When I wrote my last article about feeling abandoned by God, I had no idea that I was about to have an unexpected hysterectomy and would actually find Him in the process.
But that’s exactly what happened. (Warning: Due to the nature of things, parts of this post may be a little TMI as far as “women’s troubles” and whatnot. Sorry.)
Let me back up a bit though
My back has bothered me off and on for several years now, but in January of 2016 it got really bad. I’ve been working on it since. Although we found out that I have arthritis and a herniated disc, none of the health professionals I’ve seen (Doctor, Osteopath, Physical Therapist, Massage Therapist) have been able to make much headway with it. One thing we all agreed on was that I needed to strengthen my core. So, I’ve been working with my PT on that for months and have made huge progress. (Having 4 babies really takes its toll on a body!)
Then in November, my sister had to have a hysterectomy. She shared with me some of the not-so-fun symptoms that had been going on for a while leading up to this. This conversation stuck with me because I had some similar (but much more mild) symptoms.
Now we’ll fast forward to January of this year. A few important things happened that month. First, a sign up sheet was passed around in one of my classes for everyone to sign up for a date to give a presentation on an assigned musculoskeletal injury. I had stepped out of class and ended up being one of the last to get the sign up sheet. This left either the first presentation date or the last available to me. I unhappily signed up for the first. The beginning of the semester was already stressful enough and now I had to research and prepare and present within the first two weeks! And whoever wants to give the first presentation anyway?
One of our first classes in January included physical therapy to help with the recovery from a hysterectomy. I thought nothing of it at the time, except to wish that I had learned it sooner to help my sister after her hysterectomy.
The next thing that happened in January was that one of my classmates had a baby. That meant my professors had to come up with ways for her to still be able to keep up and stay in the program. Including providing an iPad for her to Skype with us during lecture time and hold onto assignments and tests until she returned.
And lastly, another sign up sheet went around the class in January for working in our program’s on-site physical therapy clinic. This time I made sure to be one of the first and I signed up for the requisite 5 days at times that I thought would be most convenient for me. But then, there were slots leftover after everyone had signed up, so it went back around for everyone to sign up for a 6th time. The only night that had an open slot that I wasn’t already signed up for was Valentine’s Day. I was really disappointed to have to work that night, but signed up anyway.
In February, I started feeling really off. I thought it was a UTI, so I went to my general practitioner. They ran the test and it came back negative. So, he talked to me about the possibility of interstitial cystitis and I got really frustrated and down. The symptoms had been keeping me up for over a week at this point and they didn’t go away. I tried changing my diet. I tried some over the counter treatments for other female issues. But nothing helped. I was exhausted and tired of constantly being uncomfortable and in pain.
So, I called an OB/GYN. I have not been super responsible and never bothered to find one after our move here a few years ago (I cannot tell you how much I loathe finding new doctors, of any kind), so I just requested an appointment with whoever could get me in the soonest. It ended up being with a really nice guy. He ran a few tests and told me I had a couple different infections going on by this point (including a UTI—go figure). I agreed with him that I probably should set up an annual exam sooner than later since it had been almost 5 years, but I didn’t really plan to any time soon. I took my antibiotics and was grateful to finally start feeling better.
Well, in March, my period started a week early. I’d been having a lot of irregularities and unpleasantries in this area for well over a year now and I had some concerns after hearing about my sister’s experience, so I decided to go ahead and schedule that annual exam. If I hadn’t already met with an OB/GYN that I liked and had a sister with a similar problem, I know I would have waited probably at least a couple months before doing this. Thank goodness I didn’t. By the time I got in, I had been menstruating for almost a month straight.
I reached out to my sister again in the meantime for more information. She had something called adenomyosis that can only be treated via hysterectomy. It can’t really be diagnosed until after the uterus is out, so other tests and treatments are usually tried first. I figured it would take several weeks to go through the process of meeting with my doctor and determining I needed that.
April–Hysterectomies for everyone!
My appointment was in early April and I start my clinical affiliations May 15th. Being a physical therapist assistant student involves lifting everything from weights to patients during transfers. The post-hysterectomy restrictions include lifting nothing over 10 lbs. for 6-8 weeks. So, I worked out that I would have to wait on the hysterectomy until I graduate in December. There was a potential temporary fix of an ablation that I could try to slow symptoms between now and then, so at least I wouldn’t be running to the bathroom every hour or less.
Still, I was frustrated by this because I have only just begun returning to activity since taking a long time out for my back and I didn’t want to have to start over again in December; I want to start working shortly after I graduate and can’t be dealing with recovery restrictions then; and I just felt downright crummy and wanted to get my uterus out so I could start feeling better!
