Monday, June 9, 2014

You're Having a Hysterectomy - What to Expect

I AM NOT A DOCTOR!!  If you doctor tells you something different, listen to your doctor!!

This is my personal journey and what I'm leaning along the way.  Hopefully this will help to prepare you for what you are facing.

First and foremost, talk to your doctor about what TYPE of hysterectomy you'll be having.  There are 4 different variations, and talking with your doctor is the best way to decide which procedure to have.  That is not to say that things can't change.  I was scheduled for a robotic laproscopic hysterectomy, but due to complications, I had to have to the old fashioned one.  That means a much larger incision and longer healing.  If your doctor doesn't do the robotic or the laproscopic, ask for a referral!!  The healing time is shorter and the incisions are much smaller, so you want that to be an option.

The best advice I can give you is ask questions.  Keep a notebook with all your questions.  No question is dumb.  This is YOUR surgery, your fears and your body.  If you start to talk to your friends, you may find that quite a few of them have had the procedure.  However, medical advances change quickly.  Even though I had the "traditional" surgery, the advancements are making my healing go better.

It's best to bring someone with you when you talk to your doctor.  While it may be a "routine" surgery, if you're nervous, you may not hear everything, or you may forget to get answers.  Another set of ears of thinks of question that you don't.  Anytime you're talking surgery, take a friend, spouse, parent, or someone else with you.

You may plan to work up until the day of surgery...DON'T!  Because all the parts that they will be working with are close to your colon and bowel, they will usually have you do a "cleanse" the day before surgery.  Trust me, you do not want to do this at work!! It involves laxatives and Gatorade or something similar mixed with two week's worth of a different kind of laxative.  You just really don't want to be sprinting to the bathroom at the office.  And it will stink.  Set up your bathroom with a book or your tablet, and a candle!!  You'll thank me later.

You will also have to do a clear liquid diet the day before.  If you've every had a colonoscopy, this will be familiar to you.  If you haven't, I've heard the prep for that procedure is much worse.  Oh joy.  You are very limited on what you can eat, but quite honestly, I was so bloated from the prep, that I didn't feel like eating.  I was also told that tequila, vodka and rum do not count as clear liquids.  They weren't much fun.  :)  In fact, there is no alcohol and no intercourse for 48 hours before your surgery.

In addition, you will have some kind of antibiotic before the surgery.  There is the normal oral kind, or a vaginal kind, similar to a yeast infection treatment.  Your doctor will tell you which one he/she prefers.

And then there's your body.  Nair those legs before you go in.  You're not going to be bending over to shave them for a while after the surgery.  If it's winter, eh, who cares.  In addition, think about the other hair on your body.  My husband is an EMT and at his part time job he works with various surgery techs.  He was discussing my surgery and his partner of the day gave him/me one word bit advice.  "Ladies, tidy up."  You don't have to get rid of all hair, but it will make your clean up easier afterward, and depending on where your incisions are... You don't want the adhesive tape ripping THAT hair off!!  Do a close trim to make things easier on you and your surgeon.

In most cases, you will be kept overnight, so pack a bag.  You don't really need to take much, because they'll give you most of what you need, but here are some things that I forgot, or that were very helpful.

Pack some granny panties a couple sizes larger than you normally wear.  Your stomach will be very distended after the surgery and you don't want anything tight on your body.  You may not wear them for long, but trust me, they'll be a Godsend.  They do have special undies for you to wear while in the hospital.

Bring loose clothing.  I found these awesome pants at Walmart for $10.  They come in both capris and full length pants.  Pajama pants work great too.  Again, you belly will be distended.  You want loose clothing.  You'll want clothes that are easy to put on for awhile after your home, and these types of pants will work great. One friend told me to use pregnancy pants, but using the loose ones that I bought have worked fine.

Lip balm - yes, this sounds stupid but I didn't bring my full purse, because, well, I didn't need it.  I didn't have any lip balm and my lips were horribly dry.  You will have a tube in your throat and the rooms are dry, which will make your lips dry out.

Bring a pillow - I had several friends tell me this and it was a life saver.  Not a pillow for your bed.  A pillow for your belly.  Use it to support your belly when they get you up to walk, an they will.  Here is the one I took.

As you can see, it's not much larger than the span of my hand, but that's really the size you need.  The other key is that it's firm.  You don't want a soft, squishy pillow.  You want support.  I make these pillows and sell them on my Etsy store, so I could make it exactly as firm as I wanted.  You can also place this pillow between your belly and the seat belt when you're driving home.

Whether or not you bring a nightgown is up to you.  They won't let you put it on until you're off all forms of IVs, so depending on how long you're in, you might not have time to change.  I just brought one that covered my butt, so when I was walking the halls, yes, you walk the halls, I wouldn't be hanging out the back.

I wasn't at all nervous going in.  I had so much pain from a 5 cm fibroid that was twisted, I couldn't wait to get the part removed.  However, my doctor did tell my husband that I was tense during the surgery.  Must have been  subconscious reaction.

The last thing I'm going to say is to talk to your doctor about any medications you take.  You will be told to go off all your medications, even over the counter, for the week before surgery.  This is because they don't want you on blood thinners and many over the counter meds are blood thinners.  I have severe allergies, which can also lead to severe migraines.  Not having any of these meds for  a week would have made me miserable.  We went through what I take, and what would be safe, and what dosages.  However, do NOT take meds without consulting with your doctor first.

Don't be afraid to ask.  You will hear horror stories from people.  Ignore them.  Just because they had a bad experience, doesn't mean you will, and who knows how long ago they had their procedure and what type of procedure it was.  You can't directly compare it to you.

A friend of mine referred me to a website called Hyster Sisters.  It does have plenty of forums to ask questions and get recent information.  Always take the advice of your doctor first!!

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