On Monday March 7th 2016 I had a hysterectomy. A large fibroid mass was removed from me that was described as being the size of a small turkey. It measured 30cm in length and judging from the description I was given, was nearly as deep as it was wide. In addition to the large firbroid there were multiple other fibroids found and removed along with my uterus, ovaries, cervix and fallopian tubes.
I’ve explained in previous posts the reason I decided to go ahead and undergo a hysterectomy after resisting for so many years. But for the benefit of anyone who might not have read my previous posts, I had a CT scan done on January 20th 2016 and there were concerns raised about possible ovarian cancer. Those concerns had been raised last year due to the results of a CA-125 blood test, but I had been assured by the gynecological oncologist that, while my numbers were out of the normal range, they were not so far out as to be particularly alarming. Furthermore, many other things could have caused the elevated number, and since many of those other things happened to be things that were going on with me at the time, I decided not to go through with the hysterectomy that had been scheduled for February 2015.
Advance to January 2016 and the way the doctor phrased her findings following the CT scan that was performed on the 20th, I was convinced enough of the need to go through with the procedure once and for all. There were concerns raised that the larger mass visible in the scan imagery was coming from an ovary, and if that was the case, while it was still possibly benign there was an equal chance that it could be malignant. There was mention of fluid in the abdomen, something that is apparently more common to find when there is cancer present. There was mention of other soft tissue and a reference to other cancer possibilities linked to the soft tissue. The mass had apparently grown significantly enough between the December 2014 CT scan and the January 2016 CT scan to be “very concerning”.
Basically, the write-up made things seem very alarming and very likely to be cancer. So naturally I did not feel that I was any longer at liberty to just go with my own gut feeling that I did not have cancer and that all the other things that were happening were due to pending menopause.
It was my understanding that the only way to know if in fact I had ovarian cancer or some other kind of uterine cancer, was for the mass to be removed and tested. So I decided to go ahead and do the surgery. And I figured if I was going to take the uterus out I might as well just take the ovaries out as well regardless if it was found once they went in that my ovaries were fine.
The cancer question…
The mass turned out not to have been growing in my ovaries after all. So there was no ovarian cancer. But my ovaries were removed anyway, because I had told them to go ahead and take everything out once they went in. I figured if they were going to be in there they might as well just take out everything that could potentially cause me to have to go down this road again.
As for other types of cancer, there were none found in the mass. The mass was just an extremely large but benign degenerating uterine fibroid.
For anyone curious what is meant by “degenerating uterine fibroid”, this is what I found when I did a quick search for information about degenerating fibroids:
Via fibroidsecondopinion.com – Fibroids are living tissue, and need blood and oxygen to survive. If a fibroid grows quickly, blood vessels feeding the fibroid may not be able to grow fast enough to supply the new tissue with enough blood and oxygen. If this happens, the fibroid undergoes a process called degeneration, or cell death. As the cells in the fibroid die, chemical substances are released that cause pain and swelling in the uterus. This pain may be severe but is not usually associated with any serious problems. If these chemical substances from a degenerating fibroid reach the bloodstream, they may cause a low fever.
How I’m feeling now that I’m fibroid free
It’s early yet to discuss how it feels to be fibroid free. I am 11 days post-op as I write this. Recovery is going reasonably well, but not so well that I’ve had time for reflecting and getting in touch with myself. I suspect it will be a few more weeks before things get back to a semblance of normalcy and then I will have time for reflection. Right now it’s about pain management.
But I will say, I know that this was the right thing to do and I’m glad that I found the courage to do it. It’s hard to believe that I actually did it. I am definitely happy that I no longer have that huge mass growing inside me. I never really imagined that it could ever come out. I had made up my mind to live with it for the next several years and hope that menopause would fix it. So to no longer have it inside me seems a little unreal.
But while I’m happy to no longer have the fibroid growths, I do feel a little weird when I read the pathology report and realize that my body parts were taken out and cut up and examined and, I assume, subsequently thrown out. I’m not sure what to expect going forward. I’m not sure what it’s going to mean (how it’s going to play out in my daily life) that I don’t have a uterus, I don’t have ovaries, I don’t have a cervix and I don’t have fallopian tubes. Not that when I had them I was aware of them or knew of any direct benefit to my life from having them. But will not having them be the same as having them? In other words, will it go as unnoticed that I don’t have them as it went unnoticed that I did?
It remains to be seen how this surgery will affect my life going forward. For now I am trying to get to a point where I can walk at a normal pace and with a fully upright body.
I still have the staples and sutures. The incision was nearly 11 inches in length. It starts high up in my chest and ends below my pelvis. It is sewn together in such a way that I will always have an 11-inch fleshy scar running the length of my belly. But I won’t complain about it. I am happy to be alive.