Interview with Judy, a 43-year-old married marketing manager from Connecticut, married for 18 years, no children.
How old were you at the time of surgery?
Why was surgery recommended for you?
Judy: My lifestyle was adversely affected by years of steadily worsening periods. The initial diagnosis was adenomyosis, which could not be confirmed until post-op biopsy.
What kind of symptoms were you experiencing?
Judy: Heavy (near hemorrhage) bleeding during periods, large blood clots, 7 to 8 day long periods and a 25-day cycle. No pain other than mild cramping, no fibroids.
Were any alternatives to a hysterectomy offered?
Judy: Yes. Medication and less-invasive ablation.
Did you try any alternative procedures or therapies prior to surgery?
Judy: Yes. I went on birth control pills (after having been off them for 10 plus years). Several types were tried, but the result was hemorrhaging. To control the bleeding I was taking triple doses of birth control pills for 10 weeks before we tried the ablation. My body balanced to a normal schedule and bleeding was more normal. Over a 4- to 5-year time span, the original symptoms returned to the pre-medication/pre-ablation levels.
Did you feel like you were being “pushed” toward a hysterectomy?
Judy: No. My doctor advised that menopause would “cure” me if I could hold wait for it. My mom and grandmother both had hysterectomies, so my aunt (mom’s sister) was the only one who could give me a family timeline for menopause, which she started at 50. If I fit that schedule, I was looking at 8 more years of disruption. That was too far away for me to live with any longer. I elected to have the surgery as a last resort.
Did your surgeon discuss the option to retain your ovaries so that menopause would happen naturally, rather than immediately after surgery?
Judy: Yes. She advised that she would prefer to leave the ovaries as long as she found no reason to remove them. (I still have them.)
Can you tell us about your recovery?
Judy: My recovery was uneventful -- almost easy. I procrastinated the surgery because I had never had surgery or been hospitalized and I was fearful. My surgery went smoothly, and although I was kept in the hospital an extra day for a slight fever, I felt reasonably good. I was up and walking in the corridors the next morning (my surgery was early in the afternoon). The incision was sore, which made getting up and down rather painful for a week or so. Going to the bathroom was very uncomfortable for 3 to 4 few weeks before the “remaining parts” settled into place.
Did you worry that you would feel less womanly or sexy due to the surgery?
Judy: No. I didn’t feel very sexy before the surgery.
Did you worry that having a hysterectomy would alter your sex life?
Most women say that their sex lives are as good, or better than, before the surgery. Would you agree?
Judy: Yes. Before surgery I had no sexual desire. I feel now feel more desire and sexual satisfaction than I did before the surgery.
Did the hysterectomy improve your symptoms?
How is life after hysterectomy?
Judy: Very good. I feel great, and I no longer worry about traveling or doing outdoor activities that aren’t near a bathroom. Or carrying a suitcase full of supplies around everywhere I go, just in case!
If you could make the decision over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Judy: I would have done it sooner and gotten on with my life!
If a good friend was considering a hysterectomy, what advice would you offer?
Judy: If her doctor feels it’s the best solution for her problems, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. My surgery and recovery experiences were good and I feel so relieved not to “deal” with periods any longer.
What do you wish you had known before surgery that you now know?
Judy: My doctor was thorough about the major things (recovery time, restrictions, etc.) I didn’t know that she would also remove my cervix. It doesn’t bother me, but I just didn’t know beforehand. A bunch of women I know have asked me if I still get periods. That makes me think that many women don’t really understand their reproductive systems very well. Perhaps doctors could do more to educate patients about how their bodies function.
As far as the recovery goes, I had a great roommate in the hospital who had the surgery a week before I did and she was very helpful. She advised me that I may have trouble urinating after the catheter was removed and that it wouldn’t hurt when I did. (She was right, but mentally I was still nervous.) She also let me know that the nurses were going to “get me up” early and show up in the room every few hours. Those little details are the things that the doctors and nurses take for granted and patients don’t know and might find reassuring.
More Important Hysterectomy Information: All About Hysterectomy
More Real Stories of Hysterectomy: Hysterectomy Interviews
Editor's Note: This is a personal account of this individual's experience. Your experience with hysterectomy may be different, and the decision to opt for surgery is something that should be based on your particular situation and doctor's advice.