I got a hysterectomy at 28: Don’t touch me, I’m sterile!

This is a more personal blog post rather than a music related one and most of my audience are here for the classic rock talk, but I felt like this is an important issue to talk about and one that sort of affects my work, since my health condition got in the way of my productivity and everyday life. I believe in advocating for things that are important and I really hope this helps others who are seeking hysterectomies, especially those who are younger, in the 18-early 30s range. I also hope this helps those who have endometriosis. Just recently, after receiving the pathology report from my hysterectomy, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, after 15 years suffering from awful period pains. Usually diagnosis is incredibly delayed with people waiting upwards of 8-10 years or even more such as in my case.

Young women are not taken seriously when it comes to healthcare and it’s something that needs to change. Men do not have nearly the same number of barriers to seeking sterilisation that women have. Part of it is by nature because sterilising a man is easier (just local anaesthesia) than sterilising a woman (which requires laparoscopic surgery and general anaesthesia), but a lot of it is sexism and women being condescended to, taken less seriously, and parenthood always being seen as an eventuality for women – even pro-choicers can perpetuate this rhetoric of women will eventually become mothers by default. When it comes to contraception, everything falls on the woman. There is still yet to be a male birth control pill because of side effects, yet women have to grin and bear it through the side effects. Birth control is a good thing, no doubt, but it isn’t for everyone and we shouldn’t deny sterilisation to women who know they don’t want children or don’t want any more children. I support bodily autonomy for all adults to make their own decisions about their own bodies. The government shouldn’t be involved. That should be a discussion between patient and doctor and the doctor should keep their own personal feelings out of it. It is not professional to bring up their religious background or positive experiences of parenthood as a reason to say no to sterilisation. The only reason someone should be denied sterilisation is for health reasons, that is all.

Anyway that’s enough talking about background info and going on another unwarranted political rant, I do that enough already. So we’re going to divide this story into sections and I’ll do my best to name them after classic rock references to stay on brand. Without further ado, let’s hop in the time machine and take you back to when I was a teenager…

World of Pain: the origin story of my cramps

When I was a kid, I was totally in denial about getting a period eventually. I was like who, me? Pshhh that will never happen! And I actually believed it. In life, a lot of things happen when you least expect it and one of those things for me was starting my period. It was a few months before my 13th birthday and I was going through a lot. My grandmother, who was basically a second mother to me, died and at the same time, I got my first period and had no idea initially. I just woke up like every other day. I didn’t feel any pain. I just went to school and while my mum was cleaning my room, she saw the telltale bloodstain on my bedsheet and called the school to get them to notify me. It was lunchtime and I was sitting with my friends chatting with them and suddenly the school nurse walked in and said she needed me to go to her office. I waved it off and she said just go after lunch. I walk over to her office and she said that my mum had called because she believes I started my period. I was in denial the whole time and I was like no, that couldn’t be true. The nurse insisted I go to the bathroom to check and get myself a pad. I reluctantly go in and pull my shorts down and lo and behold, a bright red blood stain. I go back to class and go about the rest of the day until my mum picked me up, acting all happy that her child has grown up. I wasn’t happy. It felt wrong. It was something alien to me.

My periods were irregular and unpredictable pre-birth control. I had no idea how long they’d be, when they’d come, and I didn’t have PMS or bloating. My monthly visitor was a surprise and became more and more painful each time it came and nothing could relieve my pain. My parents were old fashioned and made me push through the pain and go to school, no matter how miserable I felt. When I went on a once in a lifetime trip to Alaska with my family, we went on a submarine like vehicle and saw some sea creatures underwater. Fun experience, right? Well, that was ruined by my period suddenly starting and my cramps being debilitating. I couldn’t focus. I had to sit in the submarine bathroom with a rag in between my legs half the time. I was crying and begging for anything to stop the pain. Can something vacuum out my period blood and end this misery? Is there a medication I can take to stop this? Can I get a hysterectomy? Something! I need something! I can’t live this life anymore.

When I was 15, I ended up at a gynaecologist’s office for unrelated reasons and I brought up my painful periods. The nurse practitioner couldn’t have been more sympathetic. She said I shouldn’t be suffering without any reason, especially because I’m way too young to have kids and periods are pointless if you’re not planning to have kids, and said I should go on the pill because it’s possible that I might end up developing endometriosis if I have periods this painful every month and the pill could prevent that (spoiler alert: it didn’t). She prescribed me a birth control pill that reduced the number of periods I got from once a month to once every three months. To a teenage me that was heaven. You mean I can cut down the suffering by 75% and schedule my periods when they’re convenient for me? Perfect! This pill worked as intended for almost 6 years until I had some bright ideas…

What were those bright ideas? I had delayed my period by a week or two before because I didn’t want to get my period on holiday and I thought, ‘Wait, what if I can just get rid of my periods entirely?’ and so I kept taking the active pills and skipping the placebos. This worked for maybe 4 or 5 months until I started getting the worst periods and cramps of my life (so far). I was at work and school and I was doubled over in pain. I wasn’t able to concentrate. I was sitting on the toilet wishing this would end. I’d never gotten clots of blood before and I was like ‘this is so strange’ and I ended up contacting my doctor who prescribed me a medication that would flush out all the period blood and so I was bleeding for two weeks until I could start these new pills that would supposedly end my periods. Wonderful! You mean all I have to do is take birth control and I don’t have to get surgery? I can deal with this. I luckily didn’t gain weight from the pill or get any really bad side effects so I was fine with this arrangement.

And so for my entire early 20s I was period free and cramp free. It was amazing. I actually enjoyed my life and this was a transformative, busy time for me. I got a masters degree, I got married, I travelled all over the world, and I got a cat. Everything was great until the new decade started: 2020, let’s just say that year was awful for everyone.

One day I started feeling cramps down there and had some spotting. It was odd because I was taking my pill like normal. Shit happens, I guess. Maybe this was a once off thing. It wasn’t. It kept happening over and over again and eventually, it wasn’t just spotting anymore, it was a full blown period lasting a whole week and it got more painful each time. Sure, it wasn’t the heaviest period ever, but it was painful and it ruined my mental health. Every time I got my period, I was depressed and suicidal. At other times of the month I was anxious because the bleeding and cramps with accompanying back pain could start at any point in time. Not only did the bleeding become more frequent, but cramps would hit at any point of the month and I’d essentially be disabled, it was painful to walk or stand. I wasn’t just disabled for 10-25% of the month, but more than that. The cramps were unpredictable and I always had to be vigilant and prepared. Problem is painkillers don’t work for my cramps. When I got cramps, I was basically stuck at home in bed in a foetal position waiting for the pain to stop.

We have a remedy: finally something that stopped the pain! and it’s drug free!

