The holiday season is upon us and before the year ends in a blur, I’m doing some self-reflection. There’s something to be said for memorializing one’s life. I gained a new appreciation for maintaining my blog while watching a youtuber passionately explain how important it is for everyone to document their lives in some way so as not to forget and to get the lessons. I wholeheartedly believe this. Not long ago, I was rereading my previous posts and in Take a leap, which I wrote as a mid-year reflection, I reminded myself of my “whys” and to keep going. My past me reminded the present (at the time) me of what the future me needed to do. A couple of months ago while in Chicago, my niece and I got on the topic of my blog and that conversation encouraged me to keep it going. So here I am again.
At the beginning of 2022, I was optimistic about my hysterectomy recovery. It feels like so long ago with all that’s happened this year. In my post Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery, I shared some updates on my progress. I will keep the same format in this post by focusing on my surgical recovery, menopause symptoms, and general health.
Surgical recovery – In January, my gynecologist completed a laparoscopic hysterectomy with oophorectomy (ovary removal) on my body. My uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries were removed. Translation: I no longer have these organs in my body. In the months leading up to the surgery, I thoroughly (so I thought) researched the procedure, but after the fact, I’m still learning about the implications of the surgery. The main takeaways are that I’ve healed well internally and the scaring from the 4 incisions are fading. However, I didn’t fully conceptualize how my body would adjust to the missing organs. Let that sink in. I do have more lower back pain than anticipated, especially within a few months post surgery. I didn’t realize my uterus and ovaries were supporting my frame and lower back. I’m more mindful about not overdoing it with exercise and other activities. That’s not to say I don’t overdo it sometimes, because I definitely do. However, I make it a point to soak in the tub and allow myself some extra rest whenever my lower back does hurt.
Menopause symptoms – Not much has changed here. I do get hot flashes throughout the day, but I still think they are manageable. I’ve learned to dress in layers and I keep a fan near me or on as much as possible. My husband, Bryan, says the ceiling fan irritates his sinuses so he’ll turn them all off. I have to gently remind him my body NEEDS the fan. But I do have a general sensitivity to being too hot or too cold, so sometimes a fan is too much. I’ve experienced cloudy thinking for years and what’s helped this last year is drinking an expresso or cappuccino a few times a week. In my research on the best foods for women during menopause, I learned that expressos are beneficial to women in menopause due to the antioxidants. I find that drinking one during the work day keeps me alert and more focused. Who knew that it wouldn’t be until I reached my late forties I would gain an appreciation for a form of coffee? I’ve spent practically my whole adult life not liking or drinking coffee at all. But there is a difference between coffee and expresso and my taste buds and body prefers the later. I enjoy them a few days a week because I’ve also noticed too much caffeine can ignite the dreaded hot flashes. I would probably drink more if I didn’t forget to make them by 2pm. My rule is if I don’t drink it by 2pm, then I’ll forego because I don’t want the caffeine to interfere with my sleep.
General Health – In the summer and fall, I’ve met with my oncologist, primary care physician (PCP), pulmonologist, and neurologist. That’s a lot of specialists for this little ole body. Overall, from an oncology and general medicine standpoint, I’m healthy. My blood work is impressive – all “between the lines”, as my oncologist would say. However, I’ve gained a new diagnosis – asthma and there is an outstanding issue that seems to be a residual consequence of the surgery (occasional stuttering) that needs to be addressed….hence the neurologist. I will have an MRI in a couple of weeks. Also, I’ve gained 10 pounds since the surgery. I’m not happy about it, but I know it’s a consequence of the hysterectomy. My PCP thinks my metabolism is low and she’s probably right. I’ve been working on extending myself some extra grace and have been intentional about focusing on other markers of health. I still continue to eat healthy, watch my portions, exercise 5-6 days a week (dance, yoga, HIIT, weights, stretch), and educate myself on what the right formula is for me. I refuse to give up, and though I could, I don’t want to engage in any extreme tactics. One thing I do not have under control and what I’ve been struggling with for years is the sleep. Perhaps that is the secret sauce that may help my hormones. I have developed a lovely nightly bed time routine, which includes filling my scented oil diffusers, lighting a candle, listening to music (Neo-Soul or meditation mostly), pampering my face, showering or bathing, and putting on one of my favorite lotions. Also, a big change is once I sleep, I tend to stay asleep (except for going to the restroom to pee); whereas in the past, I used to awaken in the middle of the night ruminating about things like work.
Overall – My body is adjusting and I’m still learning what will work best to keep me functioning at optimal levels. The surgery was the right choice for me. And as a 49-year old woman with no period, I have to say it’s quite empowering. I didn’t realize how much planning for, being on, and caring for my period occupied so much of my life. Now, I have other things to occupy my time. Additionally, I’ve been undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. I suppose this is common in mid-life. Despite no longer having a uterus which is the epicenter of creativity, my creative juices have been flowing. More to come on that.