Thursday, June 6, 2013

Surgery Musings

I had surgery on Monday.  It was expected, planned actually, but still a major event.  Especially since it was the first time I had ever been in the hospital (well, except for when I was born).  I had a complete hysterectomy, including the removal of my fallopian tubes and ovaries.  I had known for many years that this was coming, so the surgery was a relief.  After all, my reproductive organs have never exactly lived up to expectations...

Years ago, after suffering through severe, incredibly painful periods and unexplained infertility, I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis.  Laproscopic surgery cleaned up the lesions (small, open sores sort of like ulcers) and adhesions (which look remarkably like spider webs) that were scattered throughout my pelvis.  My doctor showed me photos from that surgery.  They were not pretty.  About a year after that surgery, I decided I was done with the infertility battle and we started the adoption process.  When I asked about treatment for the endometriosis, my doctor suggested a hysterectomy.  I knew that would be the eventual result, but asked to try something else first.  Thankfully, an ever-rotating assortment of birth control pills have kept the disease in check, or at least tolerable.  (And yes, there was real irony in taking birth control to reign in a disease that makes it impossible to get pregnant.)

Several years ago, my doctor diagnosed my with fibroid tumors.  I was in for my yearly well woman exam and she commented that my uterus was rather large and she wanted to run some tests.  I was delivering a urine sample when it dawned on me that my doctor thought I might be pregnant.  My instant reaction was of shock and horror.  I knew then that I was totally over ever wanting to get pregnant!  As it turned out, the pregnancy test was negative and a sonogram revealed fibroid tumors.  And I was incredibly relieved.

Last summer, another sonogram showed that my tumors had grown considerably.  My new doctor gently explained that it was time for a hysterectomy.  I asked if I could put it off a year, so that I would have time to completely recover before school began.  He agreed.  After 11 years, Monday was the inevitable day.

I learned lots of new things on surgery day.  I learned that I would sign multiple forms stating that this was a sterilization proceedure and that I would never again be able to get pregnant or have a period.  [That is kind of the point, isn't it?]  I learned that OR hospital gowns have special chambers built into them so that warm air can be blown through them during surgery.  I learned that the removal of ovaries is called an oorectomy.  [Isn't that fun to say?]  I learned that Percocet makes you warm and fuzzy and sends you off to lala land.  I learned the leg squeezers, used to prevent blood clots, give wonderful leg massages.

I did just fine in surgery.  It was a slow week at our little local hospital and for most of my stay, I was the only patient on the floor.  Needless to say, the nursing care was excellent!  My doctor sent me flowers.  He came in every morning to check me over and chat.  He said that endometriosis adhesions had entirely covered one ovary and drug it out of position.  He had to go exploring to find it.  I asked about my tumors and he said he'd seen about 4 golf ball sized ones, and there were most likely more.  He also mentioned that one tumor had been perched on a sort of stalk at the top of my uterus, providing a convenient handle when he lifted it out of my body!  Sometimes I just have to laugh at the bizarreness of my body.

I was up and walking the morning after surgery.  I spent the first day in a Percocet haze, but had nothing but ibuprofin after that.  The nurses kept asking me if I needed something for pain, but I didn't.  Yes, it hurt when I tried to stand or sit, but it wasn't unbearable.  Back in the endometriosis days, I regularly had cramps so painful that I became nauseous or had difficulty breathing or came close to passing out.  This wasn't nearly that bad.  I learned that major abdominal surgery is not as painful as endometriosis.  Who knew?

I came home yesterday morning.  I feel pretty good.  It takes a good deal of time, a lot of motor planning, and some pain to go from sitting to standing, but I'm getting better.  I'm sleeping fine.  I have a good appetite.  I sleep a lot.  Katherine has pointed out that I walk like an old lady.  She's right!  Steve and the girls and my mom are taking good care of me.  Friends from church have brought in food.  It feels a little odd to be waited on, but I am well aware that I should not be expending my energy loading the dishwasher or sorting laundry.  And when else will I have a legitimate excuse to get out of virtually all chores?

Tomorrow the girls are leaving to spend the weekend with Steve's parents.  I plan on spending my time reading and taking lots of naps and enjoying the quiet.  I'm looking forward to being able to roll over in bed again, and it will be nice to stand up without feeling like my innards are going to fall out, but I know that will come in time.  For now, I am just relieved to have the surgery over.  For years, there has always been the fear of the return of my endometriosis lurking in the shadows of my mind.  That is gone now.  I will never again have to suffer that pain.  And I will never have to worry about some other reproductive disease attacking me.  My relief is enormous.

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