Obligatory disclaimer: This is not medical advice. I am not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. I am just sharing my experience here for informational purposes. Please consult with your doctor before starting any new pain relief regimen. As always look out for your own health. As well, I will not tolerate any body shaming on my website. You don’t have to agree with my choices, but please respect me as a person.

That’s no way to live and I won’t be able to get a hysterectomy anytime soon with a pandemic, what can I do? There had to be some way for me to live somewhat normally despite this crippling pain. I stumbled upon an unexpected pain relief method completely by accident. Whenever I looked up period pain relief, I got a list of things that wouldn’t work for one reason or another. My body doesn’t react well to painkillers and anything over the counter is basically useless. I’m also not a fan of pharmaceuticals. Exercise? I can barely get out of bed, how do you expect me to run? With my bad knees? Yoga? Please stop suggesting that, if I had a dollar for every time I got suggested yoga as a cure-all I would be able to do the millennial impossible and buy my own house. Eat healthy foods? I already do that. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15 and vegan since I was 22. Heating pads? Hot water bottles? Can’t exactly go about my everyday tasks because it’s not easily portable and they either need to be topped up or recharged. I can’t exactly strap a hot water bottle to my stomach. TENS machine? Could work, but I was sceptical. Weed would be nice… if it was legal or I had access to it somehow – it’s helped me before. Instead I stumbled upon the pain relief by accident.

One of my hobbies is to dress up in vintage clothing and take pictures and I had the perfect Lady Dimitrescu cosplay at home and I wanted to take pictures in it, but of course the timing was crap and my period started and with it came the cramps and accompanying back pain. I am a determined person and I was going to find a way to take pictures, even though I was feeling like crap. Under the dress I was wearing a corset (the proper kind with steel inside mind you), that I’d bought for unrelated back pain and as a bra alternative because I hate straps digging into my shoulders and ribcage. As soon as I put it on and tightened it all the way, the pain vanished like magic. I couldn’t believe it. I could actually stand without pain. I could walk without pain, and so I did, 12,000 steps that day. I took some photos that day: The dress is a real Gunne Sax from the 1970s – one of my prized possessions and one of three Gunne Sax dresses I have in my collection.

This was the (nearly) perfect solution for my cramps and back pain and I relied on it until I got my surgery. No drugs. No batteries or electricity. No topping up. No waiting for the pain relief to kick in – it’s instant. I can go about my day as usual and have my hands free. Can be hidden under clothing discreetly. It’s something you can set and forget – the pressure stays consistent. And it’s adjustable if needed. Also the confidence boost – I felt beautiful even on days I felt like crap, and that helped me feel better: having a more positive attitude helps! It helped give me a routine, which helps keep me sane.

There are some downsides like I couldn’t eat when I had it on, but with that came a benefit, I lost weight and my appetite reduced so I can’t eat mukbang levels of food anymore. Sometimes I had to readjust things in the bathroom and that got annoying when I travelled, but it’s something you get used to. You also get used to the compression and you might have to size down to get the same effect and this can get expensive, but at the same time sizing down gets harder the smaller you go. I had to size down from a 22″ waist to a 20″ waist personally, so not so bad. Some say it’s painful, but honestly, the reason you get pain is poor fit and you’re tightening it too much too fast. Any discomfort I had paled in comparison to the periods. I also never had my back muscles atrophy, but I was never a daily or all day wearer, but rather on an as needed basis – usually anywhere from once a week to multiple times a week, depending on pain flare ups (although I’d also wear my corsets because I felt like it or for preventing the pain). Obviously I am taking a break from them now since I am recovering from surgery, but once I get the green light I fully intend on returning to tightlacing to help with my anxiety and occasional back pain – I like the routine, aspect of control, aesthetic, and mental/physical health benefits. Also weed’s not becoming legal anytime soon here and I can’t exactly be high 24/7.

There’s a bit of learning curve to buying the correct one such as knowing how to size yourself and knowing what’s good quality and good craftsmanship, but once you know it, you’re good to go. I personally recommend this website for info on that. In short, you’ll need a bunch of different measurements: ribcage, waist, hip, and lengthwise from ribcage to waist and then waist to hip. You’ll also need to consider the shape of your ribs and hips since measurements don’t tell the entire story – you might need a cupped rib if your ribs are prominent or inflexible (they’re also more comfortable to wear for novices) and you might need a more shelfy looking hip rather than a sloping one if you’re wide hipped. As for fabrics, a strong cotton twill is standard and will be strong enough to hold up to everyday wear, but gold standard is coutil, which is even stronger and can even be used to make single layer corsets. If you’re going custom, coutil is a must. Steel is the best material for the bones (spirals preferably in most of the corset, with flat steels in the front and back), but synthetic whalebone can work in some situations too. Also important to mention there’s a break in period, but that’s more about getting used to the feeling. You could think of it like breaking in a pair of Doc Martens.

As far as the type of corset that would work best for cramp pain: I would personally recommend a longline underbust for cramp pain because it will cover where your uterus is and provide the best possible back support without being too restrictive like an overbust. I also like having a decent amount of coverage over the hip for stability and to help with my back pain. Depending on your height and torso length, longline will be different length for different people, so just take your measurements carefully. Your needs will be different than mine so your mileage may vary.

If you’re looking for good corset shop recommendations, here are some I have experience with. There are other good shops out there, but I feel most comfortable recommending shops I’ve tried before. I’m absolutely not sponsored (I wish I was though lol): These will be listed from lowest to highest price. The first three are all off the rack brands and theirs are a bit more rigid than the two shops recommended below them:

  • Restyle – My very first corset, the black overbust, was from this store and was about €50. It is the cheapest good quality corset you’ll find and it’s quite rigid and heavy – takes a long time to break in but once it’s broken in it’s super comfortable. Great option for those in the EU as they’re based in Poland so no worries about VAT. If you have wider hips like I do, this brand will work very well.
  • Mystic City – A bit pricier in the $100 range, but their quality is unbeaten as well as their size range. They really have something for everyone. If you’re outside the US, shipping is expensive and can be slow – within the US it’s fast though. Their corsets feel like armour and are extremely sturdy and will take time to break in. If you want a mesh one for summer, their mesh corsets are extremely sturdy – I couldn’t get over the quality of my MCC61. Their size charts are very thorough. They have sales throughout the year so keep your eyes open for those.
  • Timeless Trends – I have their Gemini. Another decent one, but more limited in shapes, but they have a good selection of fabrics (but keep in mind they have limited quantities and can sell out). Lighter weight than Mystic City, but still high quality. They also have a lifetime warranty on their products. Prices range from $70-200, but you can find deals on their returns page.

