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We chat to Rachel, The Founder of Our Remedy, about her real-life experience of a hysterectomy.
She shares answers to the questions you may have if you too are facing the surgery and scouring Google for personal stories of hysterectomy.
Firstly, a total abdonimal hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and cervix, the surgeon may also remove ovaries and fallopian tubes during the surgery which is called total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy to remove all the cancer tissue from the body. This is the type that Rachel had.
This article will be updated regularly with updates on how the hysterectomy has impacted aspects of her life.
How did you feel when you found out you needed a hysterectomy?
Devastated. I have a son and did want to have more children so there is no other word to describe how I felt. When I got home I just sat on the sofa and cried.
I didn’t really speak to anyone, friends or family, for about a week after. I cried a lot and felt very depressed.
After about a week I pulled myself out of this and started to try and think of all the positives. I even wrote a list and would read them when I felt sad about having the hysterectomy.
- Sex any time of the month
- Wear white
- Swimming without worrying about the string
- No period pains
- Better for the environment
I joined groups on facebook and started speaking to other women in very similar situations as me. This was a massive help. I really recommend this group on Facebook – hysterectomy support and shared experiences.
Why did you have to have a hysterectomy?
My hysterectomy was due to stage 3 borderline ovarian cancer cells found across my womb, ovaries, cervix and omentum. So as much as I did feel devastated and upset, I was also happy it was found when it was.
For some women with painful conditions such as endo, it can be a huge relief to hear you are having this op.
What type of surgery did you have?
I had my surgery done via keyhole which I was very relieved about as it is a relatively less risky procedure as compared to open abdominal hysterectomy with less blood loss, shorter hospital stay, smaller incision, and many other advantages to a painful long surgery. I have had open stomach surgery before and the recovery is tough, you can read a little more about my recovery from a laparotomy here. Whereas with keyhole I have been back on my feet after just a few days.
My hysterectomy recovery diary
How long was the recovery?
I spent most of the first week on the sofa. So, do save up some good Netflix shows! But that does not mean that all you have to do is stay in bed. You can read more about what not to do after a hysterectomy here. You must rest as much as you can but also start standing up or walking for a few minutes at a time in 1-2 days after surgery. You should be active to better your blood circulation but avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting. Recovery is generally 6-8 weeks after open abdominal hysterectomy, but in the case of laparoscopic on, patients may resume their activities in 2-3 weeks. I felt really quite well and back on my feet after around a week.
There are still lots of restrictions such as having a bath or any penetrative sex for around 6-8 weeks, but your doctor advises you on this based on your checkups. If you’re wondering when you can have sex after a hysterectomy you can read more about that here,
I waited 8 weeks for a bath and 12 weeks for sex and I would never ever advise doing anything before you are given permitted by a doctor as recovery from tears of the ‘vaginal cuff’ (where after the removal of the cervix, the vagina is closed/sown as a blind-ended tube) can take longer to heal than the hysterectomy itself. It’s just not worth the risk!
I was back at my desk after a week but working from home. My son was almost 2 at the time and pretty heavy, so I didn’t pick him up for around 4 weeks, after the doctors permission, of course.
Has it affected your sex life?
Honestly, not at all. The amount of times I googled ‘does sex feel the same without a cervix’ or ‘sex after a hysterectomy’ or before the op was insane! But it does feel the same, at least for me anyway.
Lots of people report a drop in libido for many reasons after a hysterectomy so you can look at ways to increase your sex drive after a hysterectomy but there are things you can do to help this. I take maca root tablets and CBD, both of which might help with sex drive. We sell these on our site as I foudn them so helpful, I wanted to make them available to others!
The groups I joined on Facebook were amazing at answering very personal questions on this subject, the women are so honest, open and understanding and there are no boundaries! Also, it is a private group so it won’t share with all your friends and family on Facebook like it does when you put something on Marketplace…!
What was your biggest worry?
Aside from how I would have another child, my biggest worry was the surgical menopause and rapid ageing after a hysterectomy. I kept thinking that I wouldn’t feel womanly and that I wouldn’t want to act like a normal 31 year old.
I was concerned that I was going to end up wanting to ditch the bottomless brunches for puzzles and knitting, but that hasn’t happened at all. If anything, when you face something like this in your life it makes you appreciate things a lot more, so I think in a way it actually improved my life.
I was also concerned about how my weight and body shape would be affected and weight loss after a hysterectomy, which I wrote more about here.
How did you find CBD for hysterectomy helpful?
I take CBD to help with anxiety and my sleep, both of which are things I struggle with when I’m facing something I’m worried about, like the hysterectomy.
I found a dose of CBD in my evening chamomile tea or hot chocolate really helped me get into a chilled state of mind and deep sleep.
Symptoms of surgical menopause from a hysterectomy may also be helped with CBD, so I take it daily along with my other supplements.
The symptoms it may help with are:
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Sleep issues
- Pain relief during sex
I find CBD really helpful and there is some medical research on it too. On days I don’t take it I really notice a difference. Before starting Our Remedy I struggled to find a CBD I liked the taste of. I knew it was helping me but I dreaded taking it, so that’s why you’ll find peppermint in Our Remedy.
Mint masks the taste of hemp, which can be a little unpleasant. I find the minty taste really refreshing and look forward to taking it.
I’ve had a really easy time of it when it comes the surgical menopause, I do think taking supplements helped but also keeping fit and eating well plays a big role.
Besides CBD for hysterectomy, what other supplements do you take?
- Magnesium – Strong bones and sleep
- Maca root – For energy
- Vitamin D – Get calcium to the bones
- B12 – As I am veggie
- Flaxseed oil – Natural estrogen booster
- Collagen – You stop making this at age 25, so super important!
