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Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word? Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

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Unread 12-28-2001, 04:26 PM
Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

In my job, I oversee over 100 employees ranging in age from 16 to 70 and explaining what's up with my health has certainly been a challenge! I am only 35 and the Mom of a DD who just turned 11 on December 26. I have been very frank with my immediate management team ( a combination of single-gay-married w/kids&grandkids, married w/o kids..any combo you can imagine and they all have been wonderful....) But it is hard to decide how much to say to anyone, and when to say it is or is not your business...Help!
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Unread 12-28-2001, 08:44 PM
Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

I just wanted to add that on the few occasions where I said something vague like "I'll be having surgery" people got very worried. Of course, by my not saying what it was, they took the hint and didn't pry, but I could tell they were worried (Gee, what's wrong? is it for cancer? will she live?). They didn't ask, but it caused more apprehension than it prevented. I finally settled on saying cheerfully that "I'm having a hysterectomy, finally!" That immediately showed them I was OK with it, and not too worried.
Unread 12-28-2001, 10:41 PM
What Worked for Me

I've been pretty upfront about my hysterectomy,and I think that openness with friends and colleagues really helps to decrease the stigma. But with people I don't know well--say, neighbors who saw me with a cane immediately post-op, shopkeepers who asked why I was now home during the day, I told them:

"I had surgery for giant fibroids!"

They accepted that without requesting further details and just assumed that I had had a myomectomy. If your problems are ovarian, say you're having a cyst removed. If it's endo, say the surgery is to stop your monthly cramping. Believe me, most people WON'T press for details!!!!

SAH, vertical incision. kept ovaries
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Unread 12-29-2001, 03:06 AM

My experience with co-workers was this" I'm so sorry"! Why are they sorry I am not. At 47 and a year to prepare, this is a good thing not a sad one. I guess old stigmas die hard and people tend to look at hyst's as a death sentence of sorts, NOT!!! O'h contrarier!!(sp.) At 9 days post I feel much better already and look forward to my life. I have to say though that even my own mother falls a little short in understanding her comment was " I am surprised that in this day and age it is still such a long recovery period" well all modern inventions aside our bodies still have to recover at a normal rate after major surgery!! Best of luck with co-workers every where.
Unread 12-29-2001, 07:15 AM
Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

I ran into similar issues with co-workers/employees. When it was announced I would be out for several weeks following surgery and nothing else was said, I got some very worried looks. A couple of female employees came to me later and said - "I'm sorry, but I just have to know - why are you having surgery?" When I said hysterectomy their faces lit up with big smiles and they both said, "You will be sooo glad you had it done! It was the best thing I ever did!"

I was very pleased to hear such positive responses and receive such support. I think it is so true that the "H" word isn't such a bad word anymore!
Unread 12-29-2001, 07:52 AM
Amen, sisters!

My original gyn was one of those hard-core feminists with her own personal "hysterectomies are female *******ion" agendas. I spent 5 miserable years dealing with HUGE fibroids and periods from hell - until I wised up and took charge of my own health. I tried every medical alternative and even considered just having the fibroids removed in the name of her crusade to save every uterus on the planet. All this time, that nagging little voice in my head keeping repeating "get rid of this problem once and for all", but I ignored it hoping that I'd reach menopause and the problem would go away. Guess what? I was only 42 at the time and it didn't!

I finally reached my breaking point on a 4 hr. plane trip when I was flooding uncontrollably. Even 3 superplus tampons, an overnight pad and a Depends panty worn over that didn't give me more than 1/2 hr before I had to change everything. If you've ever been in an airplane bathroom, you know how much room you have in there, not to mention the smelliness! I spent that whole 4 hrs. worrying about leaking through and staining the seat and dealing with the stares from those around me, who were probably convinced I had horrible diarrea or was doing something illegal in that bathroom! The very next day, I made an appointment with a new gyn!

She was wonderfully empathetic when I told her the story, and managed to work me into her schedule quickly. When I saw her the next week, the minute she started the exam and felt the HUGE fibroids distending my abdomen, she said "Oh you poor thing! Nothing but a hysterectomy is going to fix this permanently for you." She told me she was worried that the fibroids might be hiding something more serious in there and the difficulty of the hysterectomy because of the size of my uterus was beyond her surgical skills. She very wisely referred me to a gynecological oncologist, who was a specialist in difficult plevic surgery. I knew at my first appointment with her that I had found the right gyn, who cared for my welfare rather than a personal agenda. I respect the fact that she referred me to someone else with more experience. Many drs. refuse to admit that they aren't experienced enough to tackle the more difficult types of surgery. I think that may be why some women have some complications that may not happen with a more experienced surgeon.

