgery since they did the surgery laparoscopic and didn't have to cut me wide open.  The nurse explained that there had been a slight complication and they had to call in urology to place a stint.  I scooted on over, feeling each and every one of my 5 incisions and quickly knocked out again.  In the middle of the night, I woke up in the most severe pain I've ever felt!  From my pubic bone up to my collar bone.  I screamed and cried, waking up hubby and a nurse came in.  Turns out my catheter wasn't draining, and because I had abdominal surgery, they had blown my belly up with air to be able to see what they were doing in there, so the gas was putting pressure on everything.  They gave me more meds, helped my catheter drain and I was able to sleep a bit more.  

My morning nurse, Lupe, was my life saver!  She had also had a hysterectomy and was able to explain so much!  She forced me out of bed despite my screaming, crying, and wanting to curse her out.  She made me walk and walk and walk some more to help my gas pains in my chest and explained every detail of the surgery.  A hysterectomy can take many, many forms.  Some can even be done vaginally so there's no open abdomen incisions.  Not the case with mine!  Through the five incisions in my belly, the surgeon removed my uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, (I opted to keep my ovaries since there was a small chance they'd ever have cancer) lymph nodes, and a bunch of soft tissues around the area that might have had cancer spread to it.  At the end of the second night I was able to leave the hospital, but I swear, I was nowhere near ready!  The whole car ride home I cried and winced with every tiny bump or turn! 

When I got home, there was NO way I would be able to lay down in bed or even get up the stairs!  If I didn't sit straight up, the gas pains in my chest became so severe it felt like I had a broken collar bone or something!  I could barely take a breath!  I sat and slept for two days straight in the comfy armchair in the living room, but there was NO relief from pain! I got up every hour or so to walk laps around the house, hunched over like an old man, swollen like I was six months pregnant, and shuffling each baby step.  The first week or two was such a blur.  I know hubby stayed home a while, and then Grandma Honey stayed so he could go back to work.  It was constant pain.  No relief.  No relaxing.  No resting like everyone wanted me to do.  Every half an hour or so I had what felt like crazy labor contractions.  God forbid I had to pee or poo, I would sit there crying, screaming sometimes, white knuckling it just to pee a little!  We finally got some different meds after two weeks when I showed up to my doctors office in tears.  

Apparently when you have a surgery that moves your intestines around, they go into a bit of shock and freeze for a while.  Then when they try to get going again, you end up with intestinal spasms.  Picture super bad cramps from food poisoning every 20 minutes with diarrhea so bad you give yourself diaper rash.  Yah, that bad.  Sorry I just ruined your lunch.  You should have seen hubby's face when I asked him to go to the store to buy me baby wipes to use.  I remember having days drifting in and out of consciousness, so weakened from a lack of sleep, food and water.  I was scared to eat or drink anything because it would cause more spasms.  I was also left with a lot of numbness, so I couldn't tell when I needed to go pee!  My doctor was scared of infection, so she only agreed to let me go home without a catheter if I promised that I would go pee every 2 hours without exception.  Which I did, but I could also never tell if I got it all out or not.  I ended up in the ER with such severe pain one night that even a dose of morphine in my IV didn't help.  Dilaudid won.  I figured it was an infection, but no, it was the stint in my kidney causing problems.

After three weeks, I decided I had had enough of people taking care of me, driving my kids to and from school, bringing us dinners, so I thought I'd say no thanks and start driving my own kids across town to their school.  Boy was I NOT ready for that.  Did you know that you use your abs to not only get in and out of the car, but also to control the pedals and stay in your seat when you turn a corner?!  Every lump and bump in the road was killer!  Plus with all of my intestinal spasms, I was never sure if I'd make it the 15 minutes back home from the school without an accident!  Thankfully I was spared that humiliation, but I never went without pain.  When I got home I doped myself, slept, watched Netflix, or literally stared at the walls for God knows how long cause I was so high.  By the afternoon, the meds wore off and I was able to grit my teeth enough to drive over to get the kids again, and then doped myself up for the rest of the night and hubby would watch the kids.  By the fourth and fifth week I finally began to get some relief from the pain and could cut back just a bit, only to realized that a whole month of my life had passed by and I didn't even know it.  I missed a month of time with my kids.  I really only saw them here or there when I needed them to bring me something.  They loved putting my socks on me cause I couldn't bend over.  My Boo Boo girl cried to me all the time that she wanted to sit on my lap or lay in bed with me to cuddle, but I was always so scared that she might hurt me!  My arms ached to hold her and squeeze her like I always did, but I just couldn't, so we did very gentle hugs where only our arms touched, not our torsos. 

Believe it or not, week 5 I went back to work!  I know, crazy, but I was so cabin fever I had to get out!  I stuck to my desk and skipped going out in the field to see my adoptive families and had other workers cover my cases.  Walking more than just a few minutes still caused the most horrible pain because of the stint I had, so I was sooooo grateful to finally have it taken out in week 6!  It was no fun picnic to have it taken out, but I was in for the shock of my life!  When I was told "stint" I thought of a small tube, like maybe an inch long a the most.  Ummm.....yah, no.  Here's an example of the stint they used on me.  


It goes from your bladder all the way up to your kidney.  No wonder it killed me anytime I bent over or walked more than a few minutes!  Literally an hour or two after they took it out I started to feel like my old self.  I wasn't hunched over shuffling around anymore.  I could stand up straight.  I could stretch in bed when I first woke up, I could walk from the parking lot to the store without needing to sit to rest!  I got home that afternoon and wanted to dance!  My belly still needed to rest a few more weeks.  No working out, no carrying anything heavy, nothing like that.  

And here I am.  8 weeks later.  Pain free.  (Except when I sneeze and sometimes when I hold my pee too long)  Most of the feeling has come back to my belly region, but there's still one section on my left inner thigh that is pretty numb where they took out lymph nodes.  I'm back to hugging and holding my kids on my lap which will never stop.  I'm even back to full duty at work, seeing my adoptive families each day!  Thankfully I fit back into my pants. . . . two months in jammy pants and slippers is too much for even me!  

I have felt such an outpouring of love and support from friends and family that I could never have imagined.  We praise God every day that the surgery removed all of the cancer, and there was none found in my lymph nodes, so there's no need for chemo or radiation which was our biggest fear!  True, this is all a lot to share with the public, sorry for the TMI, but I know I had so many questions that I needed answers for and I wanted someone to share them with me!  I'm here for anyone who has them. . . I'm happy to pass on anything I've learned.  The most important being - check out Hyster Sisters website and forums!  You can find so much support and info there!  You can even input your date of surgery and they email you updates each week with what you can expect.  Two months out and I still get encouraging emails every few days!


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