In which I overshare about my uterus

Welcome to See Jamie blog: oversharing on the internet since 2009.

What do you think? New tagline?

Of course, I do share nice normal things, like pound cake recipes and organization and homeschool curriculum, but some of the kookier topics I’ve blogged about include:

In all seriousness, I only overshare (which I suppose is subjective) when I think it’s something that will help others. So today’s oversharing topic is my uterus, it’s removal, and my hard-won fitness level. Generally, I’m a good online researcher, but I couldn’t find everything I wanted to know about recovering from hysterectomy as a fitness enthusiast/instructor/trainer.

I’ll be sharing answers I couldn’t find.

Estimates for “returning to work” range from 2- 6 weeks for many women, but that’s not for those of us in the field of fitness. My doctor’s answers didn’t particularly clear things up either: no driving for at least two weeks and no picking up anything more than five pounds. (Have you met my kettlebells?) Even just looking for info on what kind of workouts I can reasonably do at what point in recovery met with nothing but crickets from the internets. OK, so no deadlifts or kettlebell snatches for who-knows-how-long, but what about bodyweight exercises? When can I run? What about yoga? {chirp, chirp}

If you’re into fitness, whether as a pro or an enthusiast, this post is for you. File it away in case you or your fit friends or clients ever need a hysterectomy.

I’m making this into what I hope will be a helpful series. I’ll share my whys in today’s post; my how-it-went in the next post; and in later posts I’ll share my progress and what I’d recommend at various recovery intervals.

Why I’m choosing to have a hysterectomy:

Uterine fibroid tumors (non-cancerous growths) are the most common cause for hysterectomy, and they’re the cause of mine, too. A few of the most common symptoms are pelvic pain, heavy periods, and frequent urination. In my case, I didn’t know I had them until a routine pelvic exam when my gynecologist felt them and referred me for an ultrasound. Turns out I have five medium-sized fibroids (4-10cm each).

My doctors asked about problems and pain with my period, but I’d just been thinking things got weird as we get older. Apparently that’s not necessarily the case.

1) Because fibroids don’t appear overnight, symptoms appear gradually. Not like twisting your ankle. This is akin to the analogy of boiling a frog: start him off in room temperature water before slowly turning up the heat. Maybe I’ve become accustomed to a new “normal.”

2) Pain is subjective. Maybe the fact I run half marathons and train with kettlebells for fun means I may not be typical. There are definitely days my uterus tries to tell me to stay in bed but I’ve learned that most of the time (but not all) I feel better after a workout. And of course, I can’t just cancel all my classes every time I have a period so many times it’s just not an option.

leading fitness classes

Fibroids have made my uterus bigger and heavier than it should be, so it weighs down my insides and that just feels weird. I can no longer use tampons because my heavy uterus basically pushes it right back out. That’s ridiculously inconvenient, especially on a heavy day while jumping around as a fitness instructor in front of a room full of folks. My biggest fibroid is pressing into the bladder wall, so although I thankfully have not had bladder control issues, that could begin to happen as the fibroids grow.

Also: we live at the BEACH. Kids don’t understand why I avoid beach days when weather and schedules say it’s a perfect day to go have fun.

Why I’m choosing not to wait-and-see:

I could wait and monitor the fibroids to see how fast they grow. However, odds are high that they’ll get worse and I’ll need this surgery anyway at some point in the 5-10 years (based on the average female) before I reach menopause. My lifestyle already incorporates all the recommended things that might possibly slow them (exercise regularly, don’t eat red meat, lose fat if overweight) and if the fibroids get bigger, it might require more invasive surgery to remove them.

Additionally, now is a manageable time in regards to kids and school, and I’ve had a couple of months to plan accordingly for fitness classes. It would be far more difficult for me to get everything covered and arranged if I hadn’t had this time to plan ahead, so I don’t want to wait til it’s urgent.

Recovery & my hard-won core strength:

There are always risks with any surgery but setting aside the big ones, I’m concerned about how far this may set me back in my own personal fitness, as well as in my work. I don’t care if I have scars on my belly but I’ve spent years working on core strength and I do care about the possibility of losing progress. I used to throw out my back just from vacuuming, or putting sheets on the bed! I was hoping to earn a very challenging kettlebell certification this year but I’ve made peace with putting that off ’til next spring or summer.

Thankfully hysterectomies have come a long way in the past few decades. Recovery was far tougher when the abdomen had to be cut all the way across. I’ll only have little cuts and a high-tech robot to do the job. But it’ll be weeks before I can do much of anything, and I don’t know how gradually I’ll need to ease back in.

Upcoming posts:

I’ve written this prior to surgery, scheduling it to post the day after. In a few weeks, I’ll share my second post in this series, about my early recovery: how I feel and what specific limitations I have.

I’ll share a third (and maybe a fourth) post in the series later this summer, after I’m back to feeling strong and able to train somewhat like I have been pre-surgery. I’ll get specific about how returning to exercise goes so other active women have a better idea what to expect in their own recovery.

Is there anything else you’d like to know as I go along? Let me know so I can try to include the answers. As I write future posts, I’ll add links at the bottom of this one so they’ll be easy to find.

PART TWO –> Returning to activity after hysterectomy