A lot of the medical aspects of this blog are about the things that go wrong. But a lot of things also go right. It is amazing what can happen in the span of a single day.
I returned home this afternoon, just before the weather got really bad, from St. Barnabas Medical Center in Essex County, New Jersey—an extremely busy hospital where I had my da Vinci total robotic hysterectomy just yesterday morning.
Full procedure: Total subradical (terms differ) laparoscopic hysterectomy using the da Vinci robot with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, pelvic and para-aortic lymph node dissection, and cystoscopy and lavage. In other words, he removed the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and lymph nodes delivered through a vaginal cuff incision; he also inspected and washed out the bladder to make sure nothing was in there, including any damage from the surgery. I say this was a “subradical” hysterectomy because in more advanced cases the parametrium—the area on either side of the uterus—and the upper part of the vagina may also be removed; they weren’t in my case.
The doctor said that the area looked “clean” following the surgery, but that a couple of the lymph nodes were enlarged, and he didn’t know why. I return to see him in 10 days, when he will review the pathology report with me and the need for any further treatment, which would mean radiation therapy. He said about 30% of cases like mine require radiation, so I’m hoping I’m in the other 70%.* The bladder was fine.
However, I do have to give myself daily injections of enoxaparin (Lovenox), an anticoagulant that helps prevent the formation of blood clots, particularly the type called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). They said because of the combination of my age and the diagnosis, I need to do these daily injections for 30 days to prevent DVT-caused pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs). (I did my first injection in the hospital today—it wasn’t too bad, although the thought of any more pointy things going into my body does not thrill me.)**
I am exhausted after the past few days—colonoscopy and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) on Wednesday, and all of the above yesterday. But incredibly, I’m pretty much OK. It’s hard to tell right now, but most of my pain seems to be caused by the gas from abdominal insufflation.
I have six “holes” scattered around my abdomen that were closed with dissolving sutures under the skin and a surgical bond (adhesive) on the outside, and these are a little sore—it’s hard to cough, for instance (although, thankfully, my lungs are clear). The woman in the bed next to me had a partial hysterectomy done abdominally, and she was weeping and wailing and in much worse shape pain-wise than I was. One of her relatives said, as I was dressed and ready to leave this afternoon, that I didn’t even look as if I’d had anything done. I am tender and tired, but am mobile and able to resume regular activities as tolerated. I have no dietary restrictions and can do stairs a couple of times a day. This evening, I can even take a shower—yeah!
After I am rested, I will share more details about the hospital stay—a few things did surprise me, unpleasantly. But overall, everything seems to have gone well. Because of my age, I am not really grieving the loss of my reproductive organs, which I did when I entered menopause. My heart goes out to women of childbearing age who undergo hysterectomy, and I will ever be grateful that the “fruit of my womb,” my wonderful son, Matt, came into the world before my uterus was retired.***
I certainly am learning a lot about things I never gave much thought to before . . . but I’m thinking about them now.
Thank you all again for your support.
*Update: I did require follow-up radiation (brachytherapy) because the tumor had invaded two-thirds of the uterine muscle, although, thankfully, it did not extend beyond it. See Radiation Therapy – My Story & More.
**Update: My surgeon said I could stop the injections after 2 weeks; the need for them was not clearcut.