A lengthy preamble:
The following post provides details of the first four weeks post surgery, including results from my first post-op visit.
I’m writing about my experience in hopes that others can benefit. I’m not a medical expert, this is not to advise you to have a myomectomy. Our bodies are different and it should be a personal decision made with medical consultation on how to treat/remove fibroids.
Additionally, I hope that anyone who feels like you are alone in your experience, will realize that you are not, and perhaps someone in your acquaintance has silently undergone the same thing. Don’t let anyone judge you for your decision. Also, if you are reading this, I hope you’re not squeamish.
Read Time: 11 minutes
[updated 8/6: Clothing and first period]
Weeks 1 & 2:
I read this everywhere and people told me from their own personal experience, so I’m just adding to all the past experiences by saying this: the first two weeks are the hardest.
In New York (and I’m sure the same could apply to other cities around the world) it’s easy to become so independent doing things on our own – I am super independent, I even wanted to go to the surgery alone and have my family come when it was over. However, there was nothing more humbling than the first two weeks after my myomectomy when I realized how much help I needed. If you plan on doing this surgery (or similar) and live alone or don’t have someone around to help you, please reach out to friends. And if you know someone going through this who lives alone, please reach out to them. Any little bit helps, from helping with food to simple things like making up the bed.
I was pretty lucky, I could walk and climb up stairs after the surgery, but there are many who can barely walk and might need a lot more physical support. My sister was with me all day and that was extremely helpful, especially when I woke her up at 1am the first day back to get me something from the kitchen. Or when I had her sit on the other side of the shower curtain when I took my first post-op shower, just in case I fainted and she needed to help.The best thing you could do for yourself is to fully concentrate on how your body is feeling and not ignore any pains. The next best thing is to get as much rest as you can.
I had a low grade fever every night and tension headaches every day for the first week. There was one day where I thought that I didn’t take my meds, the pain was becoming unbearable, and I have a high tolerance for pain. I could only sleep on my back – which was uncomfortable for me – so I had to prop my legs and back to find some comfort. I enjoyed a full night’s sleep a week after the surgery.
One of my aunts sent me a wedge pillow, I kept it on the couch downstairs and during the day I would lie on the couch and try to read or watch a show, but most times I ended up napping. Never in my life have I experienced such absent mindedness, distraction or discombobulation. I know part of it had to do with the fact that I was seriously anemic, but I think the painkillers also added to the foggy brain feeling. I walked every day, working myself up from 10 minutes to 20 minutes a day by the end of the second week.
I was stitched together with the dissolving thread and they placed steri-strips across the incision. Usually, after 7-10 days you are allowed to remove the steri-stips, as oil on your skin causes them to lose their adhesiveness and it becomes easy to peel off. Mine were a bit tough to remove, and when I tried I noticed a little bit of blood – it looked like a scab was disturbed – so I stopped removing them because I was afraid I wasn’t healing well.
My doctor looked at them during my post-op (12 days after surgery) and she removed them for me (the strips were pretty pristine) and added a new set. It was healing fine, but she wanted to keep it covered. She also gave me a set to put on after I took those off.
The second set came off without any issue and I cleaned the area and applied the third set of strips which I recently took off. Everything looks pretty good now.
Listen, everything was swollen for the first few weeks. Everything. I can’t imagine what my insides looked like, but everywhere in the area of my lower abdomen was swollen for the first two weeks. I developed a bump above my incision that’s still there, sometimes it feels a little hard so I got some papaya seed oil to massage that area (around the end of week four). I also purchased a belly binder to help, I know a lot of people use a belly binder early on in their recovery, but since I only recently purchased mine, I’ll be using it from the fifth week onwards. The swelling does go away after some time, I’m noticing mine is not as much as before, but it will take time.
Both my blood count and iron were low. Since I opted out of receiving the transfusion I knew it would take several weeks for my blood to rebound. What I was not prepared for was the affect of the anemia. I’ve had slight anemia most of my life, so this was nothing new, or so I thought. Boy was I wrong. In addition to feeling exhausted most days, I also heard my blood flow in my ears, and it was the most annoying thing ever.
I was extremely forgetful and absentminded, once I spent at least 20 minutes trying to remember whether I took my pills that morning – even though I wrote everything down! I ate a lot of iron rich foods and took iron tablets daily (with Vitamin C to help with absorption). I was listless and it was clear to see the paleness (under the melanin) in my face. At my post-op checkup, the iron was still low, but it was climbing from the days right after the surgery. I still have some ways to go and my old colouring returned around week three.
I was pretty lucky, I was not constipated the first two weeks, especially since I was taking iron tablets which causes constipation. For the first two weeks I kept Googling “does <insert food here> cause constipation” and researching foods that would help counteract constipation. Regular bowel movement is important for recovery so I paid attention to what foods caused me to feel bloated. I didn’t drink tea or coffee for weeks because, for some reason, consuming hot water was uncomfortable and coffee did not help – which was counter to my past experiences.
