In a series of new articles we want to share ideas to help a woman and her partner face a hysterectomy. We’ll talk about a fictional couple, Heather and Ken, who are in their early 40s with two children, 16 and 18, still at home. Heather has been told she may need a hysterectomy to treat her heavy vaginal bleeding at the time of her monthly periods and in between.
Ken was thrown for a loop when Heather returned from seeing Dr. D, her gynecologist, and told Ken that Dr. D. said she should have a hysterectomy. Ken knew that Heather had been bleeding in between her periods. They’d even had to walk out of a movie one night because of the bleeding.
Heather explained that Dr. D. did not think Heather had any kind of cancer. She had done an ultrasound in the office which showed no abnormalities. I probably have what is called dysfunctional uterine bleeding-DUB for short . Dr. D. told me that DUB is among the most common reasons for the approximately 500,000 hysterectomies done each year in the United States.”1
Ken was clueless about the medical issues and wasn’t even sure exactly what was done during a hysterectomy. Luckily, he didn’t mind admitting what he didn’t know. They decided to get informed together.
The internet ! How did we ever manage before the web gave us instant access to so much information? Heather and Ken learned the definition of hysterectomy, the types of hysterectomy, what recovery would be like, and about some important decisions they would need to make such as whether to remove the ovaries or not.
One site, hystersisters.com, is entirely about hysterectomy and the site you are now on, empowher.com, is about women’s health, including hysterectomy. Hystersisters.com mentioned the value of getting a second or even a third opinion before proceeding with a hysterectomy to learn if there is an alternative to surgery and to learn about different types of hysterectomy.
Heather and Ken decided to do that and Dr. D said she was entirely in favor of the idea. So, Heather and Ken went together to a gynecologist at a major teaching hospital 40 miles away. The second gynecologist agreed with Dr. D. and reassured Ken and Heather that the operation was the best way to solve the bleeding problem.
Even with this very sketchy picture of what Heather and Ken did, you can probably sense that approaching the question of hysterectomy as a team was a very positive bonding experience for them. Afterwards, looking back at it, Heather said, "This was way better than the usual idea of the 'supportive husband.' Ken gave me another set of ears and another brain. We could just say if we felt confused. We could also say, 'This is my opinion; what’s yours?’" Ken said, "I was always kind of squeamish about the insides of a woman’s body. It was easier not to think too much about it. This experience kind of forced me to think about it and that’s good."
Heather and Ken’s son and daughter had questions and concerns too. A few times the whole family got into talking about hysterectomy.
In up-coming articles we’ll describe how Heather and Ken tackled some important decisions and then we’ll share the story of what actually happened at the time of the hysterectomy and afterwards.Read more in Advancing Health After Hysterectomy
1. Wright JD, Herzog TJ, Tsui J, et al. Nationwide trends in the performance of hysterectomy in the United States. Obstet Gynecol 2013;122:233-41.