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10 Lessons I Learned About Having a Hysterectomy

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I had a total laparoscopic hysterectomy with a da Vinci robot very recently. While it’s still fresh in my mind, here are some things I’d do differently and some things I’m really glad I did.

1. Leading up to surgery date, I did not acknowledge the extent of my anxiety regarding the surgery, and it affected everything I did. I have a solid support network, but not really anyone who had been through this particular surgery. So I leaned on a Facebook group. I learned a lot from and got support out of that group. I even made a real friend who lives several states away. Talk about your feelings. Emotional and mental well-being is so very important.

2. I did not read through the pre-op instructions well enough, and I didn’t realize until 4:00 the night before surgery that I was supposed to do a bowel prep. Read your pre-op  instructions. Don’t rely on the doctor’s office to tell you everything, as I did. This seems so obvious but I thought they’d tell me everything at my pre-op appointment the day before. It was a mistake that almost required that I reschedule my surgery.

3. My surgery was outpatient. I wore a loose sundress and sandals and really tall panties that came up well over my belly button. This worked really well for me because it was so easy to put back on after surgery. I dressed myself, in fact, because it was just throwing the dress on and stepping into my shoes. I woke up from surgery in the mesh panties and I also wore compression leggings and socks that the doctor required. When it was time to go home, I threw on my dress and slipped into my sandals over my socks and was out the door.

4. I’m very fortunate that my husband was able to take the week off with me, and I’d recommend having someone. But if you can’t have someone with you, I suggest preparing food ahead of time, and make it bland, boring food. Boiled eggs, string cheese, almonds. Make it something you don’t have to heat up because walking is OK, but walking a lot or standing up is a little difficult.

5. Make a nest around you. I got my spot picked out on the couch, brought over a million bottles of water, chapstick, and my medications, and finally made a spot for my cat. Put my phone charger and the TV remote within arm’s reach. If I had it to do over, I’d actually think through what I want near me the night before so I could just come home and get in my nest instead of getting up every time I realized I needed something.

7. You know those mesh disposable underwear they give you at the hospital? Get more. Get some extra ones to bring home. Where my incisions are is right where my pajama pants sit and even though the pants are cottony and soft, they hit right on the incisions. The meshy underwear helps a lot.

8. The doctor will give you limitations that seem really silly. I was told not to lift more than five pounds. Four days after surgery, I thought I was following all the rules and doing everything right, but I did something really wrong and had a major setback. I think it was when I picked up something that weighs about seven pounds. Don’t pick things up, period. If you don’t have the choice, pick out the priorities to put in your purse. I’d pick chapstick, debit card and cell phone to bring with me, and I’d leave my makeup bag, planner and notepad. Follow the rules, even though they feel silly.

9. When it’s time to wear proper clothes and get out of the house, wear panties that cover you up all the way up to your elbows – well, over your belly button. Get a size bigger than you normally wear in case of swelling, like I had. Don’t get the fancy, expensive ones. I got the $5 for five Hanes from Target and I wholeheartedly recommend them. This helps me because it keeps my stomach from jiggling too much, and it also keeps my clothes from rubbing on the incisions. If you can, wear dresses so that you can avoid the waistband rubbing right on your incisions too. Waistband pressure is worse than light dress fabric.

10. I couldn’t focus on anything for five days following surgery. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, I really couldn’t hold a conversation. God bless my friend Kristine for taking me out for lunch and tolerating my endless stream long-winded consciousness about things that will never have an impact on her life in any way. The medication is really potent. I was worried about being bored out of my mind and getting cranky. But that wasn’t the case at all. In between naps, I watched light-hearted shows like “Parks and Rec” and “The Office,” and I got by just fine for the week. I had my crochet needles on hand, but I didn’t do anything with them.

My hope is that I can save others from making the mistakes that I made. Best of luck to you in your healing journey.

Getty Image by Wavebreakmedia

Originally published: July 31, 2018
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