One of the reasons my reconstructive surgery took a long time, was because we actually did two surgeries in one.
The plastic surgeon would manage the reconstruction using the DIEP flap process and my gynecologist oncologist would perform a total hysterectomy.
They carefully planned the surgery. The plastic surgeon would start and once the incision was made and he would be working on my breast. The gynecologist oncologist would come in and use the same incision to remove my uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
My cancer was almost entirely hormone driven and the female reproductive system is the main hormone producer in the female body. Adding to that, the fact that my grandmother passed away from ovarian cancer led me to the decision to have a total hysterectomy.
I was 41 and going through menopause. Thankfully, I have been very lucky, and the side effects have been minimal. I think chemo forced me into menopause and that’s when the side effects were at their worst.
I don’t have any lingering side effects from the hysterectomy. I was someone who had very heavy periods, every month, six or seven days of heavy bleeding, cramps and PMS and I have to say, I really don’t miss those.
I have spoken to women who found it very difficult undergoing a hysterectomy and their ability to conceive. In my case, I had gone through fertility treatment in 2007/2008 and was not able to have a child, something I came to terms with years ago and I have a very happy and fulfilling life, I had no attachment to my reproductive system. I hadn’t served a purpose and not it had the potential of making me sick.
After the hysterectomy my oncologist prescribed Anastrozole. This medication cuts down the amount of estrogen your body is making. I take a small pill every morning.
Taking Anastrozole puts you at an accelerated rate of bone mineral loss and at an increased risk of breaking bones. Before I started the Anastrozole treatment, I had to go for a bone scan and bone density test so we can monitor it closely.
The side effect of the lack of estrogen is pain in your hands. In the morning, when I wake up, my hands are very sore. It is very difficult to grip things. I can’t even grab my pillow and move it. This is only for a short period of time and once I start moving around this will go away.
I do notice my knuckles are sore sometimes and I find it more difficult to open for example a bottle of water and screwing off the top. The bottom of my feet are sometimes sensitive when I first get out of bed, but this also fades pretty quickly.
I take vitamin D and calcium supplements as well to maintain healthy bones. In addition, working out in the gym, doing strength exercises has also helped keep the soreness at a minimum.