January 18th marks the one-year anniversary of having my partial hysterectomy. I contemplated whether I was willing to share my story, but I thought it might be important to share since I ignored symptoms that led up to needing one in the first place. As moms, we tend to do this — we ignore signs and symptoms and keep pushing through because the show must go on.
Rewind time nine years prior when I was pregnant with my second son, and during one of the first ultrasounds, the OB mentioned, “You have two small fibroids that I see, but don’t worry; they are so small that the pregnancy with all the hormones will probably just absorb them, and if they aren’t bothering you now, then they most likely never will.”
I never gave that statement another thought because I didn’t even know I had them in the first place, and they weren’t affecting me in any way that I could tell.
Now, fast forward to the fall of 2022 when I woke up in the middle of the night unable to urinate.
Leading up to this night, I thought something was off. The prior few weeks were weird — I’d wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and it felt hard to do, almost like I had to push, or really think about it before it would happen. So, on that night that I was unable to urinate at all, it was a terrifying feeling that started to quickly turn painful. As ridiculous as this sounds, I actually thought, “I’ll just wait until the doctor’s office opens and see if I can get in.” My husband loudly protested and said, “You will absolutely not do that, you are going to the ER.” I knew he was right, every moment that passed was increasingly painful as my bladder filled, so I grabbed the keys and drove to the ER in the middle of the night.
After catheters and testing and a final ultrasound, the doctor came in and said, “Are you aware that you have several very large fibroids in your uterus, and when I say large, I mean the size of a baby’s head?” To which I replied, “No!”
Over time, those same little fibroids spotted on my ultrasound years ago had grown and shifted and blocked my ureter which was the reason I was unable to urinate.
Of course, I was in shock, and then I immediately thought back to that statement nine years prior when the fibroids were first spotted, and suddenly the symptoms I had been experiencing that I had been chalking up to age made sense. Symptoms that when I really started thinking about them, had started with treatment for gastrointestinal issues right after my son was born.
Stomach pain and discomfort when lying on my stomach, it felt weird all the time. I thought it was from my C-section numbness. I’d wake up in the middle of the night sweating with my stomach hurting.
I was treated for ulcers, and when they figured out I had no ulcers, we moved to endoscopies and colonoscopies, and then when they couldn’t figure out what it was because all tests came back normal, I was told I had IBS or a sluggish gut and to do some basic diet changes.
That’s not all though. I would get these weird pains on my right side and always felt bloated and heavy, almost like feeling pregnant all the time. I had heavy bleeding, and when I say heavy, I mean heavy. My cycle was always consistent and always on time, so it never occurred to me that something was wrong, but the first few days when it started, I had to wake up every two hours at night to change because of the heaviness of the flow. Each month, the first two days felt like I had the flu: severe headaches, swelling, soreness, heavy menstrual flow, the classic symptoms of fibroids.
The fibroids had completely taken over my uterus, to the point of not being savable, and when the ER doctor told me to prepare myself for a possible hysterectomy, I cried. And I don’t cry about many things, but this one shook me. It was certainly not the news I was expecting.
A follow-up appointment with my new OBGYN —shout out to Beaches OBGYN, I love them — made me come to terms with the fact that I could not shrink them naturally, and if I had no plans of having any more kids, the healthiest option would be to remove my uterus. The fibroids had completely taken over and twisted my left fallopian tube and uterus to the right side of my body, which was where the weird pain, bloating, and heavy pregnant feeling was coming from.
I struggled at first with the decision. It was a major surgery with a 4–6 week recovery, and it would stop me in my tracks, but ultimately I decided if I wanted to keep doing the things I love to do (running, working out, swimming, skating, etc.) and do them without pain and discomfort, this is what I needed to do. I was fortunate that I was able to have two awesome boys, I had no plans on having any more kids, and because I was 44, I was still too young for a full hysterectomy, so leaving my ovaries meant no early menopause.
I share all of this with you because one year and three scars on my stomach later, I am so glad I made this decision with the guidance of my amazing doctors. They took such good care of me during a really scary time. I absolutely feel better and can’t even believe I had learned to live with feeling like crap all the time and that was my “normal.”
Please do not ignore those weird feelings and symptoms like I did. You know your body best, get those second opinions if needed, and have conversations with trusted friends, who you might just learn have had a similar experience.
One year later, I have no regrets, I feel so much better, and the bonus is that I have no more monthly cycle. For me, in my stage of life, that is a win-win.
I also learned a lot about mind-gut health, which is a silver lining to all of this. I am not entirely sure all of the gut symptoms I experienced are directly related to the fibroids, but I think it should certainly not be ignored and be considered a possibility. Especially if all gut-related tests are coming back normal. If a fibroid can twist your uterus so drastically inside of you that it’s all on one side of your body, what other parts can it also impact, and what would those impacts (symptoms) be? I went to the ER for a urinary emergency and never expected the outcome to be a hysterectomy — the connection between the two never crossed my mind.
So, take care of yourself, my friends, as best as you can. I hope that sharing my experience has helped in some way. As moms, we are the heartbeat of the home, and we need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our families. We got these kids to raise and we got to keep up with them. They move fast just like life.