I’ve written a lot more about supplements I take after a hysterectomy here.
UPDATE: Hysterectomy recovery, raising a toddler & mental health
2020 has been a difficult year. All through a global pandemic, I’ve been raising a toddler, building a business and coming to terms with the fact I won’t have the family I’d always imagined. Not to mention going into the menopause 20 years too soon.
When anyone asks how I am, I always say, ‘I’m fine.’ But recently I have started to question if this is true. I have started being a little more open with people about the fact I’m not totally fine. I’m actually struggling a bit.
However, I haven’t really got the response I was looking for when I ask people with toddlers or who have had toddlers ‘do/did you find it hard?’ I’ve asked a lot of people and I’ve told a lot of people how hard I find it. Everyone seems okay.
Which has led me to question – is it me?
Personality traits certainly develop and change during meno. I am less patient and easily irritated. Two qualities you really don’t want to have when trying to be a Mum to a toddler, who by their very nature are unreasonable and emotional.
I don’t think I fully accepted I have had a hysterectomy until recently, probably the past month and I’ve just started to reflect on what this actually means. No second child.
The past few months it’s as if I have almost been trying to convince myself it’s so hard having a toddler, such a struggle that I wouldn’t want another child anyway, even if I could. And while this is good thought to have to attempt to make myself feel better about not having a second, it’s not true. Every time I think about it I feel a stab in my heart, where I know it’s not what I really think.
The brain is an incredibly powerful part of us and I think mine has offered this up as a coping mechanism, a defense to try and stop the heartbreak.
One year and 2 months on and I’m finally starting to come to terms with everything. I’m trying to be more patient and remember a symptom of the surgery can be these irritated and less patient feelings, and not my sons fault (although it is REALLY annoying when you spend 30 minutes dressing them then you turn around and they’re using their socks as gloves, their pants are on their head and the cat is now wearing their trousers).
I’ve started letting myself think about ways I could have that second child if I wanted to, a thought I refused to consider before. I didn’t feel like I had space in my mind for that thought. It may not be the journey I thought I was going to be on but if the end of the road is the same result – does it matter how I got there?
I think having this surgery has a huge impact on a woman. I honestly don’t think I will ever fully come to terms with it. At first I felt like I needed to tell people I was fine, maybe I was fine as I hadn’t fully accepted the implications. But now I feel I can admit, I’m not fine with it and I don’t think there is any shame in that. It’s a long road of recovery when grieving anything and just a year is not enough time.
There is a lot of research around how removal of the uterus and ovaries affects a woman and the impact on your mental health. It’s linked to long term issues around depression and anxiety. I think it’s really important to be aware of these things, not to worry yourself but if you’re aware of it you can monitor and control it. Talk to people, especially your Doctor and don’t ignore how you feel.
If you’ve had this surgery and are feeling down and not quite like yourself then just remember that’s okay. I think women that go through this are incredibly strong, we should remind ourselves of that even when we don’t feel it. Menopause is life changing and so is grief. Combine the two and you’re in for a hell of a ride, stay strong.
UPDATE: What have your emotions been like since having the hysterectomy?
I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘the subtle art of not giving a f.*ck’ which was not so subtlety given to me by my husband for Christmas.
I think basically he wants me to give less fucks. And hey, I’m happy to give anything a go when it comes to chilling out a little more.
I’m not really into self help books but I wouldn’t exactly describe this as a self help book, but it’s not fiction either. However, I’ve had it a week and I’m already halfway through.
There’s one bit I read and re-read. It’s talking about being positive all the time. I would describe myself as a very positive person, who always tries to see the best in every situation. So much so that when I knew I was having a hysterectomy and wouldn’t be carrying another child I actually wrote a list of positive things and used to check it whenever I felt sad.
When I read that sentence now I cry a little bit inside. Why wasn’t I (probably still not) letting myself be angry? Upset? Frustrated? Even letting myself shed a little tear? Because this is grief, I might have lost something I did not yet have but it is a loss nonetheless.
I remained positive, I told everyone I was fine. You can watch my recovery video here, just don’t do that drinking game where you have to do a shot every time I say ‘I’m fine’ because you’ll be wasted.
I wasn’t fine then, I haven’t been fine and I probably won’t ever be fine. Well, not totally fine. I’m okay but maybe because I still haven’t fully accepted the implications of what has happened.
Even now when I am a little bit bloated I look in the mirror, rub my belly and smile, pretending to myself, for just a second.
Or if I’m laying down and stand up I think back to that moment I was 40 weeks pregnant struggling to stand and it’s like my muscle memory repeats the movement, even though I am perfectly nimble and able.
Or after sex I think ‘what if I fall pregnant this time’ after all those years of trying to conceive.
Then each little moment when one of these thoughts enters my head so does what feels like a dagger in my heart.
So no, I’m not totally fine. I’m Fine-ish.
I wanted to talk about how important it is to feel every emotion and just let yourself feel it. When I had my (one) therapy session as women get offered them when facing a hysterectomy (and rightly bloody so) the lady said to me ‘you’re allowed to be sad, it doesn’t mean you’ll be sad forever’ but I still haven’t quite got the knack of it.
Maybe this book will help. Maybe you just need to have to cry when you feel like it. Even if that is when you’re suddenly facing the newborn clothes because you’ve walked down that aisle you avoid in Tesco (I mean, really Tesco!)
I find my sadness and tears happen at the strangest of times, I still don’t 100% know my triggers. But that’s okay.
I think accepting the fact you’ll be sad, angry, frustrated and literally any other feeling is the first and a positive (sorry, I can’t resist!) step to getting life back on track after a hysterectomy.
If you like the sound of this book, check it out here.