If money isn’t a concern and you really want something lighter weight and easier to hide under clothes, these are my recommendations:

  • Crimson Rose Corsetry – A bit pricier at about $350, but if you’re looking for a corset that’s off the rack and ready to ship, waterproof, washable (most corsets can’t be washed because they contain steel), suitable for exercise, flexible, slightly stretchy, and lightweight but still strong, this is what you’ve been looking for. It’s made of power mesh and synthetic whalebone that moulds to your body as your body heat warms it up. If you’re not ready for a large reduction, no problem, it doesn’t flare out as much as others. I hiked and went swimming in my power corset in Hawaii and it helped so much with pain relief and I didn’t feel overheated! I’ve done chores and slept in mine (sometimes I had bad cramps at night) without problems. This is hands down the most comfortable off the rack ready to ship corset on the market and it’s very discreet and easy to hide under clothing.
  • Emerald Queen Art – My favourite corset maker. Her work is stunning. I have two of her ribbon corsets and they’re the ones I wear the most and I find the most comfortable – I can wear mine all day. They’re very lightweight, strong, beautiful, and easy to hide under clothing. Costs about €250-450, but 100% worth it, she has a lot of repeat customers. You can expect to wait about 2 months for a custom piece, which is very reasonable (most of these custom corset shops are one person operations so things will take longer). The fit is impeccable and it makes it hard to go back to any of my off the rack pieces. If you’re naturally hourglass shaped, don’t worry, she will make the perfect pattern for you. I needed something with an extreme anime character like shape (not an easy task) to fit me and it came out perfectly – you can see that one in a photo later in this blog post.

Why is there an entire section on corsets helping with period pain? Because some women need pain relief now and it takes time to get an appointment with a specialist (for me it took five months on the private system, I don’t want to know how long it would have taken on the public system or if I’d even be approved on the public system), the diagnosis (only got it after surgery), and the surgery date (nearly a year after talking to my doctor in late 2021/early 2022, but would have taken longer if I went through the public system). This is a lesser known method of cramp pain relief and no one really mentions it and I want to raise awareness because this might help others. I had a couple friends give it a try after mentioning it on my Instagram and they were so amazed at how well it worked! Why does it work? If you’ve ever gotten into a foetal position or curled into a ball while on your period and found comfort through that, there’s pressure put on your uterus.

Beggin’ (for a hysterectomy)

By the time we get to late 2021/early 2022 I’d had enough. The pain is getting worse and worse every time and I have to get seen by a doctor. Something’s clearly wrong if my birth control isn’t working like it used to and my periods are more painful now than when I was a teenager. So I call the doctor’s office begging for a referral to a gynaecologist so I can ask for a hysterectomy. Now this was not an easy task. People say this all the time, one does not simply ask the doctor for a hysterectomy and get approved. Well, I did because I’m not a doormat. I’m going to fight hard for this and get what I need. I didn’t want to waste time. I wanted to get the ball rolling.

The doctor said the first step is to get an ultrasound and so I paid privately for one, almost €200 (ouch!). When I went to hospital to get the ultrasound in January, the technician scanned every part of my torso but my uterus. I have no idea why. I told the doctor specifically that the pain was in my uterus, not anywhere else. I don’t have any other health problems, okay maybe bad knees and some back pain. Unsurprisingly, the results came back normal. That answer didn’t satisfy me because the cramp pain still kept coming with increasing frequency, unpredictable as ever. The pain felt like I was being stabbed or there was a monster in my lower abdomen scratching and punching me. I called the doctor again and begged for a referral to a gynaecologist anyway. In the meantime, the doctor considered changing my birth control to the depo shot and I freaked out about that notorious birth control method that causes weight gain and osteoporosis, and isn’t recommended for those with family histories of diabetes. I have bad knees and osteoporosis and diabetes runs in my family. I have to keep my weight down to feel as healthy as I can be and I wasn’t about to take chances and so I continued with my usual birth control that I’d been on since I was 21. Sure, it let me down, but I’m not going through a treadmill of treatments that won’t work when I know what will for sure stop these awful periods – a hysterectomy. The doctor was supportive enough about me seeking a hysterectomy, but was doubtful I’d be approved for one without a diagnosis. Well, I’m not giving up without a fight and so I pushed down on the gas pedal full steam ahead, we’re getting a gynaecologist appointment. I’m effectively disabled and I don’t know why!

Tired of Waiting For You: waiting for an appointment

NB: To respect the medical professionals’ privacy and my own privacy I will not be mentioning any names of medical professionals or clinics.

If any song described my 2022, it’s “Tired of Waiting For You”. The referral was sent in February and it wasn’t until late April that I finally got an appointment to see a gynaecologist. Mind you, this was for a private gynaecologist, not the public system. Had I put myself on the public gynaecologist waiting list, I’d probably still be waiting for an appointment right now in November 2022, when I’m writing this blog post. I need to rant about Irish healthcare. All the time I’ll hear Americans complain about their healthcare saying that all of Europe has better healthcare. Americans are right to complain about the hypercapitalistic healthcare system with Mafia like insurance companies, but Europe is not a monolith and the devil is in the details when it comes to how the healthcare systems work in each of the countries. In short, don’t believe those memes where they claim all European countries have universal healthcare. In many countries in Europe you still have to buy private insurance. Ireland is one of those countries.

Here’s the rundown on how Irish healthcare works. Basically it combines the worst of American healthcare (means testing and possibility of medical debt) and European “socialised” healthcare (you can’t really choose your doctor and the wait times are very long). Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of universal healthcare and I want it to be well-funded with no to low wait times and no to very low out of pocket expenses. In my ideal world private health insurance wouldn’t exist. If it’s something people need for survival, it shouldn’t be for profit and there shouldn’t be any means testing. I support universal programmes. Means testing is a waste of money and time and leaves people falling through the cracks. To quote Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind”. Even one person falling through the cracks is too many. No one should have to go into debt for their health. No one should have to wait a ridiculous amount of time while their health suffers – not only is it detrimental to the patient, it also costs the government more in the long run. Here’s a simple analogy to understand how important early intervention in healthcare is. You go to the dentist and they catch a cavity early, all you need is a filling, not so bad. If you let it go longer, that need for a small filling could turn into a need for a root canal or a tooth extraction – more expensive and more painful. The War on Drugs is still very much alive and well in this country, with politicians still preaching the Moral Orel-esque idea that smoking the devil’s lettuce is degeneracy, destroying minds and reaping souls. Well if they wanna know why people are turning to drugs, I think I have an answer for them. When there’s a lack of fun things to do besides get drunk at the local pub, when people have SAD thanks to the short days of the winter, when 20% of people in Ireland are on a waiting list for an appointment with a specialist, are you really that surprised that people will self-medicate with weed (or heck, even heavier drugs)? Even though the weed here is expensive as all get out and poor quality? People are desperate! They’re on Dead End Street! Anyway, legalise drugs and you’ll shut people up. You’ll also need to fix the healthcare system too, but hey at least with the stroke of a pen, people can just not be punished anymore for using drugs and if you fully legalise it, that’s tax revenue for the government and hey maybe there’s a little money for the members of parliament if they’re smart, you can invest in cannabis businesses. Anyway that’s enough of my soapbox for now.

