“You’ll have to have everything taken away…”
That’s what I was told at my very first (and potentially only) appointment with a gynaecologist at my local NHS hospital. The first words I heard having been scanned and found to have been smuggling a 1 kilogram large fibroid (later nicknamed ‘The Mothership’ by my children) inside my womb. The fibroid was described to me by the Doctor as being the size of a 16 week gestational foetus. Even then I found it slightly offputting that, approaching 50 and with my body ‘turning gangsta’ on me, the unit of measurement use to define my mass related to reproduction, youth and ripeness. Obviously this wasn’t a reflection of how I was feeling with ‘Hammer House of Horror’ style periods, issues with a squashed bladder and a tummy resembling a scene from ‘Aliens’ when an uninvited guest pops out of Sig’s stomach *spoiler alert*.
After discovering my fate my head was filled with questions that needed answers. I didn’t want to have “everything taken away”, just like that. Although when it comes to matters of health and illness, some say the internet is dangerous, it is obviously a brilliant tool, if used correctly.
Through looking online I was able to connect to people on forums and websites who explained their own personal journeys, which resulted in me arming myself with some valuable tools and, over two years after that first appointment, I did ultimately have almost everything taken away (with a couple of crucial exceptions for me).
With the information I had found online and a switch to a second doctor’s opinion, I was able to buy myself precious time to take in what was happening, to re-adjust, to get myself healthy (mentally and physically for what was ahead) and crucially to get my blood count up with a treatment that stopped my periods and reduced fibroid size. Treatment and time which I had not been offered on the NHS, but had found out about on a forum and was able to request to my private doctor. Unsurprisingly it is an expensive prescription but the results for me, where nothing short of miraculous and allowed me breathing space from the decisions ahead of me.
Decisions that I was not afforded through the NHS route. Decisions that were critical to keeping me sane. On the NHS I was to have ‘everything’ (ambiguously) taken away, stolen from me. I will be forever grateful that I was able to make these decisions and have other options as, I know that, for many people this just isn’t the case. I do not for one second blame the NHS, it’s staff or any of the wonderful people who keep it running, but it is a travesty that these sorts of things are so chronically underfunded that a person’s mental health and well being is cut out of the equation before anything else is. Through the private route I managed to salvage my ovaries and a few other bits and pieces – something which was of personal importance to me.
I was, throughout this period, concerned as to what my sex life would resemble post-hysterectomy. But this was never something that was remotely touched upon in any of my consultations, private or otherwise. This made me feel as though it shouldn’t have mattered to me, as it never came up as any priority at all. But it mattered greatly to me, as I’m sure it would and does to a lot of other women in similar situations.
I was able to glean information for myself, relating to my particular concerns, which results in me asking for a ‘sub-total’ hysterectomy (leaving behind ovaries and cervix, if possible) – nudge nudge wink wink. The cervix is a muscle that can play a supporting role through orgasm and help to prevent prolapses (a common problem post-hysterectomy).
I never did ask the professionals the questions that bounded around my head. The information wasn’t readily available (believe me, I trawled the NHS website for it) and I couldn’t build up the courage to ask for myself. I pictured putting on one of those Elephant masks from that Doughnutters game (see below) and saying “Doctor, Doctor, what are the chances, post hysto, of me even wanting to enjoy intercourse, outercourse, orgasm, oral, squirting, arabian goggles?!”
(That last one was to check you’re still awake…)
But of course, the reality was that I blushed, felt awkward, and uttered “What can I expect from sex after…?” The full, frank and medical answer to my obvious nerves and anxiety was “wait 6 weeks before intercourse.” Basically, “Yeah you can catch semen again in 6 weeks you walking, talking, thinking, feeling, penis receptacle.”
I knew I’d be able to do ‘that’ again. It was the nuances, the intricacies linked to that, that I was concerned about. Not just when I could catch a D again.
Anyway, all’s well that end’s well in the end for me. On reflection, when I was ferreting about for information, when you feel your body is against you, it would definitely have been comforting to get some of those answers from someone in a white coat with certificates on their wall. When it comes to the world of women’s glorious orifices (orifici? orificese?) and things start to wilt, you seem to get a medical response as though this is not all an exact science. I love that we are all individuals with our own unique quirks, but, this is a science, and it should be exact.