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Last year, around this time, I had a bunch of fibroids taken out of my uterus. I was reminded of this because this photo popped up.
That’s me, your humble narrator, sitting up in the hospital bed, eating hospital food. I had just been told I could go home, so I changed into regular clothes, but they were taking so long with all the paperwork that I thought I may as well watch a quick episode of the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries. I was in hospital for about three days, including the day of my surgery and then I stayed home for about a week after that, but I was able to climb all the way up to our third-and-a-half floor walk up apartment.
Anyway, I remember right before I was going in, I kept looking for information on the internet and there was surprisingly little available. Fibroid surgery is super common now, one friend of mine had already gone through it the year before and she told me what she had gone through, and there was an endometriosis forum on Reddit, but none of it was exactly what I was going to go through. So I thought, one year down, this very specific newsletter should address it, in case you or someone you know might have fibroid surgery in the future?
Firstly, about one in five women have fibroids—is that a lot? I just totally pulled that figure out of my ass—okay, let me try again: out of my vast and varied friend collection, two people are going to have to have their fibroids removed and two already have. This is not counting all the random people I have met who also had the surgery. They’re little non-cancerous tumours that cluster in and around your uterus. No one knows how they grow, she says grandly, and also probably inaccurately, but they seem to have gotten quite common.
I had a lot, but the biggest ones were all five centimetres long and sitting in a cluster, so my uterus looked like I was five months pregnant or something. (I was very interested to see if my stomach would flatten after the surgery because it stuck way out, and because that was obviously one of my main concerns, since I am a combination of extremely lazy and also extremely vain.) (It did! Not a lot—still need exercise and diet sadly—but I am much flatter around the stomachular area than I used to be, which is excellent.)
There are still a bunch of little fibroids left after all that, so eventually the gynae says I’ll need a hysterectomy, but surgery is no fun, I really did not enjoy being at a hospital, and I have greater sympathy for those that have to go in on a regular basis, so I’m letting that be Future Meenakshi’s problem. They got them out with laproscopy, which is apparently the best way to go about it, but some people will also recommend a C-section. What they didn’t tell me was that my stomach was going to be covered with all these scars, I have like five of them, and they’re quite prominent, even if they’re small, so no bikini modelling for me in the future, although I feel sort of bad-ass with my scars as well. It’s like having a set of (really ugly) tattoos.
Anyway. What can you expect? You’re best of having some sort of health insurance because this is an expensive surgery. I mean, I don’t know what a cheap surgery is, actually, but this was quite pricey as far as these things go. I think it was the whole laproscopicness of it. You’ll be purging for the entire day before, thanks to some pre-surgery powder they make you have, so prepare to be close to a loo, but they’ll tell you that. There’s a whole enema thing, which is also yucky. The nurses can be very nice or they can be bullies, so remember to stand your ground (if you can) about stuff you want or don’t. I was trying to be a good patient, then I thought fuck it, who am I trying to impress, so I complained a lot, and it was okay, because I was the one fresh out of surgery dammit! I wasn’t planning on winning any bravery awards then.
I wrote that paragraph and then I thought about the conversation we’re having about doctors and nurses now, in the middle of the pandemic. Every now and then I forget where we are and what we’re doing here. Um. Yeah. Be nice to doctors and nurses but not at the cost of your own health, okay? Don’t be afraid to say, “Ow” and “That hurts!” and “Do we have to do that?” Because you are the patient and they will listen! That’s the amazing thing. I hated the intravenous antibiotics, they made my whole arm burn and sting like fire ants were eating me from the inside and I got them to switch to oral antibiotics as soon as they could, because otherwise they would’ve kept me on the damn needle forever. That’s why it’s also nice to have supportive people next to you, people who will take your side, instead of trying to please the doctor. I had my mum and K, and they advocated for me when I couldn’t.
Prepare to be tired for a few weeks. It takes a while for the body to heal and that means you won’t be able to stand up for ages at a party (I went to a party as soon as I could, but I spent the whole time sitting down) (PARTIES! This may no longer be a problem also. Dammit, this is a very forgetful sort of day.) Just when you think you’ll never have energy again, you surprise yourself by how much energy you have. A month after my surgery, I was walking eleven-twelve kilometres a day in Italy. I was fine. I was great, in fact. (HOLIDAYS.)
Some stuff hurt like a bitch. Waking up after the surgery, they’d pumped me full of carbon dioxide so my belly would swell, and that uncomfortable bloated feeling lasted a while. (I won’t be delicate: it feels like you have to fart and you can’t.) They are obsessed with your poop, by the way, because if you can poop, it means nothing went wrong in that general area. I am a nervous pooper and find it hard to go in strange places, so finally, I was begging for a laxative so they’d let me go home. There’s a drainage tube poking out of your side, and that hurts when they pull it out and the pain is unreal. (Here’s more about the actual surgery & aftermath in an older newsletter.)
Meanwhile, I was at this really nice, really fancy maternity hospital and people kept having babies and I was feeling bad for the nurses who had to cover my room because they didn’t get to look at babies, which I imagine would be one of the perks of their job?
Oh, I completely forgot one cool thing that’s happened post-surgery. One of the drawbacks of my fibroids was that they were pressing on my bladder so I had to pee, like, constantly. (If unattended, they can make you incontinent.) And now! I can go hours just like a normal person! This is particularly great when I travel. I still have a tiny bladder, but now I can plan my tiny bladder stops and not be caught unawares.
Feel free to write to me if you’re going in for this surgery some time post lockdown, post COVID, post whatever and you have questions. I am happy to be your Resident Fibroid Surgery expert.