Okay, so I know that a few of you won’t be thrilled to be learning about this subject, but it’s front and center in my life currently and it’s an organ that has had some effect on all of us. As many of you know, I will be having a hysterectomy in July. The majority of people I have informed have been supportive, some have been tentative with their support as they don’t know the backstory behind my decision. I am pretty much an open book about my life, especially when it comes to relating to my pelvic floor patients.
I turned 38 years old this month, which would qualify me for a geriatric and high-risk pregnancy if I were to keep my uterus and attempt to start a family. Having children was not part of my life journey and roadblocks occurred when trying to have children. Between having endometriosis, fertility issues, and an early miscarriage, I decided to no longer attempt this endeavor a few years ago. Since then, I was diagnosed with early stages of cervical cancer (GET YOUR HPV VACCINE, PEOPLE!) that required surgery. Having part of my cervix removed also causes risks with pregnancy and delivery, sealing that decision of being child-free. Despite all of these things, it is not uncommon for women in my position to be pressured to put off having a hysterectomy as they are still in childbearing years. Thankfully, my surgeon is amazing and did not ask or pressure me into putting this off longer in order to consider having a child. My psychiatrist was so concerned about me receiving pushback from the surgeon that she offered to write a letter on my behalf to assure the surgeon that I am of sound mind and have weighed all of the pros and cons of this surgery. Not to mention that if I were to get pregnant and have a child, I would be putting my body at risk for things mentioned above. Having a hypothetical pregnancy/child, for me, is not worthy of the risks involved. There could be a recurrence of cervical cancer, problems with the cervix during labor and delivery, and other typical risks of a geriatric pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, genetic abnormalities of the fetus, and high blood pressure leading to preeclampsia. This does not include the issues of being able to afford being pregnant and having a child in today’s day and age.
Some other things my surgeon wanted me to consider are the potential genetic cancer risks given that my family history is significant for cancer. She recommended that I get a genetic screen and gave me a link for Color.com which sends you a kit to essentially collect your spit into a tube that you send back to them to test. As of 6/21/23 (the day I am writing this blog) I am still waiting on those results and hope they come in before my surgery to determine if I can safely keep my ovaries to stave off hitting menopause a few more years. If my genetic markers indicate that I have a high risk of ovarian cancer, then those will be removed during surgery. The other preparation tasks included a pelvic ultrasound to ensure there were no obvious tumors, cysts, or other abnormalities and a final pap smear to ensure there was no more cancer at the cervix.
I’m a little anxious about the surgery, as any sane person would be. However, I have faith in my surgeon who is empathetic and answered all of my questions. I have a great support system, and am open to sharing my journey. Women’s health issues need to not be taboo anymore. As a pelvic floor PT, it’s interesting being on this side of the journey and think I can provide some valuable input for those who are going through similar situations.
Kathleen Neal, DPT