I Had A Hysterectomy

this is what it was like

From early March-late June, hysterectomy has been on my mind. I feel incredibly grateful for the stellar medical care and insurance, support from family and friends, and the privilege of flexibility and paid leave to get my surgery and take the time and space to heal and recover from it. I wanted to share the whole experience while it’s still fresh in my mind, and document it here in case anyone else finds themselves with the same prognosis.

If you ever need to talk, you can always DM me on Instagram - I’m here for you.

Why did you get a hysterectomy?

Nearly every person has HPV. About 80% of these folks will clear it themselves. For the remaining 20% with HPV (especially HPV 16 & 18), it can cause lesions in the cervix that result in abnormal Pap smears. The next steps are colposcopies for further examination (your GYN will visually inspect your cervix and usually take a few tissue samples from it). Once these lesions are confirmed, your gynecologist will likely perform a LEEP (an in-office procedure) that removes the top layers of your cervix to eliminate the lesions. For most people, this is enough to clear the HPV and the lesions.

A heads up about LEEPs - they usually use a larger speculum to fit the loop tool used in the procedure. For me, this was more painful than the LEEP itself, so ask if you can take Tylenol beforehand. The local anesthetic they administer can cause your heart to race and for you to feel flushed. What really helped me was having someone place a hand on my knee and to focus on that feeling and breathe through it. You’ll feel tender down there for a day or two, but will be able to jump back into things for the most part. No swimming, baths, sex, or tampons for 4 weeks after your LEEP.

I’ve had abnormal paps showing I’m positive for HPV 16 for the past 6 years or so, usually followed by a colposcopy. I had my first LEEP at the end of 2020. My follow-up Pap seemed normal, but I had two irregular Paps and colposcopies the following years.

In March, my OB-GYN called me with my latest colposcopy results - I had high grade intraepithelial lesions, CIN III (severe dysplasia). She referred me to a gynecological oncologist to determine next steps. That physician performed both a colposcopy and LEEP (to biopsy the cervix), and confirmed these lesions were cervical dysplasia (abnormal growth of cells on the surface of the cervix).

Left untreated, this could develop into gynecological cancer. Given that we knew our family was complete and that the dysplasia had moved to my upper cervix, my oncologist recommended a hysterectomy to remove my cervix, uterus, and Fallopian tubes.

What was the surgery like?

I had a laparoscopic hysterectomy. In this procedure, small incisions were made on either side of my belly button and just above my pubic bone, and cameras placed in each of those incisions and through my belly button. The oncologist then filled my abdominal cavity with gas, and removed these organs through my vagina. The organs go to pathology for further tests, and the surgical team builds a cap of sorts where your uterus was, and uses an adhesive to close the incisions.

The surgery was an outpatient one. The day before the surgery, I stopped taking any vitamins or medicines and abstained from any alcohol. I had a final drink of water at 11:30 pm. The morning of the surgery, I didn’t drink or eat anything and took a shower (cleansing my privates with the medicated wash the oncologist’s office gave me). I checked into the hospital at 6:30 and was taken to pre-op, where they had me fill out paperwork and submit my ID, insurance information, and credit card (I paid about $800 out-of-pocket). The staff took my vitals, drew blood and put in an IV for surgery. At 8:30, my surgeon came in for one last visit and shortly after I walked into the OR. They put some more sensors on me, placed another IV, and administered the anesthesia (which felt like a fantastic buzz as I rambled about spicy ginger margaritas).

I woke up in recovery, feeling pretty awful. After I woke up, answered a few questions and was stable, they moved me to a different area of recovery where I drank some ginger ale and ate some crackers, got up and used the bathroom, and changed into my own clothes. I signed the discharge paperwork and they wheeled me to the elevator, where my mom was waiting for me. We got home around 3:30.

I felt like I was hit by a truck immediately after the surgery, mostly due to the gas they pumped in my body. Gas-X, sipping fluids constantly (peppermint tea and ginger ale was super helpful), eating what I could, and getting up to walk twice an hour really helped ease the gas pressure on the first day. I also took Tylenol religiously every 4-6 hours the first two days, took it in the evenings the next two days, and was fully off by the 5th day.

I had a mild rash (either from the anesthesia or the adhesive used on the sensors). My doctor said applying cortisone cream and taking Benadryl was fine, and it cleared up a few days later.

What are the best things you find are helping your recovery?

  • High waisted, smooth underwear from Okko (they don’t irritate my incisions)

  • Nightgowns and Nesara kaftans (I’m avoiding clothes with a waistband, which could irritate my healing incisions). Use code hitha to get $10 off your Nesara order!

  • My Owala water bottle and a hot drink tumbler (filled with peppermint tea) are always within arm’s reach, and help me stay hydrated.

  • Heating pads

  • Lots of pillows to stay propped up in an angled, upright position (this pillow would be a great option)

  • My Theragun Mini helped relieve the gas pressure that was concentrated in my shoulders and lower back.

  • Blankets - I’ve been given a number of Chappywrap blankets in the past and curled myself up in them the whole time.

  • Gum, Tylenol, and Gas-X

  • Libro.fm to listen to books (I had a hard time focusing on a physical book or my Kindle).

What’s the best way to support a long distance friend recovering from a hysterectomy?

Arrange a meal train or mail her meals that are meant to be frozen, like Splendid Spoon. I would also ask if she needs any food - she may have enough!

Text her to tell her you’re thinking of her and that there’s no need to respond.

Offer to buddy read a book/watch a show alongside her, and check in via text.

If you wanted to send her a care package, this is what I would include:

Did your hysterectomy impact future pregnancy/family plans?

My husband and I have been fairly certain that our family is complete for a couple of years now, and this diagnosis had us feeling even more certain. I feel very lucky to have our sons, our family, and now a significantly reduced risk of developing gynecological cancer.

Because cervical dysplasia is slow moving, I likely could’ve waited to have the hysterectomy after another pregnancy and delivery (which my oncologist mentioned).

If you have any questions about hysterectomies, please leave them in the comments and I’m happy to answer them!

Join the conversation

or to participate.