Why I Had a Hysterectomy at 36
For many months after my surgery, I still dreamt that I was bleeding. I would glance down — blood all over the place, soaking my underwear, running down my thighs. A lapful of blood. Damn, I’d think, and then Oh well, there it is again. Resignation would set in.
Then I’d wake up, and joy! No blood. No periods, no clots, no breakthrough bleeding, no cramps, no birth control pills, no aching lower belly. No tampons and pads in every purse, overnight bag, bathroom cabinet, glove compartment and desk drawer, just in case. No planning vacations around the periods (only to have them interrupted anyway by kamikaze between-period assaults).
This is the story of my hysterectomy at age thirty-six: what my experience was like, why I made the decision I did. It’s obviously not the right choice for every woman, but it was definitely the right choice for me.
In the Beginning…
The day after my nineteenth birthday, I underwent emergency surgery to remove a ruptured ovarian cyst. I had been in the university hospital all week as they tried to determine what was causing my sudden, incredible abdominal pain. Two pelvic ultrasounds later, the university doctors decided it was probably cysts. They weren’t entirely sure, but they needed to do something. So they sent me downtown to the “real” hospital for surgery.
I went under at six o’clock on a Friday night, not knowing if I was undergoing merely exploratory surgery or would wake up with only one ovary. (If they found that both ovaries needed to be removed, a second surgery would be scheduled.) The surgeon put a scope in my belly button and verified the presence of the cysts: one on each ovary. The left cyst had burst; the right one seemed likely to.
I was lucky. The surgeon was able to cleanly remove the cysts, leaving both ovaries in place. However, as I lay in the hospital recovering from the six-inch incision in my lower abdomen (below the “bikini line,” as they call it), he told me that I would now be taking birth control pills — until menopause, pausing only if I wanted to get pregnant. Nineteen was very young to develop ovarian cysts, so they would almost certainly grow back. Because the cysts form on the nodes that the ovaries create when…