When I met with my doctor, he listened to me and did some more tests. Based on that information and my family history, he had enough information in that appointment to conclude that I needed to have a hysterectomy. I was caught off guard by the efficiency, so I stuck to my initial plan of requesting that he try an ablation to get me through until December. He agreed and I left.
A Change In Plans
Within an hour, I began feeling very strongly that this plan was a mistake. I needed to have a hysterectomy as quickly as possible. So, I did the math and realized I could maybe make it work.
I called my program director. She was kind, but not thrilled. However, she said that since we had the precedence from my classmate missing class after her baby, she couldn’t tell me that I couldn’t do it. She asked if I had worked in the clinic enough times. Because I had gone in February, I would get my requisite 5th time that upcoming Tuesday. So, as long as I had the hysterectomy after Tuesday (and found someone to take my remaining 6th shift), I would be fine. If I hadn’t worked on Valentine’s, my 5th time would have been the week after that. And one of my classmates offered to cover my 6th shift for me.
There were a few more things to wrap up, but I realized that if I could have the hysterectomy that Thursday, I would only have to miss that day of classes. Then I’d have the weekend to recover and I could Skype until I could drive again. I managed to get all of my big assignments done before or during that weekend. And I was so grateful that I had signed up for the first presentation of the semester rather than the last!
All the Little “Coincidences”
I tried to reach my doctor’s office Friday without success, so I prayed all weekend that somehow this very long shot would miraculously happen. Then I prayed that if it was at all possible, it would happen on Thursday. And if it wasn’t asking too much, preferably Thursday afternoon so I wouldn’t have to miss any classes.
We had a quiz first thing Monday morning meaning that I had a break earlier and longer than normal. So, I was able to call my doctor again. They have never answered my phone calls before or since, but that day, I managed to get straight through to the nurse. I pled my case and she listened.
Again, by a strange change in normal schedule, I happened to have my phone on me later that afternoon. Then I happened to look at it when it was ringing (it’s always on Do Not Disturb during class). We were working on a group assignment which allowed me to step away for a minute to actually take a call during class time. And then I happened to be with the more forgiving of my professors. He had no objection when I asked if I could leave early that day for my pre-op appointment. This was fortunate because the nurse said I needed to have more than 24-hours before my surgery.
The nurse told me they could schedule me for Thursday afternoon. She apologized that it was late in the day, but I couldn’t believe how precisely my prayers were being answered. I would only miss the last 30-45 minutes of class, so I would only miss a minimal amount of instruction.
I have never had surgery before, so I wanted to find out as much as I could. My sister was an excellent resource. She helped me determine questions I needed to ask my doctor and to feel more confident that having the hysterectomy now made the most sense. I looked up my doctor’s bio for the first time since I had just sort of happened upon in my initial desperation. He has the specialized training to perform hysterectomies using the da Vinci robot, so it would be minimally invasive. I read through my notes for PT after a hysterectomy. I felt fairly calm about everything going into the surgery.
Sometimes God Manifests His Love Through a Hysterectomy
This was a much longer story than I intended. I needed to share how so many details came together so perfectly. I still am struggling to feel God in my life. But as I watched all of these pieces fit together, I couldn’t help but recognize His hand in every little aspect of it.
My recovery has been pretty optimal, all things considered. I can’t say exactly why. I’m sure having my core in strong shape and not being overly stressed going in helped. I knew how to take care of myself after and that helped speed things along as well. But I’m sure I’m also being blessed for some reason. My family has been able to take care of me. My friends and neighbors brought me meals and flowers. Because I had all of my big assignments done (I emailed my final two papers from the hospital, shortly before being taken to the OR), I only had to worry about trying to stay caught up with new material.
The pathology report confirmed that I had adenomyosis, so my symptoms would not have gotten better. It is uncertain whether or not the ablation would have helped through to December. And it turns out that my unhappy uterus was the cause of multiple health problems I’ve been experiencing. Not the least of which is my back pain. I still have a herniated disc and arthritis, but the majority of the time, my back is pain-free! I had felt a general “unwellness” for a long time and that appears to be gone as well.
I’m not the most patient patient, so the bedrest is taking its toll. Exercise is still my main “medication” to treat my mental health problems, so life is a struggle without it. But, at least there is an end in sight. I should be mostly recovered by the time I start my first clinical affiliation in a couple weeks. And I know I’m going to feel so much better than I would have without the surgery.
God is good. He loves His children. And I’m grateful that I have been blessed with the strength to keep holding on, even when I feel abandoned. Because then I have the privilege of watching His miracles unfold—even in the form of a hysterectomy.