by Professor Lynn Basford


Some practical things to consider before surgery

There is deep seated emotion for women undergoing hysterectomy, regardless of the reason. The attention for many is on the woman. But the emotional aspect spills over to others who usually are trying to support you through your ordeal, and yet they are also going through huge turmoils themselves. Chief amongst these individuals are your partners and children.

Western men are often hopeless at expressing their own fears and concerns. They often bury their heads in the sand, i.e. its not happening, or they go to the pub, find work to do on the car. etc. All avoidance tactics  and a process that is part of the grieving process. So the woman, the linchpin of the family, usually has to undertake personal and family arrangements when she least wants to do it.

If cancer is the reason for the Hysterectomy, then the emotions and personal /family arrangements are much more acute and sensitive in nature. For example:

  • Is there a will?
  • Do the children have a guardian?
  • Are your financial issues sorted?

To openly discuss these sensitive issues raises the potential that you have a life threatening situation to deal with and often makes it an area for non discussion or action. But, if you see this as a practical step that will ease your mind and those that you love, the emotional trauma will be much less.

It’s like ensuring you have your car serviced before you go on a long journey, or provisions for spending money whilst away. They may not be necessary, but are essential to enable you to be free of worry.

So lets look at a general list of areas that you might want to discuss.  Further, having a framework like this may also help you to open up discussions with loved ones.

Personal Issues

1. BAGS ALL PACKED? Have you got your bag packed for your hospital stay? This might include pyjamas; dressing gown, slippers/socks, toiletries, lip balm ( post surgery your lips may be very dry, Dry cracked lips harbour infections that can get into your blood stream), facial wipes or cloth’s, one for face and one for your vaginal region. (Do not transfer normal bacteria flora from one body location to another). Also include sanitary protection NO TAMPONS! NO STRONG PERFUME! Remember you will be in a strange environment, do you need ear plugs/eye mask, entertainment, books, puzzles, knitting, iPod etc. meditation tapes. Have you got your glasses?  ( if you wear them), AND family photo? DONT FORGET YOUR ADMISSION LETTER!

2. MEDICATION LIST Have you listed all your medications including herbal ones etc? Don’t forget to write down dosage and times you need to take them. Further, insert time of last dose.

3. PHONE NUMBERS Write down list of important phone numbers for any emergency situation. Please enclose name, phone numbers and area codes. You might also think about obtaining a prepaid phone card as some hospitals do not allow cell phones. This way you can stay connected with family and friends.

4. SMALL AMOUNT OF CASH Only take a small amount of cash for  incidentals that you may purchase from the hospital shop. REMEMBER that all your wordily goods will be stored in your bedside locker.

5. FINALLY Remember, most hospitals will advise you during the admission process that they are not responsible for personal belongings that are lost or stolen during hospitalisation. With this in mind, it is best to leave valuable items, such as jewellery, wallets or purses, at home.

Family Arrangements

Family arrangements depends on several factors:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have a partner?
  • Do you have dependent children or pets?
  • Do you have a job?
  • Are you a carer?

1. Partner Your partner will be going through their own emotions and perhaps doing household tasks that they are unaccustomed to.  So to help them out consider the following:

  • Will there be any household bills that need addressing? If so make sure your partner knows this and leave a list, and, if needed, where to access monies to pay bills (not all households have equal knowledge, how often do you hear, “my wife deals with all the household bills”.
  • Is there sufficient food in the house? Have you prepared the shopping required for your return home? Does your partner know how to cook? If not get them on a crash course!

2. Children What about children, have you thought about their needs? School plays/concerts/sports day coming up? Have a word with the teachers as they will ensure messages get back to the appropriate person to help you out.  Teachers also are good at recognising when a child is worried/distressed.

3. Pets Any pets? Are their needs catered for? If you live alone have you arranged for someone to look after them or walked daily if you have dogs?

4. Carer If you are a carer for a relative or neighbour, discuss your situation with Social services who will address the needs of the individual, or, conversely, call upon another member of the family or neighbour. You will be surprised how the local community will rally round.

5. Your Job  If you have a job have you discussed your situation with Human resources management team? Are they aware of your potential capabilities on return to work? Do you understand salary benefits and claims you may be entitled to from the responsible government department relevant to where you live?

6. Legal Issues As discussed earlier this may be a tricky one if you have not already sorted out wills/ power of attorney/ guardianship etc.

  • Having a will does take away any stress for both you and your loved one. It ensures security all around, and that the people you wanted to leave something to actually do get it.
  • Power of attorney ensures your estate is looked after  by someone you trust should the situation arise.
  • Guardianship ( Children and animals) if you have dependent children who are minors it is good to think about who would be the best person (s) to be their legal guardians. And , further, that they agree to take on the task if the need arises.

As the time gets nearer for your surgery, use this resource as a check list.

Hysterectomy Fast Facts

Arm 1: Attitude

Arm 2: Exercise – Pelvic Floor

Arm 3: Meditate

Walking in Sunshine – Tips to Prepare for Surgery

Pre-surgery Yoga

Laughter Yoga – What’s the joke?

Arm 4: Nutrition

Arm 5: Medicines & Supplements

Arm 6: Lifestyle

Arm 7: Personal & Family Arrangements

Arm 8: Personal Hygiene 

Surgical Innovation: Robotic Surgery

Patient Perspective: Experiencing a robotic surgery

Patient Perspective: Experiencing an abdominal hysterectomy

All about Anaesthesia

Recovering from Hysterectomy

Recovering from Hysterectomy – The Big Picture

Recovering from Hysterectomy – First 24 hours