So here I am, one week post hysterectomy. So how am I doing? Not to be melodramatic, but I’m not doing great. Let me be more specific.
The pain is more or less manageable with the 800mg Ibuprofen I take three times a day. (Funny story: we watched a movie tonight where the male lead gets stabbed in the general abdomen region and he’s moaning and groaning and we were both joking about how my cut was much larger and I was groaning less than he was). The only time my incision really hurts is when I cough, sneeze, or make any sudden movements. That’s not to say that my incision doesn’t hurt. It does, don’t get me wrong. If you think you can have your belly cut open and it not hurt, you’re nuts. But, the pain is either receding from where it was before, or I’m getting used to it. Generally speaking, I know at all times during the day that I’ve been cut open. There’s never a moment when it slips my mind or the pain entirely goes away.
To be honest, I really thought the pain was going to be the biggest problem for me, especially since the Dilauted made me so sick that I swore off prescription pain meds altogether. Instead, it’s the side effects that I’m having the biggest problem with – specifically, panic/anxiety (which I’m already prone to), lack of sleeping (also already prone to), morning nausea, and the huge hormonal surges I seem to be having. I cried like 25 times yesterday for no reason at all. I’ll be sitting on the couch, and all of a sudden I’ll feel like crying. Poor Alan. He’s so patient.
The panic/not sleeping thing seems to be my biggest problem, especially as it’s accepted wisdom that your body heals faster when you rest. There’s something going on – and I’m sure at this point it’s mental and not physical – where when I’m in bed, I get scared and my body reacts negatively. I don’t know if it’s because we have an adjustable bed like the ones in hospitals or what, but every time I close my eyes and start to fall asleep I feel like I’ve stopped breathing and I wake up gasping for air, terrified. Alan watched me to see what was happening and he said that while my breathing is shallow, I never actually stopped breathing so I don’t know what’s going on. All I can tell you is that my body goes into a fight-or-flight response situation and I wake up terrified and then I don’t want to go back to sleep because obviously that’s a pretty shitty situation, so I end up not sleeping at all during the night. I pace the apartment (at least I’m getting my walking in), and I watch TV shows on Netflix on my computer with my headphones in, and I play Candy Crush all in an effort to stave off the terror. Come morning – usually around 8 a.m. – for whatever reason I’m generally able to get a few hours of sleep, but by that time I have a terrible headache and I am quite nauseated. Yesterday morning I threw up a minute after drinking some ice water and this morning I was pretty nauseated until I fell asleep around 9 a.m.. So here I am at 12:07 a.m. knowing that I’m likely not going to sleep again tonight and wishing that wasn’t the case.
I’ve gone through this once before, back in 2011. In fact, that’s when I first went on anti-depressants because I was a basket case from getting only two hours of sleep a night and having to put in a full work day the next day. I was running ragged, and I was a mess – crying, unhappy, sallow. I had pretty much given up hope. A combo of Celexa and a hot bath did the trick for me then, but now I can’t do the hot bath thing (goodness, I need to find out when I can take a bath again!) so I’m pretty much suffering through the same thing I was going through before. At least I know what to expect and this time I’m on short term disability so I don’t have to worry about working the next day. I feel terrible for anyone who is post-op who is experiencing something similar and doesn’t understand what is happening to them. Still, I do want to bring this up to my doctor because it might be time to alter my medication until I’ve reached a different phase of recovery.
Before your surgery the doctor’s office gives you paperwork that includes a small amount of information about your post-op diet, what you should expect in the days following your surgery, and how to deal with various types of incisions. I say “a small amount” because the total amount of information is less than one page, bullet points, and I find that while there was nuggets of info in there that applied to me, I’m pretty much learning as I go from the Internet.
One thing this packet of information doesn’t tell you about is a phenomenon “affectionately” called Swelly Belly – and yes, I have it. Now, I didn’t have a six pack before the surgery so it’s not like I went from flat, toned abs to this beach ball belly. I had a belly that was much larger than I wanted, but which seems to be a genetic pre-disposition in my family. But this thing? I am huge. And it’s the whole kit and kaboodle, not just a cute little tummy. From just below my breasts down to my incision, I am effectively half of a beach ball. It feels hard and stretched, but also loose and sloshy. I feel like the outer shell is this hard, impenetrable fortress, but inside everything’s all jelly. I have been wearing old maxi dresses that are so faded and gross that they’re just house dresses, so I wasn’t totally aware just how large and swollen I was.
Now if you’re a guy and you’re single and you’re reading this, you may want to stop because I’m about to disillusion you to a great extent. If you’re a man who has a wife, you already know this. And if you’re a woman, you’re going to think to yourself: but of course! So here it is: all women have that pair of granny panties they wear when they are at their worse. Mine are hideous and could probably do double duty as a sail on a hobie cat. I put them on yesterday and they were snug, and by snug I mean, “holy hell what is going on with my body!?!” snug. That was my first real clue that something crazy was going on, which is when I first discovered the concept of swelly belly on a hysterectomy message board. It put my mind at ease to know I wasn’t going crazy, but it also freaked me out a bit because some women report it not going away for months. Then today Alan forced me out of the house for a walk (my doctor told him he had to get me walking every day for as long as I can) and because it’s hot as hell in the Bay Area, I put on a dress. Hoping to keep my sloshy innards in one place, I put on a pair of knock-off Spanx that I wear all the time that keep everything smooth but don’t make me feel like I’ve stuffed myself into a sausage casing. We were walking past a store front window and I got a look at my reflection – even with my Fanx (fake spanx) on, I still looked like I was many months pregnant. I mean, seriously many months pregnant. I had been worried about how slow I’m walking while out in public, but I’m sure people got one look at me and thought I was nigh on giving birth and gave me a pass. Good lord, NOT A GOOD LOOK.
The other thing I’m struggling with is whether I’m getting the right amount of exercise or not enough. My doctor gave Alan pretty aggressive instructions about how much exercise I should be getting almost immediately after surgery, and I do feel like sometimes it’s pushy the boundaries of what I can do this early on in the game. I read blogs from other women who say their doctors told them to take it easy until at least two weeks post-op. One lady talked about going to the post office with her husband after two weeks. Alan had me out walking around the neighborhood on Thursday. Admittedly we didn’t go far, but I was dressed and on the move. And I was hot and sweaty and miserable afterward. I don’t know. I know exercise is good for you in many ways, but I just wonder if I might be overdoing it since as I sit here typing this my incision site is pretty sore.
Tomorrow (later today at this rate) Alan goes back to work and it’ll be my first day alone since coming home. I’m scared. I know I can do all the necessary things by myself, but it’s the unknowns that have me worried. What if I trip over something and I’m laying on the floor in pain for hours with my incision ripped open? I know this isn’t likely, but again, I’m an anxious person. Having him here with me has been such a comfort. I’ve been trying to be more independent since I knew he was going to have to go back to work eventually, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.