In the last days of the year 2011, the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria decided to stage a mass protest against a planned fuel price hike by the government. The result was a week-long strike that kicked off as we began 2012, which effectively shut down the nation for over a week.
That week, the only worries I had was that my sister and I would run out of food before the strike was called off. There was no way I could know that as the country was experiencing a serious shake, I would also be experiencing some personal shakes of my own.
It all began when I had my period a day into the strike. As per usual, I was bedridden with cramps. Throw in a little runny tummy and it was the perfect recipe for my monthly misery. This was nothing new as I had always struggled with really painful periods that became worse as I got older. I always tell people that from the moment I started my period when I was a teenager, I have never not had a pain free menstrual period.
By day two of the flow, it had become clear that this was another one of the really, really, really bad ones. Shout out to all the sisters who have really bad pains during their menstrual periods. You are not alone and you are not weak as some might make you believe.
It took four days of a cycle where I woke up in pain, rolled around in bed till my exhausted body went to sleep only to wake up in pain again before my sister to decide she is not doing again and dragged me to a hospital. After being prescribed heavy doses of some serious pain meds, two gynaecologist appointments and one ultrasound scan later, I was told I had uterine fibroids.
After the diagnosis, I went on to ignore the problem in the typical “grown-up” way that some of us ignore things we don’t want to deal with.
See ehn! When I got this diagnosis, I was not ready to deal with it for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons was that I had been informed by the gynaecologist I had seen that the fibroids too small at that time for anything to be done about it. The main reason though was that ya girl was just plain scared of going under the knife! That being said, I decided to play the part of the blissfully ignorant and manage myself and my cramps.
Fast forward to four years later, and I was fast learning that ignorance is not always bliss. I was now sporting a stomach the size of an American football, which for a skinny person like me, meant I had to be fielding the not so subtle people who were attempting to find out if I was pregnant. Nosy colleagues are just a blessing, right? I can’t blame them though, I was still newly married and belle would have been expected.
Apart from the bump, I couldn’t pee, lie down on certain sides of my tummy or have sex in certain positions without discomfort and or pain in my lower tummy. And the best part, if I was in a car and it got into a bump, I would feel a sharp jolt of pain! Please tell me which road in Lagos does not have bumps. Just imagine what it felt like when I entered all those yellow buses that don’t have shock absorber! Good times!
Another couple of OB/GYN visits and more scans later, I was told that the fibroids had grown a lot and were the cause of my troubles. A myomectomy was recommended.
For those who might not know, according to WebMD, a Myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus. It allows the uterus to be left in place and, for some women, makes pregnancy more likely than before. Myomectomy is the preferred fibroid treatment for women who want to become pregnant.
I have been told there are other treatment options but this is what was recommended for me, so after a lot of crying and general panicking, stalling, more pain and then more crying, I decided to go ahead with the Myomectomy.
That is the story of how I had a myomectomy. I thank God that it all went well and I’m able to reflect on it now because, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
What was the experience like? Let’s just say that from the moment I got into the hospital gown pre-surgery to the moment I opened my eyes after the anaesthesia wore off and throughout my healing process I kept learning and discovering things I wish someone would have warned me about beforehand. Here are some things that I found out and that the doctor and others who had had a myomectomy kind of forgot, either purposely or otherwise, to mention.
Before I go on, I have to emphasize that this list is from my personal point of view, and it is my experience.
You will be afraid
I did a lot of crying and afraiding panicking.
There are seriously too many things to be worried and scared of, especially for a worry wart like me. My fears ranged from things like, “what if they find something worse than the fibroids when they open me up?” to things like “What if NEPA / PHCN takes light during the operation? I did mine in Naija, so please I am allowed to have such thoughts!
Despite assurances that it would be fine and it was for the best, this was my first time going under the knife and I was understandably scared silly. Ultimately, I had to find a place of peace and acceptance. Prayers also help and having family around was a bonus.
After the surgery, you will hurt, a lot
Look, I know it is a surgical procedure, so of course, it would and should hurt, but no one really tells you how much till you wake up groggy with the effects of the anaesthetic wearing off and you feel like your tummy will split open if you so much as breath the wrong way. Maybe this is a personal thing though because I have a pain tolerance level of ZERO but really guys, that ish hurt.
