#Uterexit- The Story of my Hysterectomy

[This is an archived post from my old blog or Medium that I was particularly proud of originally published in 2017. All info was correct at time of publishing]

On April 18th it finally happened- after 5 years of fighting I got my hysterectomy!

The build up to it has been absolutely immense; the four months since I found out I was on the waiting list have felt like an absolute lifetime and I’ve gone through every possible emotion in that time. For the last couple of weeks I’d lived in a constant state of terrified and excited, there was even something I didn’t expect in there- grief. But finally the big day came.

I’d made the decision to live tweet the whole experience, some people might think this is odd but I share a big part of my life with Twitter and use it as a platform to talk openly about my reproductive health in order to (I hope) raise awareness, so really it was a no brainer. I used #uterexit and will be using it during my recovery too.

So we packed up all of my belongings (I was told to expect to be in for 3-5 days) and headed to hospital for 7.30 in the bloody am.

And then I waited.
And waited
And waited

Seriously I thought that by having to be there so early it would mean I’d get an early surgery, I have never been more wrong in my whole life. In reality I only had to wait until 3pm but when you’re sitting around doing nothing but waiting (and reading 100 pages about Katherine of Aragon, listening to Radio 2, chatting to strangers, colouring in, writing) for 6 hours that’s a long time. Add to that the fact I hadn’t eaten since 10pm the night before or had any water since 6am that morning and I was getting pretty fed up.

Thankfully Twitter provided a welcome distraction, the outpouring of support and love made me tear up every time I checked my mentions. There was also my ridiculous friends who messaged me constantly with terrible jokes abut my uterus- this might sound harsh but they knew that if they were nice to me I would’ve been in a worse state. There was also a minor distraction in the shape of the PM calling a snap general election- really Theresa will do anything to overshadow me.

I spoke during the day with various doctors who explained the procedure to me. I was going to have a laparoscopic hysterectomy where they went in through 4 points (my belly button, just above my pubic hair and either side of my stomach) and removed the uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix. Though I’d requested the ovaries be removed too I was shut down because of my age. This one I accepted as the ovaries can help prevent dementia and bone problems. I was glad they were taking away the tubes and cervix as I’m currently being tested for the BRCA2 gene which is known to cause “female” cancers.

The whole day I wasn’t very nervous, I was anxious sure but I never doubted my decision or thought of cancelling it. Even waiting on the bed in the anaesthetic room when a panic attack was threatening to take over my body I kept thinking how much better my life would be without this horrible thing inside me.

I was woken up at some time around 5, my first words were to my boyfriend who I had apparently been having a dream conversation with about him not giving me cheese. Very me. I was kept in recovery for an hour and a half, during which I was confused and upset a couple of times. The pain was very severe but I was also given morphine which made me all warm and fuzzy. The one thing I remember clearly from recovery is when the nurse showed me a photograph of my uterus. I proclaimed “oh my god look at the tiny thing!” and burst into tears the way a new mother would.

At 6.30 I was finally taken back onto the ward, to the relief of my parents and partner. I was in a bit of pain and needed more painkillers but I wasn’t sad. I felt relieved. This was finally over.

The first night in hospital was tough because I had to keep getting up to go to the toilet, yet the motion sickness from standing up meant I vomited every time I did. It probably didn’t help that I was obsessively ramming ginger nut biscuits in my face either though.

It’s been 6 days since the operation and honestly I expected recovery to be tougher than this. Sure I’ve had a bit of pain but it’s nothing compared to the excruciating attacks I used to have. Mood wise I finally feel fully at peace, oddly zen. I’ve had a couple of wobbles when the pain  has been bad but I’m so happy in my decision.


If you want to see a photo of my uterus click here– warning though it is my literal uterus and you might find it a bit gross.

Cervical Cancer Screening and HPV Q&A

[This is an archived post from my old blog or Medium that I was particularly proud of originally published in 2016. All info was correct at time of publishing]

If you are a vagina owner around the age of 25, you’re probably nearing your first smear. I know that this can be quite daunting, but it’s such an important thing that you really can’t afford to miss it. I had my first cervical smear at the age of 24 and they found HPV, since then I’ve had check ups every year and thankfully it’s been OK. So with this in mind, I asked my social media friends to give me their questions all about smears and HPV.

