I’ve spent a long time weighing up whether I should write this blog post as it’s less about fashion and more about a recent personal story of mine. But my audience with these blog posts is mainly women who are basically a bit like me in terms of age etc so I have an opportunity to be brave and share my experience. The motivation being that when I was in the middle of things, all I wanted was to read about other women’s real life experience of the same thing. To make me feel less alone and to help me make some important decisions. But there is hardly anything out there, so if this helps just one person it will be worth it.
On Friday the 2nd Nov I had a total laparoscopic hysterectomy. This was the end result of years of suffering, and a decision to take control and get my life back.
My symptoms started about 7 years ago when I noticed that my periods had got really heavy and were lasting more than a week each time. After a visit to the GP they recommended the mirena coil. This can really work for some people but for me it was 3 years of distress. Right from the start it felt wrong. It took months to ‘settle’ and then I had about a year period free but felt moody and exhausted all the time before the bleeding returned until I was basically bleeding every day and after 3 years (they are meant to last 5) I begged to have it taken out.
I then put up with very heavy and painful periods for another couple of years as I did not think I had any other options. But finally went back to my GP. Who gave me an abdominal scan and sent me away saying everything was fine. And at 38 I must be peri-menapausal.
I suffered for another couple of years where things went from bad to worse. I would regularly have flooding in really awkward situations (like work), was constantly anaemic and the pain was now not just whilst I had my period but basically from ovulation through to about a week afterwards meaning that I was at the point of feeling ok for just one week of the month. On my actual period I would be completely wiped out. Normally with a migraine to add to everything else. I also started to get this horrible pressure down there whilst on my period which felt so uncomfortable. This I have later learned is one of the main symptoms of my condition. A ‘bulky’ uterus! I remember being at an amazing party earlier this year and crying with my husband at about 10.30pm because I could not stand up anymore and needed to be taken home. That night we were staying in a hotel…and my period basically ruined our night away. I got tucked up with all the painkillers instead of dancing the night away. It also impacted my birthday trip to New York when I got my period on the flight over. And I spent a few days of our family summer holiday unable to do much because of my period. In fact that was the time my feet swelled up to the size of an elephant due the hormones and heat.
And when I write it all down it seems ridiculous that I carried on like it for so long. But the scan I’d had was normal. I did not really know what else I could do. So I was in complete denial and tried to just get on with things.
It was not until a very good friend of mine said to me, ‘I’ve just looked back at our messages over the last 6 months and every single month you are really struggling. It’s not right. I think you should get a second opinion.’ And that was the moment when I realised that I needed to do something else to investigate. That same friend also gave me the name of a private gynaecologist in London which was very helpful as I would have had no idea who to speak to otherwise. It was the the day I set the wheels in motion to get my life back and I will always be thankful to her for that.
Things happened quite quickly from that point. I had to wait for a month to get a non-urgent GP appointment to ask for a referral so our health insurance could kick in. But from then I got in to see my gynaecologist without having to wait. Had lots of bloods taken and was booked in for another scan the week later.
That scan I realised when I got there with my 13 year old daughter was a vaginal scan 🙈. But it meant that they could see way more than just an abdominal scan. And that’s when I found out I had adenomyosis.
Adenomyosis???? ‘Do you mean endometriosis?’ I asked. No it’s a similar but different condition. With endometriosis, endometrial tissue is found outside the womb and often attached to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder etc. Adenomyosis is where the endometrial lining (so the lining that we shed each month as our period) embeds itself into the muscle lining of the womb (hence the bulky womb) and basically causes a whole host of problems. It dies down at menopause but if you are years away from it like me, (my hormones were measured to establish this so I really wasn’t peri-menopausal) a hysterectomy is the only known absolute cure.
I was in shock with this news for a long time. I remember walking out of my consultant’s office and down a busy London street in a complete daze. Life going on around me and I was in slow motion. I had a couple of other temporary options offered to me like a drug that would put me into a short term menopause to give my womb a break. But I really did not want that. It might take away my periods but I knew I would have a miserable time being pumped full of hormones. So a hysterectomy was really my only option, even though it is major surgery, and even though I’m only 42.
I felt blessed to have 3 healthy children with no plans for anymore, but this does not stop the grieving for the loss of something that grew those babies. That I no longer had a choice. That part of what makes me a women was going to be taken away.
My job is also going so very well at moment that to take a month out felt like a big chunk of time. I’m not good at sitting still. I like to go to the gym. I’m always busy. But there is nothing in my diary for the whole of November, and I’m still getting my head around that.
And to say I was scared about the actual operation would be an understatement. I realised about a week before the op that the last time I ‘went under’ was when my first birth went so badly wrong that my daughter nearly died…hence the general to get her out as quickly as possible. So this whole process has definitely brought back some of that trauma.
But even though all these thoughts were going through my mind, I never faltered deep down that a hysterectomy was the right thing for me to do.
Right now I am 6 days post op so still very sore, swollen and tired. I have yet to really benefit from the freedom this will give me. But I know it’s coming. It’s just around the corner. As soon as I am back on my feet. This I hope will be a new chapter for me. It will mean that I can say yes to all the opportunities coming my way rather than be worried about coping with things. Worrying about work when I have my period and being in pretty much constant pain.
I kept my ovaries so I should still go into menopause naturally and won’t have to deal with the hormones just yet. In fact as Adenomyosis is a hormone fuelled condition I am hoping that my hormones might balance out a bit for a few years. That would be nice. Time will tell on that one, but I’m confident this will change my life for the better. How can it not? No more pain. No more periods. It’s life changing stuff.
And it’s at times like this where you really appreciate friends and family. I’d be lying if I said this has not caused stress for me because it has. But my husband and children have been amazing, (most of the time 😉). My wider family and my friends too. Messages, flowers, gifts, visits and practical support all create one big continuous hug which means so much and makes all the difference.
So I hope that this post opens up some conversation. We all have or have had periods but they don’t get talked about very much, and as a result it was harder for me to know what was normal… or not. If it was not for my friend I would still be suffering. There are all manor of gynaecological issues that women face as we get older, mine is just one example. But as my consultant said to me, ‘there is just no need to suffer any more. So much can be done.’
So if you have read right down to here and can relate to the horrid periods because you suffer yourself, get things checked out. And don’t always settle for the first opinion. Google Adenomyosis and check out the symptoms. It’s really quite an unknown condition and hard to diagnose (specialist scans like I had being one of the few ways). And please feel free to get in contact if you have any questions. I would be happy to help.
I’m hoping it won’t be long before I get back to my usual style loving self. Right now it’s comfort all the way! I’m going to use some of this time to write, to read and to plan for an amazing 2019. Nothing is going to stop me now. ❤️