You will bleed after the surgery
No, I don’t mean from the wound, cos obviously! I mean, you will bleed from your vagina, kind of like a mini menstrual period. This was so shocking to me and imagine my surprise when the doc and nurses went “oh that’s normal, once your womb or uterus is touched, it reacts by bleeding”. Maybe someone should have maybe told me that earlier so I could prepare my mind for wearing pads and having a period while dealing with a huge gash on my lower abdomen!
Laughing and coughing after the surgery and for the first few weeks while you recover will become a pain. Literally. That’s all I am going to say about that.
Your first poop post-surgery will become a big deal
At least it was for me! Like I was so scared to “go potty” because I was afraid pushing the poop out would burst open my stitches. This was a genuine fear for me.
Somehow, I guess the fear in my mind had passed some signals which in turn had told my body to shut it. Trust me when I say we were plenty waiting for me to “do the number 2”. I had my mother, my mother-in-law, my aunts, siblings and others (this is an exaggeration) asking me on a daily if I had “made a touchdown!”
I was glad when my body finally decided it was time to “clear the hallway” and there was rejoicing in the land when it was told by the town crier!
You will need someone who will take care of you during the first few weeks
This is another obvious one but still, here I was with the idea that I was Superwoman and I could bend to sweep, lift a bucket, pound yam, do sit-ups & squats etc. I realized very quickly and easily that my body was going through a lot and I should just allow it to be great. Having my mom and hubby around helped so find someone who can help you when and if you need it. And be ye not deceived, you will need it.
That scar will itch like you won’t believe
As stated earlier, this was my personal experience. I don’t know if this happens to everyone but the itching of that scar was something interesting.
At first, people told me “that’s how you know the wound is healing”. After a while, I was quite tired of being aware of how much the wound was healing. I tried ori a.k.a shea butter at the suggestion of a friend but that seemed to make it worse. I know I have learnt serious restraint from this but apart from that, it was a very real struggle! Even as I write this (over a year later) I still get the occasional itch.
Shaving your lower belly (if you do this) will never be the same again
My cut healed with a keloid, again this is very personal to me and how my body heals so this might not apply to all. That being said, you guys, I have lost count of how many times I nicked myself on that scar trying to shave my lower belly. Some hairs have now decided to grow right underneath and around the edge of this thing like some kind of stubborn weed/mushroom. As if shaving lady parts are not a delicate enough adventure, now I have to delicately shave my lover belly too! Crying in misery and despair.
It does get better as you get more used to the new terrain on your tummy but till you get there, enjoy the adventure and have plenty of mentholated spirit on hand.
You might feel weird about the scar for a while after
For me, that scar made me feel less beautiful for a while after the surgery. I guess things like that come with every type of wound that leaves scars. Ultimately, this is something you have to deal with on your own.
Like I said before, I had to get to a place of peace and acceptance and tell myself that a scar does not determine whether I’m beautiful or not. There are survivors of acid attacks and fires, people who have scars from a heart transplant and brain surgeries and people living with conditions that they can’t hide and who are thriving and doing well with their images of themselves and love themselves.
I still struggle with this, but a little reminder about the important things in life goes a long way.
The Myomectomy might not solve whatever was the reason for it
If you were having pains, you might still have pains after the surgery. They might not be as bad, but they might still be there. If you had a heavy flow, after the surgery, your flow might still be heavy. Maybe not as heavy as before but it might still be there.
You might go for a post-op check-up and find that they discover new fibroids, that they missed some, or that there are now cysts where the fibroids where.
I am not saying hope for the worst or that this scenario is a certainty, I am saying that at the end of the day, when it comes to illness and things like that, our bodies do whatever the heck they want half the time and all we can do is readjust, re-strategize and push on.
It will be fun learning to live without all the complaints that drove you to have the Myomectomy
So on the flip side of the last point, the surgery could solve all issues you were having before including why you can’t grow your hair past your shoulders or why you wake up with a huge zit on your forehead on the day you have a date… and this is a good thing, so enjoy your new lease on life because you went through a lot to get to where you are.
Before I had the surgery, I would be on painkillers about a week before my period started because, cramps. Now, I can testify that since the surgery, having stress and pain-free menstrual periods is an awesome experience.
It was and is still fun discovering what else the surgery has fixed or helped with (think fun positions to try out with le hubs *wink wink*) and every day I am thankful for each small victory.
To all sisters pre or post-surgery, be it emotional, spiritual, mental, financial or physical surgery, in the words of Amy Bloom – “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
Have you had a myomectomy or know someone who has? Was there an experience that’s not on this list? Do share!
Photo Credit: © Mariusz Szczawinski | Dreamstime.com