A lot of times the thing you’re waiting for comes unexpectedly and this was no exception. In Ireland the other pandemic is scam phone calls and I’m always hesitant about answering my phone when a stranger calls me and so often I might sound crabby when I pick up the phone. Also doesn’t help that I have really bad anxiety and I hate talking on the phone because I always worry I’m going to freeze up or say something stupid. So I get a phone call and I’m like oh great this is another one of those crypto scams or Amazon scams, what else is new? But no, this time it was the gynaecologist’s office and they said an appointment just opened up on Saturday and asked if I was available and said with a questioning voice “so you’re seeking a hysterectomy?”. I was so happy to get the news that I eagerly said yes I’m available and I think I even thanked the receptionist. They had no idea what suffering I’d been through the past year and some. The appointment was just a week later and I had to prepare for it and so I started working on a packet to make my case, some online call this a sterilisation binder. I had one shot to make my case and I was going to do everything in my power to get approved for a hysterectomy on the first try, even if everyone was telling me it’s impossible. I did have a lot of anxiety and doubts that this would even be successful so I was stressing out about this appointment. I needed to pull out all the stops basically and fight for this surgery. I am getting a hysterectomy come hell or high water.

Remember what I said about how you don’t get to pick your doctor? Well the gynaecologist I was assigned was a man and you know what that means… he’s never dealt with periods first hand, he’s never had the type of pain I’ve had, so how am I going to get this doctor to understand I’m miserable and absolutely need to have a hysterectomy? There are female gynaecologists and the public one I was assigned is a woman, but remember how long the waiting lists are? And even then sometimes women can be just as bad as men when it comes to listening to female patients since they’ve been conditioned to believe in patriarchal ideas too.

I had a bad feeling in my stomach as I went to my appointment and my surroundings didn’t do much to calm me down. Even the private hospitals here are not in any better conditions than the public hospitals: outdated and depressing looking, just bleak. The one thing calming me down is my husband being there right next to me. I wanted him to be there for moral support and to help make my case in case the doctor would rather hear it from a man. Often young, unmarried women are denied hysterectomies but I am not a spring chicken anymore and I’ve been married for 5 years already. I have to imagine I have a better shot asking for this surgery now than when I was in my early 20s.

After some waiting, my name is called and as soon as I walked into the office, my eyes immediately went to the “Don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree” coffee mug on the doctor’s desk. My first thought was ‘Welp, I’ve lost. I’m getting committed for hysteria. I just wasted my time and €200 again, think of how many lattes or avocado toasts that could have bought.’ This is definitely one of the signs of a doctor who won’t listen to a patient who has been in pain and think that they’re just being dramatic.

Anyway, I’m not down. Time to talk tough. And so I went through my whole spiel: in pain since the age of 13, on birth control since 15, my periods make me dysphoric and suicidal – I actually didn’t think I was going to get a period growing up and I’m likely nonbinary, I know for a fact I don’t want kids, I didn’t have periods between the ages of 21-25 and then my birth control stopped working, my periods are now irregular and unpredictable, the pain gets worse every time, every time I get cramps I get back pain too, and the only thing helping me right now is corsets and I have no idea if that’s even a viable long term solution. I really did pull out all the stops so to speak, but the thing is all of this was true. I wasn’t being a drama queen or embellishing the story. Sometimes, people are in pain, shocking! And then I go into the next part of my spiel, why a hysterectomy is the only way and so I bring up the alternatives that I knew this doctor was going to bring up such as IUDs, birth control injection, birth control implant, endometrial ablation, etc, and I went one by one explaining how none of these will work for me and I had no desire to prolong my pain through a treadmill of treatments. I needed something that permanently ended my periods, which therefore would end the cramps, and the only thing that would work would be a hysterectomy. I also made the argument that he certainly wouldn’t tell an 18 year old pregnant woman she’s too young to have a baby, so why would he deny a nearly 28 year old a hysterectomy because they’re “too young”. After a bunch of back and forth, the doctor was like fine then we’ll do an ultrasound and so I got on the table and finally the first sign of vindication, he found a cyst on my ovary, but waved it off because it didn’t look severe. He also found I was ovulating a lot, which was unusual considering I was on the pill. The doctor thought I didn’t have endometriosis because I didn’t have any issues with bloating (idk I’m just skinny?) and my periods weren’t very heavy (likely because I was on the pill for almost half my life). After all my pleading, the doctor begrudgingly approved me for a hysterectomy, albeit a partial one, with the caveat it’s a very serious surgery and I’m a bit young for it. To quote The Temptations, I “ain’t too proud to beg”. I really had no idea how I was approved on the first try. I must be some kinda wizard or something. My husband and I celebrated this victory with some stir fry at a restaurant before returning home.

There were a couple things that were sus about this doctor. First off, he never told me explicitly that the hysterectomy would have been an old fashioned abdominal one. I had to put two and two together because he said that I’d be hospitalised for at least 3 days and the surgery would cost €8,000 or more if I went private. Overall I didn’t feel comfortable with this doctor because he said some things that weren’t so affirming of my identity as a bisexual androgynous female (nonbinary/genderqueer) and had a condescending attitude. The surgeon is only going to chop you open and operate on you, you don’t want someone who you don’t get along with doing your surgery, just saying. Your life is in their hands. It’s your money and your body. You only get one body, treat it well and respect yourself. As well, a partial hysterectomy would still leave me at risk of cervical cancer and if they’re already removing my uterus, why not my cervix too? Makes no sense to leave the cervix.

So in a way I was glad I wasn’t going to go for this private surgeon anyway, but that meant I was at the mercy of the public system, with its long waiting lists and probably even more stringent doctors who invalidate pain. This is a very conservative country after all, and I remember reading a story of a married lesbian my age who had severe period pain since the age of 10 and refused a hysterectomy because she could “change her mind about her sexuality”. Holy heteronormativity and homophobia, Batman!

Ever watched Zootopia? Remember the sloths running the DMV? That’s basically an accurate depiction of how everything is run in Ireland. Everything takes forever. I was told I will get referred to a gynaecologist on the public system ASAP and that wasn’t the case. I was referred a month later and only because I pushed the doctor to send the referral. In all fairness, everyone’s overworked, but it was annoying that I had to basically remind the doctor what they needed to do. From there, I had to follow up with the hospital since the ball is in their court and the doctor’s office can’t do anything. And so my husband and I called every week until they basically told us to fuck off (it seems like every receptionist acts like Squidward). First time we called no one answered the phone. Well, that’s the absolute state of hospitals here in Ireland – you have old people left on trolleys in hallways waiting forever to get seen by doctors and no one answers the phone, quelle surprise. Next time we finally got a different phone number that actually reached a human being and it was confirmed I was on a waiting list, but I was in a purgatory of sorts, I was on a waiting list but not really because no doctor would take on my case and I have no idea why. Is it because they had a huge waiting list already? Is it because no one wants to operate on a 28 year old? No one would tell me how long the waiting list was. No one had any answers. I told friends about this and they were all horrified. Meanwhile I’m suffering with unpredictable cramps and back pain and wishing I was dead instead of dealing with this pain. If the receptionists thought they had it bad, try dealing with what I’m dealing with!