The first two weeks I used Colace (prescribed) along with Gas-X (OTC) to keep regular. When I started stepping down from the Gas-X around the end of the second week, I started to have issues with regularity so I took Milk of Magnesia on the problem nights and that helped. I did stop using iron tables for a week (during my third/fourth week) because I knew my period was due to arrive which also causes constipation. I’m back on the iron tablets again with no issues.
If you’re having trouble there are so many OTC options that could help, but it’s probably best to talk to your doctor first.
I had a hard time sleeping for long stretches in the hospital. The first week I’d wake up multiple times during the night, but by the second week my sleeping patterns started to revert to normalcy. Now (4 full weeks later) I sleep soundly during the night.
It was impossible for me to sleep on my side – my preferred position – so I had to sleep on my back for the first four weeks. Even when the pain lessened I still slept on my back because sleeping on my side caused discomfort. However, towards the end of the fourth week I was finally able to sleep on my side – hugging a pillow for support – without any pain or discomfort. I’m hoping by the end of this week I’ll be able to sleep in my preferred position without issue.
After surgery, you are not allowed to do any strenuous exercise so walking around the neighbourhood daily was my form of activity. I started with ten minute walks and then upped it to twenty minutes by the end of the first week.
My pace was extremely slow to begin with walking at a pace of 55 minutes per mile. Now (the start of my fifth week) I am walking much faster than before and almost making a mile in twenty minutes. For some perspective, before the surgery I could walk a mile in 12 minutes, sometimes less, sometimes my Google Fit app assumed I was slow jogging and marked my walk as a jog.
For the first two weeks I lived in dressing gowns, night gowns and PJs (that could come up to the top of my stomach). I asked for some hospital underwear and was given a supply for at least a week and a half. I was so happy to be wearing them, as they come all the way up to the top of the stomach, are meshy and comfortable over the incision.
It wasn’t until after the first two weeks that I felt more like wearing “normal” clothing. But, I still tried to wear my softest clothing. At night, I didn’t want anything touching my stomach area, so I would often create a cushion over that area to make sure the sheets did not rub against me.
It’s the fifth week and I’m still pretty cautious. I’ve started using a belly band and I found that it helps with driving over bumps. I think it might have been beneficial earlier on with shrinking the uterus, but I’m happy to use it to alleviate the pain of driving and (in two weeks) commuting. Look into this and talk to your doctor, it might be helpful in the beginning.
Eating and diet
The only change to my diet was adding more iron-rich foods, otherwise I could eat normally. Since I wasn’t super active (expect for twenty minutes of walking) I ate mostly fruits and oatmeal in the morning. Barley soup for lunch and then a healthy dinner – sometimes involving liver and vegetables.
I kept meticulous track of everything entering my body, in the beginning it was because I was forgetful and needed to write down when/what I ate and when I took my pills. Later it was to make sure I was feeding my body so it could heal faster. I still have the occasional sweet thing (my birthday was in July!) but everything in moderation.
I was lucky, during the first few weeks I did not sneeze or cough, it hurts when you sneeze and cough (or even laugh) and sometimes it’s helpful to have a pillow close by that you can hug to your lower ab when you need to do any of those things. I also used this between my lower ab and the seatbelt when I was being driven around to stop the belt from causing any pain.
I was a little extra, I bought a uterus shaped pillow, but it brought me constant amusement. Doesn’t matter if it felt a little “extra”, Robbie the Uterus Pillow has provided me a lot of cushion, but, any regular pillow will do.
I was on the tail-end of mensuration when I had my surgery, so my period came at the end of July. One of the symptoms of fibroids is heavy bleeding. I read that it’s because there is more surface area so more blood needed to line the uterus. All of that is well and good, but when your “normal” period lasts over 5 days and the first two days are full of panic over leaking, well, life around “that time” can become stressful.
My first period after the surgery was completely different. I experienced some cramping – which I rarely experienced before, but I’m going to blame still being tender – and the first day was such a light flow that I couldn’t believe my eyes! Additionally, after four days it was pretty much over. I can’t wait for the next one to see how that goes. There are a lot of reasons why I had my surgery and am glad I did it, but this particular plus is by far my favourite one.
Pathology and Conclusion
I had nine fibroids in total, all benign. They ranged in size from 2cm (large kidney bean) in diameter to 10cm (apple or peach). They weighted approximately 4lbs. Two were inside the uterus (thus the two cuts) while the rest were hanging out on the outside, some of them on long stalks. Six of the nine were rather large. Looking at photos of them, it’s really hard to imagine them fitting inside.
Overall I am recovering well, and I know that I’m very fortunate to have my family to help me. I cannot stress how important it is to have folks around, especially the first two weeks. If there is anything remarkable to share, I’ll definitely update this post, but for now, I think I’ve pretty much covered the highlights of my recovery.
If you have any questions, if you’re going through a myomectomy, hysterectomy or even a c-section in the future (doesn’t matter how far in the future) please feel free to ask anything in the comments, or on Twitter or Instagram. Over on Instagram I have a few story highlights that I took pre and post surgery. I hope this helps at least one person and eases any anxieties.