I’m often asked about how I started HysterSisters.com. When I started it. How I decided to add this or that. Here is my story and I’m sticking to it.
My mother died of ovarian cancer in 1982. Her mother had died of breast cancer when she was a young woman. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was some news about the genetic connection between ovarian and breast cancers. Genetic testing, if it was around then, was not available. Both my OB/GYN and my sister’s, encouraged us to have an oophorectomy (ovaries removed) by the age of 40. Back then, it was not typical to have an oophorectomy without the uterus too – so it was assumed. We would have prophylactic hysterectomies and oophorectomies and have yearly mammograms.
My sister hit 40 first along with her hysterectomy. A few years later I followed.
I thought I knew what to expect but when I was recovering I had all sorts of questions about my day to day aches or twinges.
Then internet was relatively new and I tried to find information online about hysterectomy but came up lacking. I did find an awesome group of women online through AOL message boards that were recovering from their hysterectomies too. We swapped stories and questions and answers. We compared recoveries and incisions. We talked about hormone therapy. We complained about our swollen bellies.
I had taught myself a little bit of HTML and decided to take our frequently asked questions and create a list for a static website on the world wide web. This was a risk because in my little world, AOL was THE internet. But I somehow understood that there was a part of the internet users that didn’t have access to our little group on AOL. So, I launched HysterSisters – named after some Bedtime Time Stories I had written for my AOL friends that I called The Sisters of Hyster or HysterSisters.
So, in August of 1998, I put up the website with a list of frequently asked questions about the hysterectomy from a patient point of view and my bedtime stories. I added a simple guest book. At the end of the first year, I discovered that my visitors were using the guestbook to communicate with each other. They asked more questions. They answered each other.
Quickly, I searched for a message board for HysterSisters. I found a simple one – because back in 1998-1999 there wasn’t much to choose from. Many of my friends from the old AOL message board helped in the forum discussions. After only a short few months, we had to find something more robust and for a short period of time we moved onto a new community software and then by early 2000 we were on a shared hosting plan with a brand new software called vBulletin. (It was so new – I’m actually a charter member, I think!)
And its interesting to note that we started with only a few forums. Over the years as the traffic grew and the needs increased, we added forums as needed.
In short order, we grew our member numbers to 3000 then 5000 then 10,000 then 15,000.
Everytime I could add a new feature, I did! We asked for hysterectomy dates during registration so we could send timed email messages to our members to help them with specific information when they need it. We created a member survey that has helped to watch for changes in trends of hormone therapies and hysterectomy types.
The success of HysterSisters is truly because I have surrounded myself with awesome people. Awesome hostesses volunteer their time to watch over the discussion. An extremely talented web-developer, Logician, took over my html code and added his php and scripting ability to make the website perform as it should with added functions and features. Other women behind the scenes help answer email, ship store packages, organize and train new hostesses, write our newsletter, tweet for twitter and update our Facebook!
Today we have over 225,000 members with over 3,300,000 posts! We have over 15,000 daily unique visitors (and sometimes over 20,000!) and we keep right on going.
Each woman makes the difference in the lives of other women when they take the time to ask their questions or answer other members questions, offering comfort and kindness. It’s truly the best of human kind!
I’m still happy that every day I get to “work” at HysterSisters.com. Thank YOU for making it possible!