Beat The Clock: The race to get a surgery date

I was desperate to get out of this hell that was my chronic pain. The gynaecologist prescribed me a short term stopgap of decapeptyl injections, used to stop periods in patients with endometriosis, and once I took them, the clock started. I needed to get a surgery date before my periods started again. I took my first decapeptyl injection after returning from Athens, and oh boy it was not pleasant getting an injection in my butt. I felt fine until a couple days later I got the worst cramps of my life so far and my period started. Wait a minute, I thought this was supposed to stop my period? So it was back in my corsets I went and I became even more dependent on them as time passed because the pain could strike at any moment and I had to be prepared, so I was often wearing them preemptively to prevent cramp pain – like imagine me leaving the house like: phone, wallet, keys, corset – we’re good. I wouldn’t leave the house often, unless it was to run errands or travel, but you know I can’t give up travelling.

With the public health system not working out, I hit the ground running to find a way I can get the surgery in a reasonable amount of time so my pain wouldn’t be prolonged. I had a lot of travels between June and October and I was looking to have the surgery in November. So I did my research and I found out about Irish people who have been waiting a long time for healthcare going to Spain to finally get the surgeries they needed and there’s a possibility of getting reimbursed through the EU’s cross-border directive, where those on public waiting lists in any EU country go to another EU country for healthcare and get the procedure itself reimbursed, but not the travel expenses (this is one of the many barriers for working class people). This isn’t a perfect solution, but it certainly beats paying Irish private rates for not so great healthcare. And of course it’s important to mention the classism in this system. I’m back on my socialist soapbox once again to criticise this. The cross border directive isn’t a bad thing, but it’s really based on money more than medical need and it’s not accessible to all. Why? Because you have to pony up all the money up front – which let’s face it most people don’t have thousands to pay for surgery and travel expenses (even with Ryanair flights being cheap as chips), not everyone has a passport, not everyone is well enough to travel, if you have to get a loan – not everyone has the credit score to be able to get one and there’s the risk of being left with crippling debt (and people say medical debt doesn’t exist in Europe) if your application for reimbursement fails, and you have to wait 3 months to get reimbursed so if you got a loan, you gotta pay interest on it. Lovely. Healthcare needs to be free at the point of service and local – no one should have to travel for healthcare.

Anyway, I was originally looking at a company that helped bring patients from Ireland to Spain. Spain was my first choice because I know Spanish since my mum is Venezuelan. Language barrier wouldn’t be an issue and the weather is beautiful in Spain all year round. However, I ran into issues with this company because they were asking for a lot of paperwork and for me to get additional scans and tests here in Ireland before I go to Spain. Doing research on this company, I found some sketchy things and I decided to look into other options in other countries. Overall I wasn’t impressed, plus they were charging the same amount for a hysterectomy in Spain as in Ireland and my husband and I didn’t have €8k in savings, plus enough to pay for travel. I had a feeling that the surgery didn’t really cost that much in Spain and the company must be getting some sort of kickbacks (you know, no such thing as a free lunch) but that’s just my theory. I’m sure if we look east, we’ll find something less expensive.

I remember a while ago looking at a clinic in Lithuania for cosmetic surgery and I recalled that they offered hysterectomies as well and so I decided to email them because I have nothing to lose. The clinic was incredibly on the ball and replied to me quickly asking for me to send over my medical records and so I did. The next day, I was approved for a laparoscopic hysterectomy by the surgeon there and the cost was less than half what it would have cost in Ireland. Even better, the clinic sorted out your transport to and from the airport and to appointments and even had very nice on site accommodation. Reviews were pretty unanimously five stars. I had a discussion with the breadwinner, my husband and he said everything looked above board and if anything this was better than Irish healthcare. I paid my deposit and got my surgery date, 16 November, about a month after returning from California, enough downtime between two trips. Alright, I beat the clock! Or so I thought.

I was supposed to be on Decapeptyl for 6 months, but instead I only got the one shot that lasted three months and never went back for the second shot because I was advised not to by the surgeon in Lithuania. I was constantly worried about my period starting again and so I carried my reusable pads everywhere with me because I had no idea when I’d get my period and I was fully expecting the worst case scenario that my period would begin during my trip. When I went on the Mediterranean cruise I was nervous the entire time about my period starting and I was even more nervous during the Hawaii trip, but I lucked out I got no period.

When Lucky Day felt his arm and looked at his bloody fingers and then showed it to El Guapo and Jefe, that was basically me when I got my period.

Exactly one week before my surgery my period started. No warnings. I just woke up with a bit of cramping, felt something wet down there, reached down with my fingers and saw blood on them. Oh great, real period blood! And so I put on a pad. As soon as I stood up I was in a lot of pain, but this wasn’t my “ordinary” level of pain, it was cranked up to 11. As usual, I put my corset on and I was still in pain. This is strange, this usually works. I was so close to calling an ambulance, but what would the hospital do? I was hesitant to take painkillers and I hesitated for a bit. Regular over the counter painkillers wouldn’t work. They never did. I needed the heavy duty shit and so I asked my mother in law and she had some codeine left over. Well, I better take this because if I don’t, I’m calling an ambulance because I can’t take this anymore. I took the codeine and my husband filled up a hot water bottle for me. We grabbed everything in the pain relief arsenal and threw it at my cramps. I was tightlaced, bedbound, on painkillers, with a hot water bottle on my stomach hoping for the pain to go away as I was watching Netflix. Luckily it worked, but I was drowsy because of the painkillers. This is what I looked like that day (and for the rest of the five days I had my period), how glamorous! Thankfully the pain wasn’t as bad the other four days, but it was still bad enough I needed to tightlace. Luckily the bleeding stopped before my surgery. I think of it as my uterus throwing one last fit before being evicted forever. One last hurrah?

If anything was a sign I needed this surgery, it was this last period. I’m an atheist, but I believe it was a sign from the universe.

I’m Free! My surgery story

I had a long day of travel ahead of me. My husband decided to fly out of Dublin airport instead of Cork since it was cheaper and the flight was direct, but that meant a way longer bus trip to the airport: five hours! Thank goodness for Spotify Premium. Since our flight was in the morning, we pulled an all nighter and waited in the airport overnight. As you can expect, my husband and I were exhausted and being there so late at night, there wasn’t really any food options. If you’re a vegetarian the options are there, but limited, but if you’re a vegan like I am, there’s nothing and it’s not like I can make an exception and eat dairy, I’m lactose intolerant and dairy makes me sick so I couldn’t make an exception even if I wanted to. Thankfully there was a coffee stand that was open and I had a coffee to keep myself awake. Travelling on a low budget is difficult because ideally we’d just get a hotel for the night before like my parents usually would, but we don’t have that kind of money.

