Happy Hysterversary!

>Today is my “Hysterversary!” It is one year since my hysterectomy. The time has gone so fast, that I thought that I should slow down for a few minutes and think about the changes that I have been through in the last year.

First, my recovery. From the very beginning, I had a great recovery. I attribute much of that to the good shape that I was in before my surgery. Plus, I took care of myself. Even though I felt good very quickly, I didn’t try to do too much too soon (okay, I was walking six miles by week four, but it felt right). I was back at work by day eight, being very careful not to work too hard or lift anything heavy. Because I work in a gym, one great advantage was I could make use of the treadmills, starting by walking 1/4 of a mile and working my way up.

My insides healed well, too. I had no real setbacks. My scar, while noticeable, it small and pliable, with no scar tissue build up (thanks to dedicated scar massage).

Next, my hormones. A total hysterectomy (meaning: they took everything), sets you into instant menopause. For the first few weeks, your body kind of runs on what was left, but after that, well, it is different for every woman. For me, I started with a few “warm flashes,” which turned into “hot flashes,” which developed into what I would term “anxiety attacks.” While these were relatively mild, they were something that I had never dealt with before and it was that feeling of edginess and anxiety that finally led me to try Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

This is something that I am still working on, trying to find a perfect balance. I began by trying an over-the-counter product, which uses soy isoflavones to simulate estrogen. After a couple months I really didn’t notice any difference. So it was on to my doctor, who prescribed a synthetic hormone. While that helped (I stayed on it for about eight months), I felt that I had some issues that could be better served with a different type of HRT.

I had been hearing a lot about bio-identical hormones. I did a little research, then found a doctor that prescribed them (who was also on my insurance). I liked him (much better than my previous GYN, who did my surgery), so I took his advice and tried another synthetic hormone that he recommends, which comes in a patch form. So far, I am not really a happy camper. The issues that I had with my first choice have not changed, plus I seem to have a few new ones, including an increase of hot flashes. I’ve stuck with it for two months (necessary to get a good idea as to it’s efficacy), but I plan to call the doc and this time insist on the bio-identicals.

The main issue that I speak of above is also my third point-my migraine headaches. I’ve had them for years and always felt that they were hormonally triggered. There were always certain days during my menstrual cycle that I could count on to have headaches. I had women tell me that their migraines had disappeared after menopause, so I held great hope. Well, no such luck.

The first month after surgery I continued to have headaches, partly from the remains of anesthesia, partly because of the hormonal battle that my body was experiencing. Then, suddenly, no headaches. NO HEADACHES!! For the first time in 40 years!

This was during the time when I was not using HRT. As my other symptoms developed, and I started on the hormones, I still was not having any migraines. Well, that lasted about five months. Then, suddenly, not only were the headaches back, but I was having them daily! They were not all severe, but nothing but my (expensive and limited by insurance) migraine medicine would touch them. Tylenol-nothing, Advil-nothing, Excedrin-nothing. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try those medications, so here I was taking a load of over-the-counter pain meds that weren’t working. Insurance allows only six per month of one of my migraine meds, and nine per month of the other. This was not good.

In the time period from January (they the headaches returned) until today, I’ve had four of what I call “super” migraines. Those are the ones that put me to bed, unable to carry on with normal activities, make me nauseous, and generally last 10-15 hours. Not even the migraine medicine will help. That is slightly more frequent than before my surgery.

So I will keep on my search for the perfect hormone treatment. Wish me luck.

The last topic in my recovery experience is my athletics and fitness. After my six week recovery, when no exercise but walking was allowed, I gradually started running and cycling again. In my athlete’s brain, I figured that my body would have rested up during that period and that I would return stronger than ever after a short build up.

Silly me. I felt like I was starting from scratch. Running was hard, even after several months. I would have to take walking breaks and I was very, very slow. Cycling was better, but I had to adapt to the seat all over again! I felt like a brand new rider.

But, I kept with it. By planning to ride a century a month in 2009, I gave myself some motivation to increase my mileage. My running also improved, I have completed a couple half marathons since the beginning of the year. I am finding, though, that because of the heat this summer my running is suffering. My mileage is down again, where I struggle to complete five or six miles. Between my work schedule and the heat (it is impossible to do any outdoor activity in the afternoon), I usually can run only two or three days a week, and ride only two days.

Many women seem to feel that they will put on weight when they go through menopause. While I have put on a few pounds, I feel that is because I am exercising less, with less intensity. That is something I can work on, especially once the weather starts too cool. I will continue riding my centuries, plus find a running goal, another half marathon or maybe even a full marathon.

All in all, however, I feel that I have made great strides in the past year. My body feels normal (which is much better than before my hysterectomy), I’m healthy, fit and ready to take on year number two!

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