I had a hysterectomy when I was 19.
In writing that sentence my knee-jerk reaction was to prefix it with “I was FORCED” to have a hysterectomy at 19 – but that simply isn’t true – in fact, I had to fight for it, which was (and undeniably still is) the most difficult thing about the whole experience
I didn’t have cancer, and while I did suffer from serious health problems none of them were life threatening. But after 7 years of debilitating gynaecological problems, over 30 surgeries, chronic-pain, and the onset of a secondary condition that rendered me unable to take any hormonal medication, I had run out of options.
The process of obtaining a hysterectomy for a young woman in Australia is a horrible endeavour, one that forces the patient to acknowledge responsibility at every juncture. I understand the legalities behind the loopholes I was forced to jump through, but to this day it remains the most traumatising part of the whole experience. Permanently losing my ability to bear a child and the physical act of having my womb removed was nothing compared to the sense of blame that was foisted upon me.
The process was long and arduous, heightened by the fact that the more disheartened I became the harder I had to fight. I was incredibly fortunate to have the support of my long-time gynaecological surgeon (even though it went against everything he stood for), but his blessing was just the tip of the iceberg.
For him to legally perform the surgery I needed to be examined and assessed by a plethora of medical professionals, including my GP, an endocrinologist, a pelvic-floor physiotherapist (they really exist), a pain management specialist, a psychologist, and an independent gynaecologist who I’d never seen before. When all those people had submitted their recommendations I was forced to undergo a full psychiatric work-up to determine if I was of sound mind (I was). At every point I had to plead my case, to beg for this procedure, to fight for it harder than I’ve ever fought for anything in my life. I was constantly reminded that it was MY decision and I was to blame for any future repercussions, a sense of liability that clings to me even 5 years later.
One of the more difficult stipulations was that I had to write a letter to my future-self explaining the reasons behind my decision in my own words. It was the final nail in my guilt coffin, a physical entity linking my culpability in the present to my potential regret in the future. Like everything else it was a fight, a plea – but this time I was begging myself, and in doing so admitting fault – now, and forever.
There are two copies of that letter in existence today; one sits in an archive room at a Sydney hospital, the other is in a safe at my parents’ house. I have no interest in seeing either - but one day I may - which is why I will also be adding a copy of this to the one at my old home, to remind me that while I may blame myself now and in the future it is only because of a system that forced me to feel this way.
So was it worth it, Future Self? We both already know the answer to that question.
P.S. She’ll very likely never see this, but I just want to tell 25,000 people that I, quite honestly, have the best mum in the world, and that I am just so thankful for her unwavering and unconditional love and support. I genuinely couldn’t have got through any of this without her.
P.P.S. Feel free to get in touch – Contrary to this email I’m actually quite a bubbly, vivacious person and I’d love to chat about non-uterusy things!