I am writing this from my recovery bed, 10 days out from abdominal surgery (open myomectomy) and am officially free from the fibroids that have caused me hell for the past 6 months or so. I’ve never experienced pain quite like this; I’m swollen, beyond exhausted and incapable of doing most things without support, BUT those pesky buggers are out of me and I am FINALLY on the right side of it. As 1 in 4 women will have fibroids in their lifetime (though many won’t even know it), I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it will make someone else’s experience a little easier.
I’ve been popping a pill every day since February called Esmya, a pill that was astronomically expensive (inconveniently blacklisted from the NHS prescription list so had to fork out for it) but it’s been dubbed a “miracle drug” for shrinking fibroids. It’s still relatively new in the UK but is thought to reduce the risk of long term side effects on fertility that some of Esmya’s counterparts have. It didn’t impact my large ‘broids at all but it did quash the small ones to nothing, making my surgery far less risky than it could have been. They weren’t easy pills to be on. I’ve endured hot flushes, extreme fatigue, dizzy spells, constant nausea, headaches, hyper-sensitive mood swings…but they did the job so I can’t complain!
It will come as no surprise to any of you that I was extremely organised pre-admission. I had done the thing that everyone tells you not to do and googled the crap out of myomectomy operations – forums, medical sites, articles – you name it, I read it. This was a personal choice and really depends on what kind of worrier you are but it helped me mentally prepare for what’s to come and by the time I left for the hospital, I was cool as a cucumber and ready for anything.
In The Hospital
I should start by saying that I was lucky enough to have my op privately so my experience probably differs greatly to that on the NHS. I was admitted on the 12th June and given a room which was nicer than most hotel rooms – views over a groomed golf course, an en suite bathroom, comfy bed and a TV. Walking in to that made me feel instantly at ease. I had my bloods taken in the first hour so that they could stock up on reserves just in case I needed a transfusion and then I was visited by the anesthetist who walked me through my options. As soon as he said the words “numb from waist to toes” and “increased level of pain management”, I signed up to having a spinal anaesthetic. When I was taken in to the anesthesia room, nerves definitely kicked in. Everything happened really quickly – I had the IV put in to my hand, was walked through the spinal injection, which resulted in everything going numb and then the general anaesthetic was administered aka the best feeling in the world. 2 hours later I was back in my room.
When I woke up, I was surprisingly with it – no nausea, no disorientation and most importantly, I didn’t really feel the level of pain I was expecting as I was still totally numb. I had a catheter so there was no need for me to get up to go to the bog, had a nurse with me nearly all the time checking my vitals and my mum by my side holding my hand. The consultant popped by to confirm that the op was a great success and there were no complications so I was instantly at ease. The first 12 hours were actually very smooth sailing, so much so that I became a little cocky about how recovery was going to be a breeze (HA…!). I was even with it enough to watch Love Island at 9pm!
The next morning was a different story. I had been woken up every hour through the night to have my blood pressure checked so was tired and groggy, the numbness was starting to wear off and my midriff started to feel like it had been run over, stepped on and then kicked in for good measure. When the nurse came in after breakfast to tell me she was going to help get me up and showered, I laughed in her face but was assured that the sooner I got up, the sooner everything starts working again, plus it eliminates the risk of blood clots. She removed my catheter, which wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be (was a similar feeling to removing a tampon) and then was shown how to sit up and stand by the physio. I managed it to the shower long enough to have a wash down but then felt the blood draining from my face and had to be helped to the bed pretty speedily before I passed out. I was given painkillers again and when I felt more alive, the physio came back in to show me some pelvic floor exercises I had to do from my bed. That session induced unbearable pain – my poor Mum’s hand was squeezed so tightly, I’m surprised she didn’t have bruising – so was given the hard stuff, which helped spur on a much needed 3 hr nap. When I woke up, I was still very uncomfortable but did successfully get myself up to go to the bathroom before spending the evening a bit zoned out from the drugs.
When I woke up on Wednesday, the famous post-op “swelly belly” was out in full force. I actually think a lot of my discomfort was as much from being bunged up as the pain of the operation itself. I had a physio session in the morning, which involved going for a walk round the hospital, had a visit from a friend around lunch time and another physio session in the afternoon where I battled the stairs. Although uncomfortable and bloody exhausting, I managed all the exercises and was discharged from physio that evening. By the time the consultant came by that evening to check in on me, I had been given a laxative and a bowl of prunes to help ease the “swelly belly” and because everything was *ahem* working again, was given the green light to go home on the Thursday lunchtime, along with half a pharmacy of drugs.
Coming home was much harder than I thought it would be. As soon as you’re in your everyday environment, you expect to be able to do everything normally: climbing the stairs, sitting down/getting up from the sofa, going to the fridge, showering, getting dressed, stroking the dog…you name it, I need help with it. You have to effectively pretend that your back is supported by a wooden plank to avoid bending the wrong way. I’ve never felt more grateful to have my mum here to help – she is the world’s best nurse!
To avoid DVT I have to keep the compression socks on until I see the consultant again on the 3rd. Given the fact we’re having a rare and unbearable heatwave in the UK, it’s not the most convenient time to have a tight fabric wrapped around your calves – ‘swegs’ are all kinds of real (sweaty legs).
For the first few days I needed to get my mum to inject a blood thinner – make sure you have someone who isn’t squeamish as this isn’t particularly fun! Mum had been shown how to do it by the nurse and had a couple of days to practice with me while I was in hospital so she was fully prepped! I’ve been given co-codemol, Tramadol and Laxatose by the hospital. For the most part, I’ve eased off the hard stuff in the day but do tend to take something stronger at night. The more I do in the day, the more pain I get so I take each day as it comes when it comes to pain management. I’ve also been taking arnica and doing pain management meditation with the Headspace app.
I was under strict instructions to do absolutely nothing until my follow up appointment but after a couple of days of being inside, that can become remarkably challenging. Having friends to visit is a godsend and thankfully I have a garden to sit out in but there’re only so many housebound activities you can do without going completely stir crazy. I’m in a really good headspace at the moment but I can imagine that if you were feeling a bit rocky (from a mental health perspective), this would be your hardest battle to conquer.
The scar is really neat and is healing nicely so far. It’s just like a c-section, about 8 inches along the top of my bikini zone. I knew I’d be a bit swollen but I don’t think anything prepared me for just how much. Perhaps a bit naively, but I didn’t realise how numb everything would go – I have no feeling from my belly button to mid-bikini which can be quite disconcerting. The swelling is always much worse at night so I’ve been looking in to ways to help to try and reduce that. Any suggestions welcomed!
I have been SO spoiled with flower deliveries and get well cards and feel incredibly lucky to have such a caring squad – it really does help feel so much brighter! Very happy to answer any questions anyone has about the procedure – everyone’s experience is different but I do think it’s good to be prepared.
Even though this blog post has taken me about 3 days to write as my brain is so foggy, I will be trying to post a little more frequently while I’m off and FINALLY crack through the mega list of planned of posts I have going!
Onwards and upwards!