Flight was normal except that it was really foggy in Kaunas that afternoon so the plane couldn’t land the first time so it went back up in the air and circled around for a bit before finally landing the second time. The airport itself is very small, smaller than some bus and train stations I’ve been to. After getting through passport control (they definitely were shocked to see an American here, since they don’t get a lot of American tourists in Lithuania – I remember my grandparents telling me that when they visited around 30 years ago, still the case today). We got to the entrance of the airport and a representative from the clinic picked us up. Since there were no other patients arriving at the same time, we had a private transfer to our accommodation. Since my pre-op appointment was in a few hours, I decided to go to the accommodation first to unpack and relax before getting picked up by another driver to go to my appointment. At the appointment the type of hysterectomy was discussed (laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy) and they did a quick ultrasound to ensure that I would be eligible for a laparoscopic hysterectomy. I needed to have bloodwork done before my procedure and so my bloods were taken that day and it was awkward. I pulled an all nighter, was rather dehydrated, and to no one’s surprise it was hard to get a good vein and so I was chugging water in the hopes that it would work out. It was a struggle, but the bloods were taken and I didn’t faint.

The following day I had some free time, but I couldn’t have much food because I was told to fast for 22 hours. Still, I made the most of the day and walked around the historic part of the city centre, got some lunch, checked out a record store, and even saw a synagogue. Because I didn’t have much food and therefore not much energy, my husband and I went back to the accommodation early and got some rest.

The morning of the surgery, I woke up to a phone call and had to rush downstairs to get a lift to my surgery appointment. There was a bit of a mix up with the pick up time and I had no idea when they were picking me up because they sent me the surgery time instead and so I was in a hurry scrambling to get everything ready for my hospital stay. Sometimes a laparoscopic hysterectomy can be a day case and oftentimes you’re only hospitalised for one night, but in this clinic, the doctor recommended two nights in hospital so they could make sure I was well looked after and strong enough when I am discharged. I was worried that meant the surgery was more serious than I originally thought, but the doctor reassured me the reality is it would be better for my recovery and often the reason that women who get this surgery are discharged earlier is as a cost cutting measure and to free up hospital beds quicker and since this was a private clinic they weren’t going to cut corners there. And oh boy did I really need those two days in hospital.

When I arrived to the clinic, I was impressed by the cleanliness. This clinic was much more clean and modern than ones back in Ireland, even private hospitals. After filling out some paperwork, I was taken to my hospital room and at this point I said goodbye to my husband and he went back to the accommodation. One thing I was really happy about was that the hospital rooms were all private. You had your own bed and your own toilet and a big screen TV with Netflix. I almost felt like I was in a hotel. I was left alone to change into the hospital gown and then the anaesthesiologist came in to ask questions and I told him that I have a history of throwing up after general anaesthesia and he reassured me I will get some sort of anti-nausea meds to prevent that. Nurses came in to do some final tests and health checks to make sure that I was healthy, checking my heart rate, blood pressure, and weight. None of which are concerns. Next, I got the IV cannula put in and the nurse gave me a medication to calm me down and we walked to the OR, and I lied down on the table. I saw a bunch of nurses and medical staff all around me in the room and next thing I knew I was out like a light, crazy how fast the anaesthesia works.

My surgery took maybe 2 hours, if that and I woke up an hour after the surgery was complete and I was in a lot of pain and I was like wait, this is over? I no longer have a uterus anymore? I found it hard to believe, but I checked and I saw three plasters down there: one next to each hip and one on my belly button. I had fears that I’d end up needing an abdominal hysterectomy, but the surgery worked as intended and was uneventful and routine, as I’d later find out from the doctor. I still had a catheter in and I had some blood coming out, but nowhere near a full blown period thank goodness. The good news is I didn’t feel any nausea and I didn’t throw up – first time not throwing up after surgery – not sure if anaesthesia in Europe is just different or if the anti-nausea meds worked. Certainly not looking a gift horse in the mouth. One thing I forgot to bring was pads and underwear to hold the pads in place and I couldn’t have my husband bring any that day because the visiting hours were still limited (I think) due to covid, even though everything else was normal, no masks or even covid tests. I was hesitant to push the call button to ask for painkillers because I didn’t want to be a nuisance even though I knew the nurses were there to help and I literally had my whole reproductive system removed, bar my ovaries. I took a couple selfies to commemorate this moment, I’m finally free from periods and their associated pain! Free at last! And I even managed to smile in one of them:

I took some painkillers and I got my dinner and it was basically something put together impromptu (literally salad and toast) because they didn’t pre-order a special vegan meal even though I said I was vegan on all the paperwork, eh things happen I guess and the last thing I wanted post op was food – even now as I’m writing this weeks out from surgery my appetite is still not the same as before and I lost a few pounds since I got surgery. The other meals were fine because I pre-ordered and honestly the food quality was much better than I expected for a hospital. I had chocolate overnight oats for breakfast and I had tofu for lunch and dinner. I also made it a point to drink lots of water and tea.

Since there was literally nothing else to do and I had no energy to do anything that used my brain too much, I ended up watching Stranger Things season 4 the entire hospital stay. I tried keeping a positive attitude while in hospital and was eager to walk around rather than being stuck in bed and so when a nurse asked me if I wanted to take a walk around the room even with my catheter and an IV drip in, I said sure! My body though had other plans and as soon as I stood up, blood flowed right out of me and onto the floor. Felt like Freddie Mercury in this clip:

He just like me fr fr

That was that. I wasn’t walking that day. Maybe tomorrow. Thankfully I had my squishmallow to comfort me and it came in handy especially the first week post op – I would often put it on my stomach and hug it for comfort, also comes in handy if you are coughing, sneezing, or laughing. I personally recommend getting the 12″ squishmallow. Even the nurses complimented it and thought it was adorable. That’s one of my pro-tips for hysterectomy patients and I learnt it thanks to Reddit. They’re cute plushies that can double as pillows. I also recommend getting some pairs of shapewear shorts – I felt way more secure when walking or standing and I swear they helped the swelling go down quickly and I don’t even have fancy name brand Spanx, these were generic ones from TJ Maxx. The one other big recommendation I have for recovery is a hot water bottle with a nice soft cover – helped me a lot with stomach pains and shoulder and neck gas pains.

