In March 2011, aged 46, I underwent a hysterectomy and BSO (ovarian removal). This was to relieve me of constant, clotted bleeding, ovarian cysts, fibroids and pain associated with severe endometriosis. Thankfully removing my uterus didn’t cause me too much grief as I had two daughters in my twenties.
Recovery from the keyhole surgery initially was a breeze. I was relatively healthy, at a good weight, and quite fit. Five days after the operation, menopausal symptoms hit with a vengeance. Flushes were new to me, as were constant migraines and general feelings of ‘cloudiness’ and anxiety. I held a senior role in a large organization, and while I had 2 months off post-surgery to recover, I wasn’t feeling on top of my game when I returned to work.
A few months of trying various HRTs (including bio-identicals) followed. I changed gynaecologists in order to find someone more sympathetic than the semi-retired male who had done the surgery (and who didn’t appear interested in any ongoing follow-up). Eventually finding out that my surgical records were incorrect, and that I needed some surgical repair-work done, was a surprise but quickly dealt with.
HRT had limited results and the endo pain continued so I retired from my job early in 2013. I have now been off work for nearly a year. During this time I’ve concentrated on slowing my pace of life. Despite researching extensively for answers, I found myself growing more and more frustrated that medical research was limited to the effects of certain types of HRT (but not all) and how they are used, and not to women’s wellbeing, particularly as to how our adrenal system supports us through menopause etc. It also seemed that estrogen appeared to be maintaining/growing the endo – so the consensus was I needed to stop taking it. It was time to take a rest and fully recover.
Over the months since coming off estrogen, the endo pain has ebbed and flowed; insomnia, anxiety, flushes and migraines have been a constant presence. Eventually my pragmatic GP prescribed amytriptilyn and citalopram so as to help manage most of the symptoms. Probably 60% of the time this stop-gap approach has worked effectively.
Since the surgery, I’ve consulted 3 gynaecologists, one menopause specialist, my GP, two naturopaths, one reflexologist (marvellous), three (quite wacky) alternative GPs, one specialist doctor friend (very helpful), one homeopath, a few online forums/books and close women friends in order to understand why my symptoms are so severe…and what options for treatment exist. I’ve changed my diet, limited intake of alcohol and now do gentle exercise, rather than running half-marathons every few months.
The menopause specialist, my women friends and my GP have been helpful during my recovery. Taking a practical approach to treating me while I fight off the last of the endometriosis and adjust to a new way of living has been most useful.
I have learned that every woman has a different story, with many complex factors impacting the ability to recover from surgery and to manage menopausal symptoms. I now realize I should have more fully researched gynaecologists before I had the surgery (although I still would have done it); I consider that gynaecologists are primarily surgeons, not HRT specialists; support from family and friends is critical; being rested BEFORE surgery would have allowed my adrenal glands to step up to do their job once the ovaries had gone; and most of all, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself.