An Open Myomectomy and LOTS of Fibroids – My Fibroid Story (Part 2)
This is the second part of my fibroid story, covering how I prepared for my myomectomy surgery and how it went. For more information about fibroids, how I was diagnosed, and what led to my open myomectomy, check out part 1 here.
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If you’d like to casually listen to me chat about this part of my journey, check out my YouTube video here.
The state of my uterine fibroids warranted a myomectomy, which is a surgery to remove uterine fibroids. Surgeons can perform a myomectomy in a few different ways, ranging from less invasive to very invasive. For example:
- Laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy – the surgeon removes fibroids through multiple small incisions in your belly
- Hysteroscopic myomectomy – the surgeon accesses the uterus through the vagina and cervix to remove fibroids
- Abdominal (open) myomectomy – fibroids are removed through one incision in the abdomen
Given the number, size, and location of my fibroids, the open procedure was the best option for my case.
Preparing for surgery
Understand the financial impact of your myomectomy
I sprung into action preparing as soon as I found out I was having an open myomectomy to remove my fibroids. The first step I took was to make sure our finances were in order. This may seem secondary to the health aspect of the surgery, but understanding the costs of your surgery and how they align with your household finances is key.
Even though I spent a decade in the health insurance industry, navigating this process was 100% difficult. We don’t have traditional health insurance, so we self-paid for this surgery. There are several components at play with billing a surgery – your actual surgeon (professional), the anesthesiologist, the hospital (facility), and the labs. If you self-pay, some of these folks won’t bill you until later, but some of them want their money upfront.
I also had to sit down and balance our other financial obligations against this surgery. Casper and I both work for ourselves.
The good news: neither of us had to ask for FMLA or any kind of medical leave.
The tough news: when we don’t work, we don’t get paid.
We needed to budget to make sure our bills would be covered while I recovered and my husband, Casper, took time to help me.
Line up help for your recovery
My surgeon told me up front that an open myomectomy has a four to the six-week recovery period. Other women who had had this procedure warned me that the recovery would be tough, especially for the first few weeks. You can’t drive until you can physically and mentally react. Lifting heavy things is out of the question for 6 weeks. You will absolutely need help. Thankfully, my husband was around for some of the time, but when he had to go back to work, my Mom came to help.
If you have someone who can be there for you the whole time, great. If not, at least try to have someone for the first 3 weeks or so. As a matter of fact, line up more than one person if possible.
Get your house in order
This is the part I really wish I had been able to work on more, but what I did do was worth it.
- Clean up. You know the dust bunnies that moved in while you were paying attention to more pressing things? This is the time to evict them. Maybe your house is showroom ready at all times – good for you. If you are like the rest of us, take time to do as much tidying as possible. You want to come home to a peaceful place to recover. You also want to make sure your help can focus on helping YOU and can navigate your home without waking you up to ask questions.
- Prepare your recovery area. Along the same lines as #1, set up your recovery room or area to be as efficient as possible. For example, I set up a basket by my bedside specifically to hold my meds, so I wouldn’t have to get up to take them. My underwear is stored in a drawer in the lower part of my closet. I set up another basket on a higher surface near the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to bend to get them, and so they would be nearby to be put on with a pad after I showered.
- Stock your fridge/freezer. I have made it a habit of grabbing whatever meat is marked down at Target, and it really paid off during my recovery. I also made a grocery order for any fresh food we would need for the first few days. My mom cooked almost all our meals while she was here. Having a pantry stocked with staples (and some of her favorite foods) made eating healthily and within the budget so much easier.
- Do a bit of self-maintenance. I installed a set of rope twists on my hair prior to surgery. This was a lifesaver. I didn’t have to do anything substantial to my hair until a month later. I also got my eyebrows arched and treated myself to a facial and pedicure.
- Put together a contact list. You should have several opportunities to sure up your emergency contacts with your doctor and the hospital, but make sure your emergency contacts have their information. You will want the doctors to be able to communicate updates to someone while you are on the operating table and after. Also, if you have service professionals at home or bills that need to be paid, make sure this information is available.
Ask all the questions about your myomectomy
You will speak with several clinical professionals leading up to your surgery. I got a call from the anesthesia team and the pre-admission team to get my health history and provide me with pre-surgery instructions. You will also have a pre-operation appointment with your surgeon and a pre-admission appointment a few days before your procedure. Ask as many questions as you need to feel prepared and comfortable. The surgical consent form I signed had a clause confirming that I understood the procedure and all the risks. When I attended my pre-op appointment, I had my surgeon review this again with my husband present, so we both understood. I actually asked questions up until the minute they administered my anesthesia! Surgery is a serious matter; make sure you are informed and comfortable.