The next day was a huge jump forward for me as far as recovery goes. Sure, I was on a lot of heavy painkillers, but I could walk and stand without a ridiculous amount of bleeding. The catheter came out and it wasn’t really painful at all to remove. I went to the bathroom and didn’t struggle at all. I also didn’t have any constipation and never needed laxatives. I have no idea if my surgeon is a wizard or if I’m some freak of nature, but hey I’ll take it! On the whole I think recovery was much better than I was expecting, physically anyway. The doctor visited and was happy with my progress and afterwards my husband visited and brought what I needed and said he was really proud of me. Just after surgery I sounded like I was dying, but the day after surgery my voice was full of life again.

Thirty-six hours after surgery, even bigger steps were made. The IV cannula came out and I was preparing to be discharged back to the accommodation. The day I was discharged happened to be the day Pokemon Violet came out and I was really looking forward to that. Here’s my reward for getting through surgery and something to occupy myself with when I’m recovering. Well, my body had other plans and that was to sleep, a lot. I looked like that Sleepytime tea bear for the most part that week after surgery. But I was determined to get back to normal quickly and so I made sure to walk in the hallways and I did so without my husband prompting me – it was tough at first with me having to bring a squishmallow to brace against my stomach and my steps were more like shuffling, but over time my gait became more normal. We bought some vegan Ben & Jerry’s and I had some every night as a reward for getting through the day. Some days, I’d even step outside to breathe the fresh air.

For the most part, recovery was pretty mundane and uneventful. Pain went down and I became more independent day after day. Five days post-op I stopped using painkillers entirely and never needed them again. I did have a lot of pain around my collarbones and neck and that was more painful than my stomach. Gas pains were the worst part, but thanks to me walking they went away by the end of my stay in Lithuania. A hot water bottle helped a lot with relieving the pain, along with a travel neck pillow – that’s another handy thing to have. Showering also helped relieve the pain. The other most annoying part of recovery was wound care and changing the plasters. I just hated looking at my swollen stomach. Thank goodness I didn’t have a tape measure because I would have freaked out, but I am curious how many inches of swelling there was. Anyway I do have some pictures showing the difference with one taken two days post op and the other at two weeks:

One week after surgery I successfully walked to the Akropolis shopping centre, which was about a 10 minute walk from the accommodation and I got some bubble tea (my husband and I have a bubble tea addiction and he’d walk over there most days to get us bubble tea when I was recovering). It’s a very nice mall with a lot of shops and around Christmastime there are some beautiful lights. Overall I’m so proud that I could do that.

Piangi Con Me (Cry With Me): Here comes the waterworks!

I was prepared for the pain, but nothing could prepare me for the emotional rollercoaster ride that is getting a major surgery – even before the surgery, I was a ball of anxiety imagining the worst case scenarios and spent my nights doomscrolling. Don’t get me wrong, this was very much a wanted surgery and I am adamantly childfree. I have no desire to become a parent. My body certainly wasn’t meant for pregnancy anyway. Add a history of eating disorders and various mental illnesses on top of that and there’s no question about it, pregnancy would be harmful to me. Not only would the baby be at risk, but also I would be at risk too. If I ended up pregnant, there’s no question about it, I would have aborted. No one could change my mind.

While I was in hospital I wasn’t crying at all, I was high off the euphoria of “yay no more periods!” and “finally this surgery is done and dusted!”. However, once I arrived at my accommodation and I didn’t have round the clock medical care, that’s when reality started settling in, like damn I really had an organ removed from me and now I have to depend on my husband to do everything. I felt like I was an old person, a shell of my former self, both on the inside and outside. I stared at the mirror and felt so uncomfortable looking at myself with a bloated stomach – how long is this going to last? This isn’t me? I had no energy. It was in this moment that I understood spoon theory. Doing anything used up so much energy. I felt like an old iPhone with a crappy battery. I’d be exhausted even watching a TV show, going to the bathroom, eating, or taking a shower. But I had to remember that rest was necessary. Not only that, but allowing yourself to cry is necessary. It’s not healthy to bottle up feelings. From past experience, I knew if I bottled up sadness, eventually it was all going to pop. I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t a burden and that my husband is here to help and he is happy to help because he wants me to focus on recovery. Slowly but surely, I cried less and less because I was becoming more independent, strong, and seeing my body look like it used to. Yes, I’m a bit vain and no, I’m not ashamed of it.

I straight up looked like Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece ugly crying – that’s how I spent my days and nights recovering:

I always had a hard time answering the common interview question, “What is your biggest weakness?” but now I think I know the perfect answer. I’m too hard on myself. I have extremely high standards for myself, which is a great thing and has helped me succeed in my studies and my writing, but it’s to a fault. Sometimes my standards are too high for myself and when I fail to meet them, I become very depressed and feel like there’s something wrong with me. It can take some time for me to get out of that funk, but once I do, I am back to working hard. It doesn’t help that in the media, you’ll see celebrities seemingly bouncing back from pregnancy without a glitch. It’s even worse in this day and age with social media, where you have parasocial relationships with supposedly more “relatable” influencers. But the reality is social media is curated as hell, just like a reality show. People choose what they share on social media and they’re probably not going to share the lows: breakdowns, tears cried, anxiety attacks, all things that happen behind closed doors. You’re just seeing the highlight reel.

A couple weeks after my hysterectomy, I became emotional again because I finally got an answer to my question: “Why do I have such bad period cramps?”. I got an email from the clinic with my surgery notes and I saw the words: “final diagnosis: endometriosis of uterus”. Eureka! I had suspicions that I had endo, but I was brushed off. Doctors didn’t think it was possible because I didn’t show all the symptoms, as if diagnosing someone is just a matter of ticking all the boxes. My periods weren’t super heavy (that was because I was on birth control) and my stomach was always flat, my waist was always small, and I never had issues with bloating at any point in my cycle. However, I had the trademark severe cramps and back pain coupled together that would strike at any moment without warning. People like to say that there’s “thin privilege” in medical care, but the reality is because I am thin and have the body shape I have, it masked my chronic pain condition on the outside, delaying me getting the care I needed, but luckily the intervention was early enough that the endometriosis wasn’t severe because it could have gotten worse, it’s one of those nasty conditions where it can progress if nothing is done to treat it. It’s all thanks to me speaking up and advocating for myself.

Finally, I have a diagnosis. Finally people will believe me when I talk about my chronic pain issues. At least I’d hope so. Sure, there’s a diagnosis on paper, but it’s an invisible disability and there will always be invalidating people who say, “But you look great! How can you possibly be in so much pain?” The reality was I felt like dead inside. I cried happy tears when I received the diagnosis. I’m finally vindicated. I didn’t get this surgery for nothing. I wasn’t a drama queen. Still though, I didn’t see the physical evidence I had endo in my uterus and I still gaslight myself about my diagnosis. But I remember that endometriosis diagnoses are not handed out like cars on The Oprah Winfrey Show: “you get a diagnosis and you get a diagnosis”.

