Looking back at my recent myomectomy operation, I would like to share with you just a few things about the fibroid condition.
I have read a lot of books and literature about it, tried numerous methods to tackle it and was almost sent to the hospital to remove my uterus entirely. Luckily, the book “The Hysterectomy Hoax: The Truth About Why Many Hysterectomies Are Unnecessary and How to Avoid Them, 3rd Edition”by Stanley West, has given me a very good picture of the “hysterectomy industry” and how doctors prefer to go with this less-time-consuming (and thus more cost-effective) procedure instead of preserving a woman’s uterus by opting for myomectomy. As a very experienced gynecological surgeon, West gives a convincing conclusion in his book:
There is no such thing as an impossible myomectomy. The size of the fibroids don’t make a difference. In fact, removing one big fibroid is often easier than removing lots of little ones…. Any woman with fibroids can have the tumors removed, her uterus reconstructed, and all her organs preserved.
What a relief to hear that when I was presented with the choices of hysterectomy and myomectomy. Some of the surgeons I had consulted in the past five years told me horror stories that put me off the thoughts of any surgery at all! Some of them said that the fibroids I had were so big that it would lead to a lot of blood loss during the surgery, and I was advised to undergo several expensive hormonal injections (Lupron) prior to the surgery to shrink the tumors. One of the side effects of Lupron is depression. Having suffered from it numerous times in my life, I certainly wouldn’t want to put myself in that condition voluntarily.
The blood loss concern turned out to be easily addressable, as Stanley West pointed out in his book, that a certain injection—Pitressin—can greatly reduce blood loss during the surgery. I checked with my surgeon—the 10th one and the one I finally chose—and he confirmed that he would be using this on me.
The concern about the huge size of my fibroids and the difficulty with which they could be removed is also addressed in the book (see quote above). My surgeon’s response to the big size of my fibroids (one of which turned out to be 18cm long with an “extension”—combined with another orange-sized one; plus one more that is at least 9cm long) was “calm”—he did not dramatize the difficulty at all and told me with a matter-of-fact kind of confidence that he would be able to preserve my uterus. (I did ask him again while at the operating theater and he gave me a very convincing “Yes”!) What great news! I was sure at that point that this would be the surgeon of my choice.
I also had a minor concern about the healing of the abdominal muscles and scars post surgery. However, West wrote about a modern type of sutures—“subcuticular stitches” with a tape on the surface of the skin. I further confirmed it with my surgeon and this was indeed what he was going to do. My scar turned out to be about 6 inches long, below the bikini line, similar to the scar of a Cesarean session (but not sure if it is longer?). Anyway, it is much less conspicuous than I had imagined.
Rationales For and Against Hysterectomy
When some of the specialists I consulted with suggested hysterectomy, they gave me a few “rationales”: (1) that I’m over 40 and am not planning to have children anymore; (2) that the fibroids were making so many holes in the uterus that it would be “extremely difficult” to salvage the organ; (3) and that there would be chances for the fibroids to grow back should I opt to keep my uterus.
The idea of the uterus’ function being solely for reproduction is refuted by research that has been done over the years, including the revolutionary study by Masters and Johnson’s regarding the libido and the uterus. Their bold research revealed that the uterus is an indispensable organ that is required for females to reach orgasm. Of course, those women who have undergone hysterectomy and said they are not bothered by it are the ones who have never experienced uterine contractions/orgasms and therefore do not know what they are missing.
One very important source of information that deterred me from going for a hysterectomy is the HERS Foundation (Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services). Its website includes many testimonials of women who have experienced extremely negative conditions—both physical and emotional—after hysterectomy.
The foundation has made an educational video about the female anatomy and how the uterus serves our female body:
One point that stuck with me is the fact that the uterus is an important muscular organ that plays a crucial role in supporting our skeletal system. In other words, our spine cannot function properly without the support of this organ that is at the base of the trunk. (Don’t underestimate its strength!) My initial thought of undergoing surgery was that the huge fibroids were obstructing my pelvic region and making my alignment totally out of place (anterior pelvic tilt), so much so that going on with my ballet training was a constant struggle.
However, if I were to remove my uterus, the consequences would be even worse! There might be a collapse in the spinal structure. So how on earth would I be able to carry on with my ballet training—my great passion?
Before I made up my mind about surgery, I found myself chatting with a high-school friend who underwent a hysterectomy a couple of years ago. She told me she was forced to retire from her job last year because she was unable to sit or stand for more than 15 minutes straight. I feel sorry for her. After learning about the muscular-skeletal role that the uterus plays, I have been able to connect the dots and realized that her condition is due to the hysterectomy. Unfortunately she still does not seem to understand this point and did not warn me against hysterectomy then.
This post is mostly about the physiological and practical aspects of myomectomy and hysterectomy. I would like to talk more about the emotional/psychological aspects when I have a chance. Please drop me a comment if you have any experience to share. If you know someone who is suffering from uterine fibroids, please pass this blog post along. Thank you!
To find out how I went from trying to treat my fibroids in an non-invasive, natural matter to opting for a surgery, please go to my previous post.
Update: Here is the post in which I talk about the emotional/psychological aspects of the fibroid condition:
“The Spiritual Lesson My Illness Gave Me”