Three years ago I started having problems that prevented me from running. Embarrassing and painful {she whispers, head to the side, hand over mouth} urinary tract problems. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what was causing them, and I didn’t really want to tell anyone about them in order to find out. Two years ago, I started noticing how much more I was swelling up on a monthly basis, and for how much longer. I also developed chronic UTI issues. At that point, I could no longer really bicycle, because the pressure on my intimate parts always hurt, in a way that it never had before and was not tolerable. My husband and I had always made running and bicycling (and to a lesser extent swimming) our date time, so it was a blow to have life whittle me away in this area. Because he wasn’t going to stop spending the time taking care of himself, but now it was time apart instead of time growing closer. One year ago, I began having problems during, shall we say, intimate moments with my beloved. Painful, painful problems. Talk about whittling away couple hood, right?

I had some kind of critter in my belly, and it was consuming my life.

So what did I do about it? Honestly, I mostly denied it and excused it and waited for it to go away. But it never did.

My ob/gyn said it was probably fibroids. Felt like it, with the above-described issues and others too mundane to list. Looked like it on sonogram. He could take out the whole kit and caboodle if I wanted. My choice. Not an emergency. Wouldn’t go away with menopause, whenever that came, but it would be less bad, probably.

I decided in a surge of bravado that I would maybe have it alllll removed, when I got back from the 2014 summer book tour. As soon as I reached this momentous decision and returned, though, Susanne got very sick. So I put it off. Then I put it off again to go to Bora Bora for our anniversary (with a lot of Azo in my suitcase). Then I put it off again because it hadn’t killed me to put it off before, and my husband needed support for a heavy travel, high stress, big work hours period with his job. Then it got so bad that for several months in a row, I was nearly incapacitated for two weeks. The swelling was unreal, but it barely went down during the “good” weeks, and I was just so tired. I felt awful. I normally walk (not run anymore, mind you, because that ended three years ago over urinary tract pain and other related issues) five miles a day with my little sweetie Petey, but there was at least a week each month where we didn’t make it one painful mile.

Not a critter. A monster.

Crazy, right? To let it go so long. How could it be so easy to let myself feel so bad, when I knew there was a solution? I can’t explain it completely. I do hate surgery. I do hate interruptions to my schedule and productivity. But it was something more. I hated the idea of taking out the very thing that made me female. The baby oven. The place that my bratty kids had resided for nine and eight months, respectively. The thing that filled the special space where it was supposed to be, that, if removed, would leave a hole, emotionally, that I didn’t know how to fill. It’s not like I thought I’d have another child at forty-eight. God forbid that I should have another child, at any age! Between us, Eric and I raised five, and we think that’s plenty. It was just that the thought that I was choosing to say it was completely over, that this chapter in my life was complete, and that I would move into the next chapter whether I wanted to or not. Not the final one yet, but closer to final. And I would do so feeling less, well, womanly, even if it was nuts to feel that way, even if that was my own psychoses and no one else’s. Even if I didn’t have cancer and wasn’t losing my breasts, too, and needed to woman-up and just deal with the problem.

So a month ago I went in to my doctor again. This time I was told, “We’re scheduling taking this out next month. It’s abnormal. It’s more than twice the size it should be and enlarging quickly. It has to come out.”

I walked and cried and gnashed my teeth and finished my next book and tried to think about it as little as possible and talked to no one about it really, not even my sweetheart of a husband, other than in passing, because he has been gone since January, even when he’s home, under that crushing work load that’s put our lives as a couple in a quasi-suspended state, no matter how hard we try to make up for it. There was his work to worry about, too. I had wanted to put this off until it wouldn’t interrupt his work schedule.

But I didn’t get to choose anymore. It was choosing for me. The critter or monster or whatever it was that used to be my uterus.

Last week, I went in for the big H. As far as hysterectomies go (and in answer to Eric’s question about why they’re not called HERSterectomies—which was funny, especially for an engineer—I would note that it is because its name was coined as a cure for HYSTERIA), mine was the easy kind. Through the downstairs trap door. They didn’t even have to go in through the belly button with the gas, so I had no external cuts. What I did have was apparently a beat up unit now triple the size it should be. {I knew my kids hated me. Now I have proof.} Actually, think of mine—the creature my uterus had become—if you must think of it at all, as a baby possum, especially because my doc said it was “hyper mobile” and “pummeled” the systems in front and back of it, which led to a lot of repair of these (unnamed but you can guess, I’m sure) essential areas. Bad possum, bad, bad. Possum in a sling shot. Possum gone wild. My doc blamed it on fibroids and especially on adenomyosis, something I’d never heard of and didn’t really understand, even when it was explained to me by my doc and Google/Mayo Clinic. It was a long surgery, and an even longer and more eventful time in recovery, but it was a successful one, for which I should rejoice.

Only I’m not rejoicing yet. I’m feeling victimized by the damn possum.

I’m crying, and I’m fragile, and I’m slightly homicidal, and I’m panting and lightheaded and can’t lift anything worth lifting. These are probably all things I should expect, because you don’t bounce back in a week. More like six weeks. Or for some women, a year. (Bad possum, bad, bad.)

