By: Fela M'tima Dunfee
I never called my Hysterectomy by it's name until after I had the surgery done. When I would use the word, I would always gently add the word "partial" in front of it, referring to me keeping my ovaries. Almost as if that made the Hysterectomy less of a major decision or less life changing. Having a Hysterectomy, partial or not, is terrifying. On top of that, no one tells you that when you remove that organ, you can feel the hole it leaves behind in more ways than one. You start seeing all those cute uterus sweaters in a different way, as you then try to picture what your insides look like now. Or like me, you might have a nurse tech tell you as she's searching for your ovaries post op with the infamous dildo wand, "They just kind of float around whichever way". So now, I think of my ovaries as these little astronauts floating around without gravity, taking small leaps around old adhesion's that have gathered in my insides.
I've never liked the word Hysterectomy or Hystersister, or even where the word Hysterectomy originates from. Though I don't like the word, I appreciate and love the women I have met through the online community who share our uterus-less bond. I find such comfort in talking with these women about the hormonal changes, anxiety, and depression that can come from this type of surgery. I don't think I would of been able to survive without knowing that I'm not the only one who rang in their 25th birthday without a uterus (or a clue of what I'm doing with my life).
Hysterectomies are fucking brutal, guys. I look at women who have had them in a totally different way. I look at myself in a different way too. Sometimes, it's empowering and beautiful. Sometimes, it's full of hatred and regret at my body and the choice itself. Besides the emotional impact, physically your hormones can change after this type of surgery. It's nothing you can really prepare for and it doesn't happen to everyone but when it does, you remember. The worst day for me turned into weeks of an ocean tide of suffering. It started when I woke up on a Wednesday morning, almost two weeks after surgery. The first thing I noticed was a smell. It was a weird, ripe, yet candy like smell. I sniffed my arm pits and there it was. A smell so strong, punch you in the face like smell, and I couldn't recognize myself. I was so intrigued yet nauseated and perplexed. I kept smelling all over my skin, my arms, my chest, and it was everywhere. My skin had become a country I had never visited.
This was the day the bones and joints in my legs began throbbing uncontrollably, my skin felt hot and soggy, and my mind began to race with chaotic questions as if I was constantly on the brink of a panic attack. The horrid smell slowly faded within a week, but the leg pain and anxiety lasted months. There were nights when the thoughts were so vivid, I pictured going to a mental hospital. There were days when I couldn't move from the couch because I felt like a hot potato and my depression made me want to hide under every blanket within reach, only to keep sweating through them all.
Looking back, these weeks kind of blend into a dark blur. I can remember it all so vividly, yet so pixelated. I just had to keep telling myself this was something I had to ride out and my hormones would level out eventually. I tried everything to remain sane during this period like reading, trying new anti anxiety medications, and sometimes just crying to a "hysterical" point. I'll never forget my foreign smell, or the empowering feeling when I woke up with balanced hormones and life felt livable again. The dramatic highs and lows of this type of recovery are beyond challenging, but I'm proud to say I survived it.
I won't go into too much pre-hysterectomy but I will say the two-three months before were probably the most hopeless and overwhelming months of my life. I will say in the most non dramatic way possible, I felt as though it was a life or death situation to get me whatever treatment was going to be the most effective. This meant surgery by one of the top endometriosis surgeons in the US, Ken Sinervo, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was all about getting me to survive till I went under, which included me being on Fetanyl patches to manage my 24/7 pain. During that time I was waking up feeling as if every inch of my body was broken glass. That's the only way I will ever be able to describe it. Not only was I in tons of pain but I couldn't breathe well. Endometriosis in my chest cavity made it so I couldn't sing, talk on the phone without running out of breath, or walk upstairs without my chest feeling as if it was caving in. I would get "chest flares" and feel like my lungs were going to collapse while a knife was in my back. I would sit in the bath tub contemplating my existence and wondering how women in other countries without proper medication or treatment could survive this type of pain. Then I'd wonder how I could help them someday, but also knowing I had to survive my own pain to get to that point.
One of those days, I cracked. I had my first panic attack in months. I laid in the fetal position screaming, crying, and hyperventilating. I thought to myself, "How does anyone expect me to keep living like this?" Eventually, I realized I had no other choice other than to push through. Within moments after this this, my panic attack slowed down. So I blew my nose, picked myself up off the bed, and kept going. These three actions played a huge role in keeping me alive.
So flash forward to after my surgery recovery. I'm completely off of the patches, I don't feel like shattered glass in the morning, and for the first time in years I can sing without running out of breath. The best part is I can officially say I am in remission. Although I do have to live with the fact that it can grow back at any time, in any place. Nonetheless, I am more grateful than I can express. Don't get me wrong, I still have pain everyday. I chose to keep my ovaries and plan to continue to live with those wondering astronauts, even though they can still cause issues. I also have dysfunction in my pelvic floor and a painful ass bladder that causes me pain constantly. I have right arm, back, and shoulder pain (that I have felt every day since 2016 ) that will also take more tests, therapy, and medications. I might still not be able to work a normal job or have the simple freedoms everyone else has, but I've fought hard to get here and I'll fight hard to stay here.
Though each day is still a battle within itself, I'm grateful to say those worst days are over, though bad ones will always be on my horizon. I am beginning to find acceptance that I had a Hysterectomy. I'm also learning to accept the self discovery that came along with it, the disgust, and the beauty. I've had to look deep within myself, even when I didn't even smell like myself, and find enough love to keep moving forward. It hurt, I panicked frequently, I sweat a fucking lot, and I cried enough to drown a million times. But on the upside I'm learning to reclaim my womanhood and my body which might be womb-less but man is it resilient.