I also had to deal with nosey co-workers and their questions. When they heard that I'd been referred to an oncologist, the rumors flew about me having cancer! I even one second hand rumor that I had terminal ovarian cancer! I was referred to him to RULE OUT cancer, but they were all convinced that I was dying. When asked the specifics by a co-worker, I decided that only the truth about my surgery would make the cancer rumors go away, so I gave them the details. I also believe that there's no reason for a stigma to exist about hysterectomies, so when someone asked, I was honest about what was being done. I also got responses like "Oh...I'm sorry." I would respond (with a big grin on my face), "I'm not! Best thing I've ever done for myself." That helped dispel the notion that since I was losing my ability to have children, I must be devastated. I'm 47 yrs. old, married for 22 yrs., and have never really wanted to have children, although I preserved that option until my DH and I were absolutely sure. I even had one nosey old busybody tell me how much I'd regret becoming an "it"!!!!

The best advice I can give you to deal with these kinds of people is to be honest and don't worry about what they think. A wise Chinese philospher once said "Other people can't control your life, unless you worry about what they think." You don't have to give them every detail, but the stigma attached to hysterectomies needs to be eliminated and those of us who understand the benefits and the difference in the quality of our lives because of it need to be the ones to stand up and be honest. Maybe in time, the ones who come after us won't have to deal with all this crap.

Unread 12-29-2001, 11:56 AM
Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

Actually, I call it the "Big H" when most people ask and all but a few men have gotten it right away. And interestingly enough, my male employees have been incredibly sensitive about it - having their wives (who've had one) call me, telling me their experiences, etc. The female employees have been understanding, too, of course, but if they haven't had the surgery, they just can't relate very well.

A lot of men seem to think this is surgery EVERY woman has at around age 50, and that's amzed me most of all.
Unread 12-29-2001, 06:20 PM
Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

I have enjoyed hearing from you all on this subject. It is nice to know (again) that I am not alone. I think I will try the cheerful, direct answer from now on.

I thought what DJ said was funny about embarrassing her boss. My boss and I are close and he was fine about the hysterectomy, but very concerned for me. The only way I can get to him about it is when I remind him that I don't feel up to doing things right now because "my uterus is falling out". That was what I started telling him after I found out about the uterine prolapse. That embarrasses him, but I seem to get a kick out of doing it. Pretty ugly of me, I guess! It does seem to lighten up the subject though.
Unread 12-30-2001, 07:01 AM
Unfortunately, Yes

Hysterectomy is a dirty word to some people. One of the things that bothered me the most while I was agonizing over my hyst decision was that so much of the literature is anti-hyst. The typical sterotype of a woman who chooses to have a hyst is someone who is uneducated, blindly allows her doctor to "talk her into" the hyst, has a low tolerance for pain, etc. Boy, did I hate reading that stuff! And all those statistics about what percentage of hysts are "necessary" ... with most authors indicating that the only "necessary" hysts are for cancer and that means that about 85% of hysts are "unnecessary." What's a woman to do?
As for what to tell male co-workers and others: for me, it depended on how close I was to the person. My standard line for casual acquaintances, not close friends, was "I need to get my life back" after telling them I was having a hyst. I shared more specifics with close friends who genuinely had my best interests at heart. I'm not real sure exactly what I'll say to co-workers when I get back to work in January, but I can guarantee I'll be positive about having had this surgery. I didn't have cancer, thankfully, but I did need this surgery in order to get my life back.

Best of luck to you!

Unread 12-30-2001, 07:45 AM
Is Hysterectomy a Dirty Word?

You are so right, Beth! I too hated reading all that stuff about so many unnecessary hysterectomies. I say if it increases quality of life, then it's necessary!!!!!!!!!!! I have personally never met anyone who's regretted having to have it done except one, but she was a teenager with cancer when she had hers and it was more the cancer she was angry about. Just like with insurance companies being to blame about much too short of hospital stays, I'm wondering if they're the ones behind saying that about unnecessary hysterectomies.

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