Hello Menopause!

I gave a lot of thought to whether or not I really wanted to share this. I’m not from the generation who are comfortable telling my life story, warts and all, to someone I’ve just been introduced to. Which seems to be the in thing these days. I’m never sure how to react when that happens. I suspect my expression is something like this …..
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Lets face it folks, blog posts are like dogs aren’t they. For life, not just for Christmas. You may think you deleted that one, but its out there somewhere. I always keep in mind what that Irish playwright, whatshisname….damn my Teflon memory, said about disclosure. He said “never commit to paper anything you wouldn’t want to see published”. Hold as true now in the digital age as it did in the 19th century.

But I then I thought, why not. Its not embarrassing, it happens if you are fortunate to live long enough. It like the crinkly neck thing and gravity taking over your body from head to toe. You can only delay it, you can’t make it go away. So here goes.
In May of this year, I made the decision to have L.A.V.H. (laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy). At 56 I was still dealing with P.M.S., periods and the symptoms of an approaching menopause that kept dragging its feet about actually taking up residence. It wasn’t a flip decision. Each birthday after I turned fifty I thought, “ok this year is the year it will finally happen!”. And every year it didn’t happen. No dice. I think I had the longest peri menopausal stretch in history, starting in my mid forties. I was sick to death of no one being able to give me any notion of a deadline to this stuff. For some women its sooner, for others its later. In my case it seemed to have disappeared over the horizon, leaving no forwarding address.

A uterine ablation five years ago helped with the seriously gross problem of fibroids, another wonderful peri menopausal symptom I developed, but it came back, which can happen. So after several years of trying to be patient, talking to my doctor and eventually to a gynaecologist, I made up my mind to go ahead with surgery. I had just had enough. Keep in mind also, I have no first generation female relatives still living to give me some clue as to what my gynaecological history might have been. If you do, talk to them. It will save you loads of wasted moments thinking What The Effing Hell.

A new business and a new house this year, with the added financial pressures those can bring, meant I needed to start feeling like myself again. This hamster wanted off the wheel. Six months after I made the initial decision to have L.A.V.H., I finally accepted a date in October to have the procedure done. Monday morning, the 12th, I checked into New Cross Hospital and by the late afternoon it was all over.

I made a point of avoiding the Hysterectomy Hell stories that are all over the internet and stuck to the very sound advice and guidance given on the British Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists site. Trust me on this, while your mother/best friend and/or the Daily Mail may mean well, (I take that last one back. The DM never means well, its just plain garbage), you do yourself no favours paying more attention to scare stores than medical facts.

And the fact is its not the 1970s any more. Hell its not even the 90s when hysterectomy still meant a protracted hospital stay and weeks of post operative recovery time. The old abdominal method isn’t used unless your surgeon has good reason to think its necessary. L.A.V.H. is preferred because it is much less invasive and shortens the post operative stage considerably.

Today I am three days post op, resting comfortably at home and confident that I can return to my job as a remote p.a. in another week. Another bonus of working from home. If I need a third week, I can have it, but at this stage I feel quite well. Yes, I’m sore and more tired than usual which is to be expected. No lifting, heavy housekeeping or long walks for at least six weeks. That is standard after abdominal surgery. I’m no spring chicken any more and I don’t recover quickly like I used to, but I have to say I’m impressed both with my surgeon and my own recuperative powers. I think it helps too that I do take care of myself anyway. The only area where I need to pull up my socks is exercise and that will now have priority.

I will also be switching to an oestrogen only patch after several years of being on a combined oestrogen/progesterone pill. My surgeon’s opinion is that the patches are more effective because you can use a smaller dose of oestrogen since the medication doesn’t have to go through the digestive system before reaching the rest of the body. Does that mean I’m no longer on the rag, but on the patch? Yes i know, boo, hiss, boo. ……..

My only niggle at the moment is how difficult is it going to be to remove the industrial strength sticking power bandages covering the three tiny laparoscopic incisions on my abdomen. Honestly, you should see the size of these things.They take up more square space than the first apartment I ever rented. The stitches will dissolve on their own, so no problem there. Oh hey, how many of you remember having to go get stitches taken out. Wasn’t that fun! I’m wondering if these bandages are the replacement for that fabulous experience.

One of the excellent gynae nurses at New Cross said the best method was to do it slowly, in the shower, after a good soaking, otherwise you can damage the skin. I’ve had a hot shower since coming home on Wednesday and the damn things haven’t so much as curled slightly.

If you hear blood curdling howls some time Saturday, its probably just me ……..
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Author’s note: I am not debating the pros and cons of surgical intervention or the use and/or safety of HRT. Both are very personal decisions, not some one-size-fits-all thing. I would encourage you to do your research and speak frankly to your doctor or gynaecologist. – Ali

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8 thoughts on “Hello Menopause!

  1. Hi Alison, What an interesting and informative post. I'm peri and have an appointment in December at my local menopause clinic to see what my options are about taking low progesterone HRT as I'm so sensitive to the effects of it. Of course, the other option for me is have a hysterectomy which goes back to why I find your post so interesting.
    I really hope you're recovery is short and sweet but remember not to do too much to soon as it's still quite a big operation you've had. xxx

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  2. Thanks Alex. I'm certainly not diminishing the gravity of the procedure or the need to take care of your self post operatively. I hope you get some questions answered at the clinic. Hang in there! Ali x

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  3. I hope you recover quickly, Ali … be sure and take it easy. 🙂

    I was never so happy to see the end of my horrendous periods at age 56 (uterine fibroids, too) but my GP just kept telling me to 'wait it out'. Probably should have seen a specialist, but every year I kept thinking 'This has got to be the year – how much longer can a person have periods? I'll end up being one of those flipping women who has a baby at age 65!' Shudder.

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  4. Thanks Lynne! Honestly, still buying tampons at 56 is just not on. I'm barely a week post surgery and already starting to feel like the old me I can just about remember. LOL!

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  5. Hey Alison, glad you're doing well. Hope you are having a speedy recovery! I think it's important to share your experience as I'm sure there are other women who are going through the same issues and are not sure which option is right for them. Also, being a woman is really hard! My periods are becoming increasingly difficult as the years pass. I'm glad I have even more fun things to look forward to in the coming years 😉

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  6. Hi Kareen! Thanks for dropping by. Some women sail through these things, others don't. I had no real problems until I hit my 40s, so perhaps ten years of aggravation isn't so bad? 😉 You don't have to put up with it either. Find a doctor you are comfortable with and see what can be done for you.

    Ali x

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