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After my myomectomy came the next challenge – a six-week recovery at home. Below is a week-by-week recap of my recovery process. If you or someone you know is facing this surgery, I hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect on the other side. (TL;DR – catch the vlog here.)
My 6-Week Myomectomy Recovery Process
Week 1 – Recovery requires grace
Pain Level: 3
Challenges: Anesthesia side effects, abdominal pain, and LOTS of gas.
Milestones: I lived to tell about it. LOL. I also started hormone pills.
Week 1 was the most physically challenging week of my recovery. Most activities hurt. Getting up hurt. Sitting for too long hurt. Laughing and coughing were terrible. However, I was able to move around surprisingly well. As I was warned, my lungs were indeed a bit “lazy” from the anesthesia. It was scary sometimes to not be able to catch my breath. Whenever I wasn’t sleeping, I tried to walk around my house as much as I could.
Our abs do a lot for us and having those “help muscles” compromised makes life challenging. For the first few days, I needed a lot of help to do basic things. I needed help doing anything that required bending, like showering and putting on my underwear and socks. The Foley bulb in my uterus didn’t hurt, but it was extraordinarily annoying to maneuver around.
My appetite was also noticeably different. I wasn’t terribly hungry, to begin with, but I noticed I had a marked decline in sugar cravings. For context, I noticed a big uptick in “needing something sweet” over the last year or two. Post-op, I craved more fresh fruits and veggies and lean protein. I fully expected to gain weight from laying around. Per my medical reports, I went into surgery weighing almost 179.9 lbs. By the end of Week 1, I weighed 166.8; I’m not 100% sure why.
On Day 8, the emotional challenges of recovery became real to me. I had my first bout of ugly crying. This time it was because the feeling of confinement set in. I’m accustomed to coming and going freely, and the idea of being confined to the first floor of my house (much less the entire house) was a struggle.
- Make sure you have physical AND emotional support.
- Invest in a pregnancy pillow, like this one. This pillow was invaluable in propping me up to sleep. I was also able to detach the smaller portion and use it as a brace for things like car rides and laughing, coughing, and sneezing.
- Get all the hospital goodies. I wish I had gotten more mesh panties, as they were most comfortable on my vertical incision and swollen belly. I also found the cotton feminine pads to be more comfortable than normal ones. (The Peri bottle and peppermint oil would have been the cherry on top, but I digress.)
Week 2 – Movement around promotes healing
Pain Level: 2
Challenges: Discomfort while sleeping
Milestones: No more painkillers. I climbed the stairs with assistance and left the house for the first time. Good riddance, Foley balloon!
My pain began to level off a bit, but I still had lots of trapped gas and shortness of breath. In addition to Colace and Gas-X, peppermint tea provided some relief for the former. I also pretty much quit the painkillers. I had been taking them at night to make sure I wouldn’t be awakened by the pain, but the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.
For the record: I. HATE. PERCOCET.
In my experience, it didn’t make me feel much better than over-the-counter drugs and it made me wake up feeling like death. I didn’t feel much better after taking the Ibuprofen. Given that I was taking a cocktail of five or six different pills, it was nice to quit two of them.
In terms of activity, I did clear my first milestone: climbing stairs. I was in no hurry to do so at that point, but it was nice to know I could. The downside was that I developed a persistent pain in one of my hips. At this point, I still had to sit and sleep almost upright, so I couldn’t adjust my position to try to get relief.
Most importantly, on Day 12, I got my Foley catheter balloon removed! My doctor enlightened me on something important: my shortness of breath at this point was trapped gas. She recommended that I up my dosage of Colace and try Miralax for extra relief. This was also my first time leaving the house in 10 days, and hubs treated me to a nice brunch at First Watch. That really lifted my spirits.
- Keep moving around and regularly using your spirometer.
- Colace (docusate sodium) and Gas-X are your friends. Gas might be the most uncomfortable part of recovery, so getting relief from it is half the battle. Peppermint tea is also a soothing, non-medicated alternative.
- Get a recovery planner/journal. I made one to help me keep up with my medication, movement, mood, and more. I also used the empty space to journal about my experience and the questions I had. You can purchase your own printable copy here!
