Four years ago yesterday I had a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – an operation to take out both my ovaries and fallopian tubes.
The surgeon did a very good job. It was keyhole surgery and I think it all came out through my belly button – there was a tiny incision there and another 2 mm one lower down on my abdomen – I still think this is pretty cool.
The whole hospital experience wasn’t brilliant – having to walk to the operating theatre in a gown open at the back through the main public lobby of a major hospital wasn’t a high point, nor was sitting around all day waiting for my operation half-dressed in a freezing room with a load of other people.
However, I realised that I love eating mango after surgery and they gave me adequate pain relief – for a change.
When I woke up from the surgery I thought – this surgical menopause mallarcky isn’t too bad, I feel fine. This was the morphine talking – morphine talks a very good talk.
I think if someone had said to me before the operation that one of the main side affects would that I wouldn’t sleep properly for the next four years (and probably for the foreseeable future) I might have thought twice about it. I can deal with the hot flushes during the day (and to be fair these have eased off in frequency over the past two years), but the hot flushes at night make it very hard to sleep for any significant duration (by this I mean more than 30 minutes) without sleeping pills. I have no problem getting to sleep, but I am woken up by my body being overwhelmingly hot. I throw off the covers and go back to sleep only to wake up 15 minutes later freezing cold.
I have learned over the past four years that sleep is a very precious thing – the days when I do sleep better are fabulous. I seriously hope that one day soon I get to sleep again…
Overall I am glad (!) I had the operation. I have a BRCA2 gene mutation which puts me at risk of ovarian cancer – plus my breast cancer was hormone positive. Removing the ovaries reduced the risk of the breast cancer reoccurring and ovarian cancer. Even without much sleep, life without cancer is better than life with cancer, or no life at all.
To end on a positive note, removing my ovaries did solve the problem of ovarian cysts. For my entire life (since puberty) I have been plagued with abdominal pain from cysts – now I have no ovaries, I have no pain, this is a really good thing and I love it.
Also not having periods is fabulous – it doesn’t make up for the rest of the rubbish, but it is another good thing!
N.B. I can’t take HRT as I had hormone positive cancer and for the past four years I have taken various aromatose inhibitor drugs to make sure any vestiges of hormones that my body may have concocted out of goodness knows what are swiftly removed from my body. I had hoped that once I stopped taking them the hot flushes would stop – they haven’t, but the persistent joint pain I have had for the past 4 years has now gone which is good!
I am not even going to worry about the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis that I now have because of the oophorectomy as apparently it doesn’t really become a problem until your 60s or 70s so I will worry about that if or when I get there.
N.B. I quite like the word oophorectomy – if I hadn’t had cancer and the wretched gene mutation I might not have had an opportunity to learn this word nor to use it quite so often!