My Upcoming Surgery
Okay, here it is laid out for everyone to read. Next week I will be having a hysterectomy. Yes, I have felt that this is a surgery that does not need to be broadcast because it is a sensitive issue for me. I am not embarrassed of my anatomical make up, nor am I uncomfortable talking about the surgical method itself and using the correct medical language when discussing the procedure details. I have worked in the medical field for 26 years, so it is second nature to me.
What made me stop talking about my upcoming surgery - not that I was running around with a bell shouting "Hear ye, hear ye! I have news!" - was the reaction that I received from a few female colleagues and friends with whom I shared this information. They were all unanimous in the celebration of this 'gutting', as one male friend called it, and the ceasing of menstruation. Apparently they did not see the unenthusiastic expression on my face when telling of the surgery, or they did not hear why it is being done.
After biopsies last year and more biopsies a few months ago, it was determined that the best cancer preventative option was a hysterectomy. I had a procedure several years ago to remove an area of precancerous tissue, and had normal pap exams up until last year. Then my uterus became very enlarged, and the biopsy fun began. Fortunately the biopsies were negative both last year and this year. The one of the cervix this year unfortunately was not. It showed more of this precancerous tissue, this time in the moderate/severe range, surprising the doctor as well. When discussing the hysterectomy, these biopsies and lab results were the reason I gave to those who I told about the surgery, and the reason I did not talk too much about it to begin with, especially since my sister died from cancer just 3 years ago. I want to make it clear that I do not have cancer, something I reiterated to those with whom I spoke.
I feel sad about losing the parts that made me good at something. I mean really good! I was born to have babies and be a mom. Not only did I conceive easily - sometimes too much so - but I have, as one doctor said, child bearing hips. And I am one woman who did not mind the monthly cycles. Yes they were inconvenient, at times painful, and did prevent the wearing of certain attire on special occasions a few times. But honestly, I was okay with the exchange; that for my beautiful children and the opportunity I had to mother. If I could do it all again from the beginning I would. If I could have more children, well could have had a few years ago, I would have. Admittedly, I am fond of sleep, dating, dancing and the freedom I have earned. It is my reward for raising responsible kids.
Is It Just Me?
This is what is making me wonder if I am just making more of this than I should be. I know everyone has their own opinions and thoughts on issues, but I have yet to meet a woman who had a hysterectomy say that they felt somewhat sad beforehand. Even after explaining my situation and the necessity of it, the reaction has been that it was the best thing they ever did. Now they do not have to worry about periods any more. Of course, I am talking to women who chose to have this procedure. And their choice was to avoid any further menstrual cycles. Their reasons were legitimate for them and I will not diminish that. They were tired of running to the drug store every 30 minutes for more pads or driving home during lunch to change clothes. Sorry men who may be reading, but these are the facts of a few days each month when you wonder why women are so moody. Top that with someone punching you in the lower abdomen ever few minutes. Maybe that is what I need to keep foremost in my mind when I feel like grabbing their shoulders, staring them in the face and declaring that this is not joyous to me.
For me this hysterectomy puts a period - what a ironical twist that word now has - on another phase of my life. I have no choice but to move into the next phase. Perhaps that is key too; choice. No choice of surgery, no choice of body changes. But that does not really make sense because I do have a choice; it is hysterectomy or more constant biopsies and the possibility of cancer. And in what part of my aging and body changes have I had a choice in before. Except exercising and keeping as healthy as possible. Everything else is going to come when it wants. Gray hair, gravity, chin hair, loose skin. I really do not even mind aging. Will I lose my sex appeal? I have been divorced and single for 5 years and have just begun to enjoy who I am as a woman. My kids are getting older and life has changed in many ways for me. I am feeling at peace for the first time in a long time and yes, quite sexy.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for early detection:
- All women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group (although it may be used as a part of follow-up for an abnormal Pap test).
- Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65.
- Another reasonable option for women 30 to 65 is to get tested every 3 years with just the Pap test.
It is What It is...
That is where I am right now, it is what it is. Nothing can be done and I just need to go through this moment by moment and accept things as they come, like any other life event. The upside is that I have a higher percentage of a longer future now for which I am grateful. My feelings of loss are real though. Not that I want any more children. I am finally getting 8 hours sleep every night and can take a nap now and then without interruption! There is even a kid who shares driving duties with me and I can see movies rated other than G. My life is good. So what is my problem.
I have pondered, questioned, discussed and evaluated this into the ground. I guess the bottom line is I am losing parts of me that made me who I am. A woman in all the glory a woman could be. Able to bring life into this world. Hormone driven at times and emotional at the drop of a hat. But I can not look back at any of it with regret. And as I finish typing this I realize I am smiling.