Health / Life

8 Weeks Post-Hysterectomy: Chapter 2

Recovery after 8 weeks total abdominal hysterectomy fibroids vertical incision Angela Conley

What is it about the 8 weeks post surgery that feels like a big milestone? Honestly, nothing has really changed since 1 or even 2 weeks ago. But plenty has changed since the last time I posted my progress here, which was after 4 weeks. It feels like a major victory.

More important than the numeric milestone is how different I feel now. This is a new chapter of health & wellness, all around. I love that I feel more like myself than not. Some days I really struggled with feeling less than, but not from missing some of my female parts. Rather, from being incapacitated and not being able to do whatever I wanted to do. It’s a big relief that recovering is not such a major force in my decisions and movements. I feel much freer now.

Here’s more on how my healing has progress in these last 4 weeks.

The 4-week Check-Up

A week after I wrote my last blog post, I had my 4-week follow-up visit with my doctor. I was so scared of it being a vaginal exam, and it was. BUT there was no pain. It was not “invasive” like annual exams and paps are, even with the speculum that was used. He just kind of took a peek in and said everything looked great.

My doc cleared me for all exercise except ab isolating. He said I now had no weight limit to what I could lift and that I could even do a light jog if I wanted. HA! At that time, I was still walking like a turtle. Maybe a turtle hopped up on some Red Bull, but a turtle nonetheless. I definitely was not up to my regular walking speed (but I am now).

It’s important to note that while our doctors may give us the all-clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should just jump back into our regular exercise routine. I knew enough of my body to know that would not bode well. But doctors don’t always tell you to listen to your bodies.

To Sweat or Not to Sweat

Around the time of my check-up, we had some wonderfully warm weather that was atypical for northern Ohio in November (but climate change is a hoax, eh?!). I had to take advantage of it, so I tested my fitness level with a walk around the block. At 2 weeks post-surgery, I did a walk around the block in 25 minutes. And that wiped me out. This time, I made it around the block twice in the same amount of time. It felt great to have an actual marker of my progress.

Just this last week, I also shoveled some snow and did a senior aerobic DVD from the library. Since I can’t go all out like I used to at the gym, these videos are great for a reduced level of intensity.  (You can check it out here.)

Besides the neighborhood walks, I’ve done small shopping trips to get my walking in. Those have gotten so much easier and are more convenient now that I can use shopping cart. The first few times with the cart were challenging and left me feeling like I’d worked out, but not overexerted myself.

The Buddha Belly

Due to the fibroids, my uterus had expanded to the size of a 16-week pregnancy. The enlarged uterus plus the actual tumors gave me a swollen abdomen. Welp, after surgery, my belly was bigger than before due to the swelling. It’s all part of the recovery process, unfortunately. The difference now is that more of my belly (above/around the navel) swells up instead of just my lower abdomen.

The swelling is different than before, though. In the morning, it’s almost the size it was before surgery but expands if I do any activity. This happens no matter what kind of movement I do, no matter if I overdo it or veg out most of the day on my sofa. It’s just par for the course and I’ve read it can last for months.

Me with a heavy dose of bitter sarcasm: “Yay.”

Still—I’ll take this swelling any day vs. the swelling and issues I had because of fibroids. This swelling is a general puffiness where the fibroids felt like a more specific point of pressure.

At about 5 weeks, I started massaging my abdomen. I’d read that this can help break up any scar tissue. Plus, it actually feels good. Early on in recovery, my stomach had a firmness where it was swollen. Now, when I massage it, it’s more flexible.

The scar is slowly progressing as well and is still red. I can see some new skin forming that’s my actual skin tone, which is nice. The nurse told me I could use vitamin E oil on it, so I bought some. Huuuge mistake. It made my skin dry and flaky! And I don’t mean the normal ashiness you get this time of year, I mean flakes you can see on your clothes. Gross!

I think it’s because the oil I bought had a synthetic form of vitamin E, tocopheryl acetate. I pitched that bottle and bought some 100% pure cocoa butter from a health food store. I’ve been using that each night on the scar and belly to help with the stretch marks those lovely fibroids gave me. I just scrape some into a bowl and heat it up in the microwave to melt it.

I also want to share this lovely item I discovered for sleeping on your side with a swelly belly: a pregnancy wedge pillow. I bought it from Target for about $17. I no longer need it (progress!) but it was great when I felt like my stomach was too floppy. It gave me the perfect support I needed to feel comfortable.

Getting My Creative Mojo Back

At the start of my medical leave, I put no limit to how much television or movies I watched. It was wonderful and deliciously lazy, which is what’s needed to recover. But after a while, I felt like my brain was turning to mush. I also felt like I had no creative juice.

I resolved that with a few trips to the fabric store, buying some flannel and fleece. In a few weeks, I’d made 3 ponchos and 2 scarves. It took forever to make them and my brain was slow to comprehend the process, but it really helped me get my creative mojo back. On the last day of my medical leave, I was loaned a Christmas tree and was so excited to decorate it. I stayed up late that night with my new ornaments and spent the last week making more. With more money and time, I’d have done a lot more decorating, but this is cool for now. You can check it all out here.

The 9-to-5

There’s not much to say except I’m nearing the second week of being back at work and I haven’t caught a case! I have a desk job but it can be tough mentally. This week has been a bit more challenging, but I’m still acing it. I do believe exercising my brain with the DIY stuff has helped a lot.

Girl Power

I’ve been very lucky to have a great support system through this, from my old man to my family to my friends and co-workers. But there’s another level of support I’m thankful for, and that’s from other women going through the same exact things. Before surgery I joined a Facebook support group for women with fibroids and it’s been immensely helpful. Reading others’ experiences through their treatments, learning someone else had the same weird symptom you did—it’s all been very comforting. I also read a lot of posts on Hyster Sisters.

I especially love that we all know our journeys are different, there’s no one-fits-all solution, and respect no matter what treatment we choose. That’s empowerment.

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