what they don't tell you- life after
By: Molly Weiss
I spent four months just trying to keep myself alive long enough to find a doctor who would take me seriously. In the throes of attempting to keep myself alive (this isn’t a story about the doctor who screwed up, maybe some other time) I never had the chance to think about what it would mean for me when it was all over. I knew none of the medication I was given was working, I knew every time I took it I was loading up body with more and more unnecessary steroids, hormones, and toxins than it could handle. I knew all of that, but in the throes of trying not to bleed to death, trying to stay afloat in a venerable red sea of exhaustion, low blood counts, pain, fear and all the heavy lifting that goes with finding a doctor who will take a woman seriously, I got lost.
I lost who I was as a person, as a woman. I wore big diaper pads all day, every day, for four months, I ruined all of my favorite underwear and then gave up and bought packs of ugly period panties. At the end of May I was sitting on the toilet, bleeding, unable to get up without bleeding onto the floor and unable to urinate anymore. Through my sobbing I remember telling my mother I wasn’t a person anymore. That same night I laid on my bedroom floor in the fetal position and begged God through my tears to end it all, however he saw fit. Please, just end it. I wanted an end, even if that end was death. I didn’t wish for it specifically, but I couldn’t live the way I was living anymore. I was done. I was done fighting. I was done being a person.
"It was nothing physical that caused me to feel that way. It was my head. I suddenly felt a huge, overwhelming sense of loss at all the things I’ll never have."
When I finally found the doctor I’d been looking for (a colleague of a PA whose office I sobbed and begged in for answers) I’d deteriorated so rapidly that my only option left was a hysterectomy. And again, in the throes of just trying to stay alive, I didn’t have a chance to ask – and no one told me – what it would be like after I went through it. The choice to have a hysterectomy wasn’t mine to make by that point. It’d become a medical emergency and I didn’t have time to consider any other options. Actually, that last sentence isn’t even accurate. It was always going to be the only option. I may have had three years or so to consider it had the doctor who doesn’t get credence in this story not screwed up.
I was wheeled into surgery at around 7AM on June 3rd. Before that my mother and I cried and prayed and I whispered to her my biggest fear, that no one would want me once I was incapable of giving them babies. It hit me just before the Versed (bless you Versed) that I would probably always feel incomplete in some way without the parts of me that were, in a matter of minutes, no longer going to be inside my body.
It took 30 minutes to remove my uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. 30 minutes to give me the end I’d prayed for that night on my bedroom floor. I was alive, my body would recover physically, but no one told me about the emotional havoc it would wreak on my brain. Even that first night in the hospital I didn’t feel anything. I was ‘blah’, the epitome of blank. It wasn’t the pain meds or the annoyance of the foley cath (although I did apparently yell at a nurse to “get this tube outta my dick” several times).
"I don’t know if I’ll ever be exactly who I was before and I’m good with that. What I’m not good with is feeling like I lost myself in all I’ve been through."
It was nothing physical that caused me to feel that way. It was my head. I suddenly felt a huge, overwhelming sense of loss at all the things I’ll never have. A son or daughter that looks like me, a baby shower, or a pregnant belly. When the choice is made for you in a medical emergency, I will go out on a limb and assume the trauma is more intense than if I’d been given time to make this choice three years from now. But that wasn’t what happened. I was in the situation I was in.
I still feel blank and have feelings of deep loss at the same time. It’s only two weeks post-op and while my body is recovering, I’ve gotten nowhere in my head. I have no shame in admitting I sought out a therapist and made an appointment. I hope by sharing my story I’ll help other women feel less ashamed about seeking help for the deep sense of loss and the unending grieving period that follows a hysterectomy – whether you had a choice in the matter or not.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be exactly who I was before and I’m good with that. What I’m not good with is feeling like I lost myself in all I’ve been through. So I’m seeking help and I’m sharing my story. Writing helps me find me, and maybe reading this will help someone find themselves too.