Week 3 – Mental Health is part of recovery
Pain level: 1
Challenges: Major cabin fever. Actual fever (faux hot flashes, much?)
Milestones: Light cooking
By the beginning of Week 3, I had lost another 3 lbs. I decided to seize the opportunity to reset my healthy eating journey. My mom took me to the grocery store to walk around and pick up our favorite foods and healthy snacks.
My husband went back to work this week, so I had the pleasure of being kept company by my mom. Binge-watching shows and having deep conversations into the late hours of the night was a real treat. It was also timely, as my mental health began to take a bit of a dive.
Being the person primarily in charge of our household matters (as most women are), I started to notice all the things that weren’t getting done. I couldn’t stand the fact that I couldn’t do anything about a lot of it. One thing that did help was my mom helping me to do the things I COULD do. We cooked our meals together, with me doing the things I was able to do, and her doing the rest.
- Do what you can. Gradually testing my abilities helped rehabilitate my mind and made me feel better about my confinement.
- Get out. Fresh air also does the mind good.
Week 4 – Nourish to flourish
Pain Level: 1
Challenges: Soreness around the incision. Fatigue.
Milestones: Soft return to church. Down 16 pounds.
During Week 4, I tried to pick up the pace becoming more self-sufficient, as I would soon be alone for the first time. I successfully drove a short distance for the first time. I wasn’t in a hurry to take on a full adventure, but I was glad that I’d be able to in case of an emergency.
My pain level had dropped to about a 1. My incision was healing nicely, but I still had occasional soreness, especially at night. I also started progesterone pills this week. The faux hot flashes dissipated at this point.
Also, for the first time ever, I tried weighing my food. With Noom, I learned that I can eat anything I want in moderation, but I quite frankly hadn’t been moderating very well just before my surgery. I took a stab at weighting my food to help me better grasp my sense of portion sizes and stay inside my calorie goal. By the end of the week, I was down another 2 lbs.
- Feed yourself well. Your body needs nutrients to heal, so eat! But this is also a great time to reset and make sure you’re getting a balanced diet of healthy food (and treats!).
- If you can muster up the energy, take care of your hair or get some help to do so. I put in some rope twists that lasted my entire recovery. The hair itself was a lifesaver (see my review here), but not maintaining it caused me some breakage after the fact. Remember: our hair still needs TLC, even in a protective style.
Week 5 – Reset and refresh
Pain Level: 0
Challenges: Pants. Vampire sleep schedule.
Milestones: Increased endurance
I sat for my first full-length movie in a theater and wore pants for the first time! Wearing pants was a bit overrated, LOL. I made an attempt to reset my sleep schedule; I was utterly unsuccessful, LOL.
- Don’t go chasing zippers; stick to the leggings and maxi dresses you’re used to.
Week 6 – From recovery to normalcy
Challenges: Incision soreness
Milestones: Side-sleeping for short periods.
By this point, I felt mostly normal, but not quite. I still had bouts of fatigue. My incision was healing, but it still irritated me at times. Also, of note, I could finally sleep on my side for periods of time.
I took my first car trip this week, and it was relatively uneventful. Although I had passed the threshold for heavy lifting, I decided to be kind and honest with myself. I wasn’t yet ready to try strength training, but I did manage to complete three sessions of light machine cardio.
- Aquafor is great for soothing sore, itchy skin while you’re healing.
- Just because the calendar says “Day 42” does not mean your body will. Listen to your body, not the schedule.
Week 7 and forward
One of the litmus tests many of us follow for this type of surgery is the first menstrual period. Will it be heavy? Should I expect pain? Will it be long? After much anxious waiting, my period finally came around Week 7. I must say, my first period and the one following were quite possibly the easiest I have ever had. They were both short, light and virtually painless. Prayerfully, my periods will stay that way.
At this point, I have driven my first car trip, completed my first light weight-training sessions, and even worked a full day of wedding makeup. Three months post-op, my sleep pattern is still weird and I do have random bouts of fatigue. I’m also grateful that it is spring and I don’t really need to wear pants, LOL. The good days outweigh the bad days, though, and I have zero regrets about having my surgery.
I hope you have enjoyed this three-part series covering my journey with fibroids. Please be sure to share this with a woman you love.