'I Had a Hysterectomy at 40, it Gave me Back My Freedom' 

I was told I would need a hysterectomy in December 2017, when I was just 39 years old. I'd been having problems with my periods for a good two years; they were extremely heavy, irregular and left me in excruciating pain.

I used to travel a lot for work and would feel instant dread if I opened the hotel room door to find white bed sheets. I was one of those very lucky women who didn't experience any premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but it meant there was never any warning before my periods began.

After being referred by my general practitioner, I saw a gynecologist for around a year. I underwent various routine checks and everything seemed to be working as it should be; there were no obvious problems.

Eventually my gynecologist told me that aside from waiting until I had gone through menopause, removing my uterus would be the only way to stop what was happening. He told me the choice was entirely in my hands and sent me away to consider the decision.

Stacey Macdonald
Stacey Macdonald is a writer based on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. She was given the choice of having a hysterectomy at 39, after two years of extremely heavy, irregular periods. Stacey Macdonald

I had recently married for the second time and while I had a 17-year-old daughter, my husband didn't have any children. My husband is five years older than me, and by that stage of our lives we both had good, stable careers. We owned a house and didn't have any major financial worries. The big question was: do we want to rock the boat and have a baby?

Both myself and my husband have a strong Christian faith, and believed that the option of having a hysterectomy wouldn't have presented itself if it wasn't meant to be. To me, it was the solution to all the problems I had been having for two years, so pretty quickly we decided I would go ahead with the procedure.

We made the decision with our eyes open, so we didn't have any major questions or concerns—we totally understood what this meant for our future as a couple, that there was no possibility of children in the future, but we were both content with our choice.

I was very much looking forward to the relief I would feel following the operation. I imagined being able to leave the house without an extra pair of underwear and a change of pants in my bag. I looked forward to staying in hotels without packing two bags full of towels to sleep on.

I knew I wouldn't miss the fear of explaining to a hotelier: "Sorry, I've removed the bedsheets, but there's blood stains on them." I could stop canceling certain activities with friends because I was worried about bleeding. There was a massive sense that my life was about to change. I would no longer be this stressed out, worried person, because I wouldn't have to worry about this issue.

In February 2018, I went into the hospital for my hysterectomy. I spent the night before the operation in the ward and signed all the consent papers. I said goodnight to my husband and my daughter, and slept like a baby knowing my health problems were soon going to be solved.

I don't remember a huge amount from the following morning, other than coming around in the recovery area of the hospital with an absolute sense of freedom—then I realized how much everything hurt. I have a spinal condition and so am no stranger to operating theaters or recovery, but it felt like my entire body was in pain.

Stacey Macdonald
Prior to her hysterectomy in February 2018, Stacey would have to pack a change of clothes whenever she left her home. Stacey Macdonald

I was on a morphine drip and incredibly well looked after, but 24 hours later, I was still struggling with pain and nausea. I couldn't keep any food down. On my second day in hospital, Ronah, my daughter, was visiting me when a nurse came around and gave me some anti-sickness medication.

Within 90 seconds I had gone into anaphylactic shock. Again, I don't remember much, but Ronah told me that my head rolled back and I completely spaced out. I'd had a bad reaction to the medication and I was given another drug to counter the reaction. Around 15 minutes later I came back around, but it felt like I had been hit by a bus.

I believe that experience set back my recovery by two or three days, so I spent nine days in total in the ward. By my fourth day in hospital, I was still in an excruciating amount of pain. I believe it was mainly a result of my spinal condition, which I suspect had become aggravated by laying out flat on an operating table and then on a bed for an extended period of time.

Stacey Macdonald
Stacey underwent the procedure in 2018, and says her life has changed drastically since having her uterus removed. Stacey Macdonald

I was quite vocal in saying that I needed stronger pain relief, having already been given certain medications following other spinal procedures. The nurses were absolutely brilliant, but could only give me very mild forms of pain relief.

Eventually, the surgeon visited to find me in floods of tears. He assumed that my reaction was due to the emotional toll of my uterus being removed, but I told him I was frustrated that nobody was listening to me about the pain I was experiencing.

Around 20 minutes later, he returned with an anesthetist who gave me exactly what I needed. The whole situation was incredibly frustrating. Initially, I felt like a young child who wasn't being listened to by an adult.

Going home was great. I spent lots of time watching television with my cat and two dogs, who were like limpets by my side. I'm fortunate enough to have a very attentive husband, who took two weeks off from work and watched me like a hawk to stop me from doing so much as making a cup of tea myself.

After six weeks at home I was preparing to return to work, but at that point the simplest of tasks could wipe me out physically. Even cooking dinner would leave me exhausted. I had a little bit of trouble with my wound, for a couple of weeks it was slightly red and inflamed and I ended up with a course of antibiotics as a precaution.

Stacey Macdonald
Stacey says she no longer feels anxiety about her heavy periods, and is grateful for the sense of freedom she has gained since her hysterectomy. Stacey Macdonald

I wasn't allowed to drive for eight weeks, so had to rely on other people for everything. There was a lot of taking time to put plans in place and listening to my body. Overall the recovery process took around two months.

Now, five years later, I feel incredibly fortunate and thankful, because I know I don't have to go through any of the pain I used to ever again. I'm done and the rest of my life is ahead of me now.

Since having my hysterectomy, my life has changed for the better. I absolutely do not have to worry about periods, which is brilliant. Physically, I've got a little bit of a stomach pouch, because that's what happens when they cut you open, but other than that you would have to look really closely to see any scarring—it's virtually vanished.

I still travel for work, but no longer have to worry about packing all the extra things. I don't worry about being caught short or needing to find a toilet because I know I'm leaking . All of that anxiety is gone. I have so much gratitude for that sense of freedom.

Stacey Macdonald is a writer and storyteller based on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. You can visit her website here or follow her on Instagram @iamstaceymacdonald.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek's My Turn associate editor, Monica Greep.

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