Preparing For a Hysterectomy: It’s Not a One Day Affair

Pamela Merritt

Life doesn’t stop when a person finds out they will have to have major surgery.  It keeps churning on and all the things associated with preparing for surgery gets added to the weekly to-do list.

Recently, I wrote about the treatment of my uterine fibroids.  After consulting with my doctor and getting a second opinion, I am now preparing for a hysterectomy.  On television hospital dramas patients are shown opting for and have surgery in one tidy episode.  In reality, there is usually a lead up to surgery unless a patient is facing a medical emergency. Life doesn’t stop when a person finds out they will have to have major surgery.  It keeps churning on and all the things associated with preparing for surgery gets added to the weekly to-do list.

The first thing I noted is that preparing for surgery costs money.  I have health care insurance through my employer, but I am responsible for co-pays for appointments and prescriptions.  There was the initial doctor’s visit, which was followed by another visit for a second opinion.  I’ve had appointments for blood tests and an ultra-sound to confirm the size and location of my fibroids.  With every appointment there have been co-payments and the charges are starting to add up.  I can’t help but wonder how often people delay tests or visits because they just don’t have the cash.  I’ll have to pay another co-pay for the surgery itself, another for the stay in the hospital and my surgeon’s work.

I’m also faced with scheduling all these medical visits and tests into my already hectic life.  I told my employer about my diagnosis and surgery and that I will have to take a medical leave of 4 to 6 weeks.  There are laws that protect employment during absences due to medical care, but I have to confess to being stressed out about the timing of everything because my surgery date has not been set.  I keep thinking about my responsibilities at work, in my community and with my family.  Like many women, I’m struggling to put myself first and balance the emotional stress of facing surgery with my day-to-day responsibilities.  I’m stressed about the situation and stressed about being stressed about the situation.

The biggest challenge on the table is getting myself in the best physical condition I can prior to surgery.  I’m taking iron supplements, eating better and trying to get more sleep.  I’ve scheduled my yearly physical with my primary care doctor so we can put together a plan.  And I’m taking more time to relax and unwind, because stress isn’t going to make this situation any better. 

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As I explored in my previous article, a lot of people have a lot of opinions about my choice to have a hysterectomy.  I’ve received numerous emails of support and concern and I’m grateful for the advice and resources.  I’m aware that there is a history of women being encouraged to have a hysterectomy rather than consider other less invasive options to treat fibroids.  Knowing that history has empowered me throughout my treatment to challenge my doctors, research my options and explore alternatives.  As a result, my surgery is an empowered decision that I feel confident about.  I’m not naïve about the risks nor do I have any illusions about the potential impact to my long-term health. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned since being diagnosed with fibroids nearly a decade ago is that I need to take control as a patient.  I’ve put together a binder to organize everything associated with my surgery.  I’m doing a lot of research on the best ways to prepare for a speedy recovery.  In the coming weeks I’ll put together a budget, go over all the paperwork associated with taking a medical leave from work and put together a comprehensive plan to prepare physically, financially and emotionally for major surgery.  I have a great support network of family, friends and co-workers and I’m letting them know what I’m facing so they can be there for me.  In many ways, that’s been the hardest thing to do since I take great pride in being independent.  But there’s another thing I’ve learned along the way – getting support from the people that care about you is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of a strength.

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