Pack your hospital bag
If you have an open myomectomy, you will probably have a hospital stay of one to three days. That said, pack what you need, but don’t overdo it. The main areas to check for are toiletries, clothes to be discharged in, and devices and accessories.
If you need more specifics on what to pack for your surgery, check out the YouTube video linked at the top of this post and grab my Pre-Surgery Packing List below.
What happened before my myomectomy?
My surgery was scheduled for 7 am on a Thursday morning. I checked in at 5 am and the time went quickly from there. After I gave a urine sample and got settled into a pre-op room, there was a revolving door of doctors, nurses, and other professionals to prepare me for surgery. When my surgeon and the surgical nurse came in, she took the time to review my surgery plan again. Because my husband and my mom were able to come with me, they were able to hear things firsthand and ask any last-minute questions. The surgical nurse also took my husband’s information to be able to provide updates.
In the week leading up to my surgery, I started to feel a bit nervous. After all, the only other surgery I had gone through was my wisdom teeth removal 17 years prior. I wondered, “What if something goes horribly wrong?” “What if they have to take my uterus?”What if I don’t wake up?” I also started to question whether I had pushed hard enough for alternative treatment options. So, when my surgeon came in on the morning of, I asked her where the fibroids were. With a grave disposition, she responded, “EVERWHERE.”
The last professionals I saw prior to surgery were my anesthesia team. One of the most comforting things that day was when my CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) came into the room declaring that God was in control of my surgery. I had no idea whether anyone involved with my surgery professed the same faith as I do, so it immediately set my mind at ease to know someone in the room was praying and believing God for my healing. They soon began wheeling me down the hall to the operating room. I don’t remember anything else from that point until I woke up in the Post-anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).
What happened during my open myomectomy?
My surgery took about four hours to complete. Prior to surgery, my surgeon had planned to do both an open myomectomy and a hysteroscopy to take a look at my ovaries and fallopian tubes. She decided that it didn’t make sense to do the hysteroscopy since I was already cut open. I’m thankful she saved me the additional trauma (and the money). She also did not know whether my incision would be the common horizontal (similar to a C-section) or a vertical incision. By the time I went into surgery, I had a 16-week uterus. I woke up with a vertical incision between my belly button and my pubic bone.
My surgeon also did a few things on the table that I believe aided greatly in my recovery. As planned, she injected me with antibiotics and painkillers. She also inserted a catheter balloon into my uterus to help prevent scarring.
Recovering from my open myomectomy
When I woke up in the PACU, I was in pain, but not nearly as much as I anticipated. I was then rolled to my room, where my family was waiting on me. I was barely lucid when my husband asked, “You wanna know how many they got?” The answer? 45.
I had 45 fibroids removed from my uterus.
If you’d like to see what fibroids look like, click here.
Needless to say, this was incredibly surprising to me. (I later found out my surgeon was NOT surprised.)
My first day in the hospital was…interesting. The food was terrible.
Every time I fell asleep I was either awakened by nurses taking my vitals or drawing blood. Or the doggoned IV machine. When the CRNA in training came to place my IV, he ended up having to put it in my right arm. The pole was placed on the left of the bed, presumable to make it easier for me to get out of it if needed. I am right-handed, so whenever I would make the slightest move, the IV machine would start screaming about being obstructed.
Speaking of not sleeping, the most pressing matter (no pun intended) was my bladder. Being able to urinate on my own was a prerequisite to being discharged. I was determined to make this happen so I could get some sleep and some decent food. I attempted to go on my own a couple of times to no avail. The Peri bottle and peppermint oil were no match for my newly liberated bladder. Pain management was A+, but the worst pain I had was from not being able empty my overfilled cup. My doctor did not want me to have a urinary catheter due to the risk of infection, but it ended up being a necessity twice.
The next morning, my surgeon came back to check my incision and give me some post-op instructions. She gave me three options: try to go again, go home with a leg bag (catheter) to be emptied in two or three days, or stay another night in the hospital. The only option I considered was the first one. My mom had the bright idea to run the water, and it worked like a charm. By the time another inedible meal was being delivered to my room, I was on my way home.
Thank you for reading Part 2 of this series chronicling my fibroid journey, from diagnosis to surgery. In Part 3, I’ll take you through my 6-week recovery, week by week, and share my tips for making the process less challenging.