Caution: This gets graphic. And if it’s happening to you, you know how graphic. But this blog is like my recent medical situation: if you make it through to the end, it gets a lot less, well, uncomfortable.
My menstrual period was a nightmare every month.
I would bleed so heavily that I would routinely soak through a pad every hour. Coughing and sneezing would make blood gush out and it wasn’t uncommon for me to leak through my clothes.
Plus, I had severe cramping before and after my periods. Most of the time, the pain was so intense, I would be doubled over and couldn’t get up until it passed. A doctor gave me pain pills (Tylenol with codeine) and to get through my workday, I’d take half a pill. To sleep at night and relieve the pain, I would take a Tylenol PM. The severe pain would last four to seven days during my period and up to two weeks after my period ended.
Four years ago, I had an endometrial ablation to try and reduce some symptoms. An ablation is a procedure that uses a lighted viewing instrument to destroy (ablate) the uterine lining. Endometrial ablation can be done by laser, heat (radiofrequency), electricity, freezing or microwave.
For a year following the ablation, I felt much better, the pain was bearable and the bleeding lessened. But 12 months after the procedure, the pain went right back to its pre-ablation level—and then some.
I finally sought help after I was at the grocery story with my kids and almost passed out from the pain. I didn’t know how I was going to get them home because I was so dizzy. That’s when I knew I had to do something. I went to see another doctor and was diagnosed with adenomyosis, an irregularity in the muscle of my uterus. Because of my heavy menstrual flow and pain, the doctor suggested I have an abdominal hysterectomy.
I knew this diagnosis was eventually coming. My mom had a complete hysterectomy at 31. She had the same symptoms I had: pain, bleeding, and cramping to the point of passing out.
One of my girlfriends had just had an abdominal hysterectomy and she had a very bad experience. She showed me her incision: it sat right below her belly button and ran at least five inches across her stomach. It was scary looking. She was in pain for at least three weeks, if not longer. She couldn’t walk a certain distance without her insides hurting, forcing her to sit down. Her surgical incision hurt for a week and a half.
I went back and forth about having the abdominal surgery. I made an appointment, cancelled it, made another appointment, and then cancelled that one too.
I was told it would take four to six weeks to recover. I have two kids and there was no way I could afford to take that much time off of work.
Then I saw a commercial on TV about the single-port total laparoscopic hysterectomy procedure at MetroHealth Medical Center.
I called and scheduled an appointment.
Dr. Robert Pollard, a OB/Gyn at MetroHealth, suggested I have a single-port laparoscopic surgery. The surgery is done through a single incision made in the patient’s umbilicus (belly button.) Pollard said he usually tells women to expect a recovery time of up to three weeks, but he also said many women were back to work (or back to their regular activities) within eight to 10 days.
I scheduled my surgery for June 23rd. My surgery began at around 7:30 AM and lasted about two hours. I was allowed to make the decision to stay overnight in the hospital or go home. I decided I wanted to go home.
I was home by about 2:45 PM that same day and given the following restrictions: No lifting more than 10 pounds for first week, no sex for eight weeks, and no swimming.
The pain level was pretty intense the first couple of days. The surgery is done through an incision in your belly button and that area gets really sore. I had no idea how many muscles there are around your belly button! Whenever I tried to sit up, roll over, cough or do anything really, it made me wince in pain.
Another thing I wasn’t expecting is how much gas I would have following the procedure. During the procedure, they pump your stomach with gas (to make it easier for them to see everything more clearly) and that gas has to get out somehow. The pain from the gas lasted about three days.
I couldn’t take the bandage off until next day. When I took it off, there was a little hole in my belly button -- but nothing else.
No blood, no scar, no nothing.
I went back to work 12 days after my surgery, and felt totally fine. Most importantly, my symptoms were gone-- I feel like a normal person again.