So I’m dialing my type-A-to-the-max self back, and I’m resetting priorities and expectations, and I’m letting people help me, and I’m trying to be someone I’ve never been before, in preparation to become someone else I’ve never been before either: a woman, but without her possum, which is what I’ve latched onto thinking of it as, despite the alliteration with the other derogatory P word of two syllables in an area not far from where my possum used to reside. Because it makes it easier that way, to think of it as a little devil that was wreaking havoc in my abdomen instead of as what it really was.

That’s all I’ve got.



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18 Responses to My Little Possum

  1. Jeanne Matney Zimmerman via Facebook says:

    I had my hysterectomy (kept my ovaries) 12 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did for my sense of wellbeing. I had a total of 5 repair procedures along with my hysterectomy (thank you childbirth x 3.) I jokingly called it my Extreme Makeover. I felt like hell for about a week post surgery. And I was a total invalid for 4 weeks- and followed my dr’s orders to the letter. Which is boring but worth it. About the 4th week post op, I felt great – better than I’d felt in years. I hope your recovery is smooth and you soon feel better than you’ve felt in years.

    • Pamela says:

      Extreme Makeover–I love it!
      My doc has me up doing light housework and walking as in around the neighborhood at one week. I think it’s because I had no muscular cuts. And because he’s a hard ass.
      I already hurt so much less 9 days post surgery than I did the day before I had it. Unreal. How was I living like that?

  2. Eric Hutchins says:

    I hate that you waited so long, in large part because of me and my schedule. I am so happy that you are through the surgery and the first awful week now and that you are starting to see signs of improvement. I am also relieved that you have slowed down (so far), (Thank God you got Emily #2 done and sent to the Editor). And I desperately NEEEED you to keep it slow for a while. I worry so much about you and your incredible drive to DO, and that it might get in the way of you healing.
    And with regards to your Woman-Ness, you are the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing, gorgeous creature on the planet, (possum or no possum) and you are TODAY 100% an incredible WOMAN.

  3. Patricia Simants Hanken via Facebook says:

    Don’t feel lonely Pamela. I had to have mine removed too. My flow was really bad. We were at my husbands company Christmas party one year and I felt this gush. I never felt so embarrassed in my life. Thankfully I had a longer coat that hid my mess. I do not miss it at all! Hopefully, in time, you will feel the same.

  4. Patricia Simants Hanken via Facebook says:

    Don’t feel lonely Pamela. I had to have mine removed too. My flow was really bad. We were at my husbands company Christmas party one year and I felt this gush. I never felt so embarrassed in my life. Thankfully I had a longer coat that hid my mess. I do not miss it at all! Hopefully, in time, you will feel the same.

    • Pamela says:

      I think when my hormones calm down I probably won’t miss it at all. Had a doc appointment yesterday and was shocked to realize it hurt less one week after surgery–without painkillers, and with a God awful number of stitches inside–than it did every day for the six months before. What we learn to normalize/ignore, right? So sorry about your incident. Thank goodness for long coats!!!

  5. Gay Yellen says:

    Please don’t rush it. Six weeks after mine, I was scaling Cinque Terre, and I felt like I was going to die right there, overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean. I made peace with the fact that it was not a bad sight to be one’s last.

    I didn’t die (!), but it took a loooong sit-down before I could make it to the next town and catch the train back. Long story short: not too long from now, you’re going to feel much better. Just don’t think you’re 100% ready for anything until you’re sure.

    • Pamela says:

      You have described the surprising feeling perfectly. Isn’t it just like someone has completely removed your energy core? I’ve had surgeries before. This is different. It is a wipeout. And an emotional wallop.

  6. Sandra Wiggins says:

    Are you on replacement estrogen or have you discussed it and ruled it out? I had mine out abdominally 13 years ago, and I’ve never missed it – but I would miss the estrogen.

  7. Thank goodness having babies is not what makes you a woman – think of all the women who can’t have them and who are strong women. Think of cross-dressers, who are more woman than most women. OK maybe not but hope it made you smile. Darlink, you are as Eric described – a beautiful, wonderful, amazing, gorgeous, woman – possum-full or possum-less!! You need to learn to take better care of Pamelot so she’ll be around a long, long time. L-O-N-G!! Yes, I am selfish – need more Emily books. Many, many more.

    • Pamela says:

      Very true: baby making doesn’t make a woman. Yet I can’t separate mine from the experience, having had it. It’s a tricky thing, this emotional journey. <3

  8. Marcy McKay says:

    Just read this and loved your honesty about not wanting the surgery, fearing the change it made…all of the above. xo – m3

  9. […] then I had my hysterectomy (do you like how I manage to throw that in to every blog post??) and I was stuck in bed. We […]

  10. […] date/boyfriend. Same outfit as above. Yeah, whatever, Fashion Police. I’m recovering from a hysterectomy and my gut doesn’t fit into anything else yet. […]

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