Ray Davies had a very good quote about invisible disabilities and how it’s not just physical pain, but emotional pain too. Since the age of 10, he struggled with chronic back pain and because of that, he had an understanding of being an outcast, being the underdog in society. The realities of chronic pain: it’s invisible, hard to diagnose, and you have to hope that people take you at your word.

“I decided it would be far better if I were confined to a wheelchair, then there would be no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about my disability. A plain, common-place hunchback looked almost normal compared to a wheelchair case, and the latter generated much more pity. If I was to be a freak, I would go all the way. Now that I was resigned to my fate I found myself walking home more upright and confident. Each day I looked in the mirror to see if anything appeared. Each day, to my disappointment, there was only pain, and no visible evidence. How annoying that I should be in pain and the world should see no evidence of what I had to endure. The whole situation was beginning to irritate me so much that I decided to take matters into my own hands and accept that I was a cripple on the inside, so that I would be psychologically ready to accept the deformity when it eventually surfaced. I wanted physical evidence. A sign. Something for the world to see. An x-ray. But even an x-ray showed only the bones, the physical inside. The soul was not visible. The soul. The one part of a person that cannot be seen. Or touched.”

– Ray Davies, X-Ray (1994)

I even took a picture describing this: Pain: you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I wanted to share the realities of getting a hysterectomy at a young age because I want people to make informed choices and know what they’re signing up for and that recovery isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s definitely not linear either. Some days are easier than others. But I know one thing for sure, each day that goes by in recovery is a day you’ll never live through again. You check that off the checklist and before you know it, you’re counting the months since your surgery and the years since your surgery. Time flies. Take this time to take care of yourself. As cliched as it sounds, a positive attitude helps so much with recovery and I think the reason I recovered so well so quickly was being determined and positive. I was inspired by my grandmother who wasn’t doing so well last year: she was stuck in a wheelchair, depressed and anxious, constantly worried about my grandfather. Once my grandfather passed away and no longer suffering from dementia, it was like a weight was lifted off her shoulders and she could focus on herself and do things she wanted to do. She could watch TV and movies again (my grandfather was sensitive to noise at this time and wouldn’t let her watch TV) and now, she’s walking again. Not long distances, but it’s something. We’re all proud of her.

One last thing, some food for thought: Since my hysterectomy, I am able to fall sleep more easily and my mental health has improved because my chronic pain issues are pretty much all gone. My chronic pain issues took a toll on my mental health. Now, I have a new lease on life and new beginnings around the corner. This is the beginning of the rest of my life.

Homeward Bound: the plane ride and bus ride home

My flight back to Ireland was late at night and I had one final checkup with the surgeon to clear me to go home. The whole first week of recovery I was worried about the long journey home. Am I going to be able to handle it? Am I going to have the stamina? Can I handle going a few hours without a bathroom break? Will I get a blood clot while flying? Side note: get compression socks if you’re flying after surgery. Even under normal circumstances, a long day of travel is difficult, so imagine a three hour flight and a five hour bus ride a week after a major surgery. Not fun. But my husband took proper care to make it as easy as possible for me. Even if we wanted to make the whole journey home straight away, we couldn’t because there were no buses that went from Dublin to our destination that late at night. My husband thought that we should pony up the money for a stay at a hotel so I could get some rest before the bus ride. Heck, if I’m up for it, maybe we can have one nice meal in Dublin and walk around. Even though I was a bit of a crybaby, I still maintained a positive, go-getter attitude because I was determined to start living a new life again: no more chronic pain issues.

When booking flights we made sure to request special assistance because we knew I wouldn’t be able to lift anything and my stamina wouldn’t be the same. While I had plenty of energy a week post op, I knew that I wouldn’t have the energy to stand or walk long distances and I actually had no idea if climbing stairs was safe or not, and that is something you typically do when boarding a plane in Europe, especially on a low cost carrier like Ryanair. Better to play it safe and take the special assistance than overexert myself. No point in spending the limited energy I have when I don’t have to. The small Kaunas airport wasn’t the concern anyway. I was more worried about the Dublin airport, which isn’t the biggest airport ever, but still required a considerable amount of walking and standing, much more than I could handle.

Ever wonder how disabled people boarded a Ryanair flight? There’s a big difference between how you board flights in America versus Europe. Typically in America, there’s a jetbridge, a walkway to the plane. It’s nice in the cold because you don’t have to go outside and you don’t have to deal with taking a bus to your plane. However, in Europe you often either walk to the plane at a small airport or you take a bus to your plane, if it’s a larger airport. Low cost carriers save time and money by having passengers board and debark in both the front and back of the plane, this speeds up the turnaround time between flights. You need stairs to get up and down from the plane, but what happens if you can’t take the stairs? Passengers in wheelchairs can still fly on Ryanair but they board the plane first through a lift on the other side of the plane. If they can’t walk to their seat, they have a skinny wheelchair that can roll through the aisle and take them to their seat. This lift will take them off the plane and sometimes doubles as a vehicle that can take them to the airport building itself. In my case, I made it quickly through the airport, through passport control and baggage claim and even got taken to the taxi rank. Even though taxis are expensive and we could have taken a bus to the hotel in the city centre, I was exhausted and my husband had no interest in shlepping all our bags to the hotel since I was unable to lift anything.

The flight itself was like any other flight and I’m actually glad I didn’t spring for first class through another airline – that would have been a waste of money. Leg room is never a concern for me since I have short legs. Glad we spent the money on a hotel stay instead because I was exhausted. When we got to the hotel, I fell asleep as soon as I could because we had some adventurising ahead of us the next day. Why not? Even if I’m recovering from surgery, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun and if anything, that outing at the mall the other day proved that I am capable of walking around the city.

I was sad that I couldn’t go to the usual restaurant we usually go to, Token, which is a barcade with plenty of vegan options, because it was only open for dinner. But I’m always up for trying something different and this was one of those times where I was really happy with that idea. I looked up vegan restaurants and I found one with similar food to what we’d get at Token, but it was cheaper, closer, and the restaurant was all vegan. The restaurant is called The Saucy Cow and they have vegan burgers, wraps, and loaded chips. My husband ordered some loaded chips and I ordered a wrap because my appetite wasn’t what it used to be. I was happy with the food. After that, we walked around for a bit before getting our bags.

The bus ride was long, but not as bad as I expected. I didn’t have any pain at all. I was just bored. Finally, when we got home, I wasn’t exhausted like I thought I’d be. I was really happy to see my cat, Bowie. I survived! Overall I’m glad I got the surgery I needed abroad and now I have peace of mind knowing I don’t have this hanging over my head when I move to England next year.

If you have any questions about getting a hysterectomy or need advice, do not hesitate to ask me. You are welcome to leave questions in the comments section so others can learn or if you want privacy, you are welcome to send questions via the contact me page. If you don’t like emails and prefer social media, my social media pages are linked on this website.

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