I’m not sure how much of a surprise this would be to longtime readers of this blog, but I lost my fight to keep my uterus and my reproductive organs in January 2019.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit down to write about this and how I’m feeling now that I’m 6 months in recovery. I will say that it has been a genuine life improvement since before and after the surgery, there was a deep relief of not having to be subjected to the pain and mental anguish that I was suffering from while I still was menstruating.
The visual difference is startling. I look healthier, more alive because of the surgery. There is something that shifted in between the time the surgery happened before and after the recovery. I can’t help but feel like there has been an exchange of problems. They are lesser, by all means, but as my dear friend Juan said to me – this will be a complete change of life for me and that it will take longer than 6 months to realise or even understand what my new life might look like – let alone feel.
I didn’t understand the wisdom in that until I arrived at it.
They’re a lot of things you don’t get told about the recovery process – that you will have a good 8 weeks of not being able to move because of true, utter fatigue. I don’t mean the fatigue of having the flu or even from running a good race and feeling tired from it. I mean the fatigue where you are walking and then you’re on your bum Harvest Moon Style from exhaustion cause you will pass out. Waiting on the ground on shop floors waiting for your spouse or friends to come to you with a wheelchair.
I’m still not 100% sure that even after 6 months that I’m not past that stage yet. I still have days where I feel like I legitimately cannot go far when I walk or need to take breaks when walking because I’m not able to do a lot at one time. It’s easily one of the most frustrating things about the process as I’m an ambitious person by nature and keeping moving, focusing on what’s ahead is usually the thing that drives me the most into progress and success.
However, there is no rushing this process. There are no shortcuts. There are no tips or tricks or loopholes. There is only learning how to listen
Learning to Listen
Most people would tell you I’m a very good listener; I can judge between listening cathartically to someone who’s going through a hard time and someone who needs advice. I’m good at listening to the words unspoken by lovers and friends alike. Body language, the sense of space, voice tone I can pick these out regularly in the people I love. Even if it’s through text.
I cannot say the same for listening to myself.
I have never been the sort to claim that I have a true sense of myself – well, unless you count that time when I was 23 when I thought I had a decent handle on things. You only really know how little you know when life throws things at you-you are unprepared for. I would have told you I have a good sense of my body – I’d know when I would bleed. I knew when cramps were coming; I knew when my mental state was fading and what to do to combat it.
I have no baseline for that anymore. I have no ques or learned patterns for what to expect and how to respond when things go awry. One of the side effects (if you can call it that) of having a radical hysterectomy is the fact that your bladder notifications go awry. So you’ll wet yourself for a good chunk of your recovery because you will just wee yourself. There is no sugarcoating it. None of this has been in any way glamourous or for those who are faint of heart.
Same goes for hot flushes and other symptoms that come with menopause – it’s a natural thing that happens when women get older and stop naturally menstruating. Not in one big whack of a menopausal stick.
Which I feel like it has beaten me with.
It’s lead to it being nearly impossible to listen to my body when it needs things or when it doesn’t. Another thing that people don’t tell you about having a radical hysterectomy is the weight gain. I have stretch marks from my arms to my knees because my weight has ballooned since the operation. I was 82kg before I had my operation. I know that I’m closer to 113kg now (and that’s probably me being generous).
Physicians have repeatedly told me it is my body is out of whack completely with hormones and that it will get to a stage where things will settle down again. Friends who have gone through similar and others who are dealing with their own body positivity have confirmed the same. That it’s happened to them too.
There is so much happening and I’m feeling so much that it’s hard to know what to listen to and when. This has led to anxiety and panic attacks I’m not used to feeling. Heart rate spikes of 120’s sitting down when my smart watch is poking me being like “hey you’re not exercising at this second and your heart rate is stupid high – lets take some deep breaths yeah?”
Learning to Trust
A very handsome personal trainer once had a serious philosophical conversation with me once about how I didn’t trust myself very much over my attempts of leaning onto a bench without feeling like I will fall. I left the session embarrassed at my clear failure to squat onto a bench without freaking out that I’d fall. He told me that trusting myself was something that he couldn’t teach me, he could tell me all day long that the bench is there but unless I will trust my body to the process, I could never do it.
It’s something that I have been thinking about for years since that day. Did I really not trust myself at all? After everything that I’ve gone through with myself; did I really not trust myself after all of that? For sure, I lean on people where it’s appropriate where I can’t help myself. But I know that when push comes to shove, I’d do what I’d always do and keep myself safe.
Isn’t that trust?
The truth is more complex than that. They’re both two very different things for me. I trust to keep myself safe – that is true. But I’ve learned it’s more akin to hitting the emergency brake rather than slowing the car down in time to learn how to stop.
Learning how to stop takes time – anyone who’s ever ridden a bike or driven a car or had a skateboard will tell you that. It’s easy to go fast – it’s easier to keep going. It’s harder to predict when to stop or how to stop. You could keep jumping out of your car or bike or skateboard when it gets too fast and get yourself to safety. But you’ll never really learn how to stop correctly if you keep doing that, you’ll never understand when it is the right time to stop and when is good to continue if you keep thinking everything that crosses your field of view is out to damage you.
There could be other things that could go wrong. You could focus on driving and stopping that you run out of fuel or you burst a tire. These are all things that can happen to you that are unrelated to your ability to break, but it won’t stop your brain from going to that place. Thinking jumping out of the way is always the solution when in reality – all you need to do is change your tire.
Myself and Splintor moved into our first home recently, and it’s required me to learn a lot of trust. We got a new addition to our family in terms of a Newfoundland puppy called Cloud and a tortoise called Hubert. So I’ve spent a lot of time out in the back garden where we have a step and that is where I play with Cloud.
I’ve been learning to use my legs to lift myself straight up from sitting to standing. No using my hands or anything else as support – just my legs. It’s been a process, the step is very low and there is a lot going on in my head when I try to do this. I spend a lot of time worrying about the action rather than doing it, and when I do it successfully, I’m rarely met with kind words from my mind. My brain would like me to believe that it is a fluke or that I’ll just fall over again and what is the point of it all other people can do it.
However, I know better than most just what an asshole my brain can be with the little victories that I should take to heart rather than the shoulds and coulds. That is an exercise all in its own about learning what to trust and what to listen to when you’re lost at sea.
Sometimes it’s trusting that the Sun will still rise to meet you and the stars will shine to greet you – whatever the path you’re on or where the road may take you.
For now, I think that’s the only thing that I can trust enough – and for now; I know it’s enough.