How do you best prepare for your smear or colposcopy?
The best way to be prepared in my opinion is by doing your research, find out what the examination involves and ways that you can make it easier on yourself. If you are nervous about it, try and talk to someone who is qualified or has had it themselves who can put your mind at ease. On the day, wear loose fitting and comfortable clothing- skirts and dresses can even sometimes be left on if they’re easily rolled up. If you feel comfortable doing so, share your concerns with the practitioner so that they can make it as easy as possible for you.

What happens at a smear?
A cervical cancer screening, commonly known as a smear or pap smear (US), happens when you hit 25 and then every 3 or 5 years (depending on where you live). You’re asked to strip from the waist down and lie on the bed with your legs in the stirrups. You are then examined by your nurse using a little device called a speculum to open you up. Some swabs are taken to test for cervical cancer and HPV. The examination really doesn’t take very long but can be a bit uncomfortable.

Does a speculum hurt?
It can for some, but mostly it’s just a bit uncomfortable. Most practises use plastic speculums now so they’ve a lot gentler than the old metal ones and they come in a range of sizes. They’re also lubed up to slide in easily. It’s only really in your vagina for a few minutes, but if you are in pain you can ask to stop at any time.

What is HPV? Can you explain the different levels?
Human Papiloma Virus is the worlds most common sexually transmitted infection (4 in 5 people) as it’s mainly spread by skin to skin contact; genital to genital, oral, vaginal and anal sex. Most people won’t show any signs of HPV and in a lot of cases the infection is just fought off by the body. HPV can cause changes to cervical cells which can lead to cancer. Of the over 100 types of HPV, around 13 can cause cervical cancer. This is why a smear test is so important.

Has having HPV affected your life?
Not really, when I was first diagnosed the fear from being so uninformed scared me more than anything else. And now it’s just the worry of finding out if my status has changed every year. I tell sexual partners I have it, but I’ve never encountered a stigma because it’s so widely spread.

What happens at a colposcopy?
If abnormal cells are found at your smear, you will be invited to a colposcopy. It’s just a more detailed way of looking at your cervix, done using a microscope at a hospital. The microscope will not go inside your body, with the speculum going in again. They do a couple of tests with either vinegar or iodine (which can sting a little) to bring out the colour of the abnormal cells. To get a proper diagnosis, the colposcopist will take samples of your cells. This can be done with either a punch biopsy, which can hurt a little bit, or a loop biopsy which is a longer treatment but done under anaesthesia (honestly the needle is the most painful part).

What happens next?
If you have a clear smear then you will be invited back routinely every 3 or 5 years. If your smear finds HPV you may require treatment, and you will be asked back for a smear yearly to monitor the situation.

Some great references
– Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Lex Croucher did a great video on the topic

I wanted to end this post with a reminder to book your smear, it can save your life! 
And if you got yours recently 

My Experience With The Mirena Coil

[This is an archived post from my old blog or Medium that I was particularly proud of originally published in 2016. All info was correct at time of publishing]

In May 2015 I changed my birth control from the Depo injection to the Mirena Coil (IUD). I’d been on the Depo for 2 years and it worked great for me, except I had osteoporosis and it makes bones denser, but we’ll come back to that. When changing contraceptives, I consulted my GP and she recommended the Mirena coil. To be honest I didn’t have many options left, because of my illnesses I can only take certain contraceptives- the mini pill did nothing to control my cramps and bleeding and I’d tried Depo, so onto the next one.

The Mirena Coil is a little T shaped device that is inserted directly into the uterus and releases small amounts of hormones. Trust me, any Doctor that tells you women feel “mild discomfort” on insertion is sugar coating. To get the coil into your uterus, you’re given an injection directly into your cervix, this dilates it and can make it contract (On the website this is described as “an antiseptic solution”, it’s a needle). They then have to get the inserter 5 cm into your cervix, as mine would only allow it to go 2 cm’s I had to referred to a specialist
DO NOT allow your Dr to keep pushing as this can perforate the uterus. I’ve heard stories of easy insertion and good for you if you had one, but mine was not easy, it was possibly one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had and I bled heavily with cramps for a week after.
For the first few months, I thought it was great and any problems and changes in my body I put down to other illnesses (god knows I’ve got enough!), I thought I’d found the perfect contraceptive. but looking back now it all makes so much sense. The cramps disappeared for a couple of weeks but they came back every few weeks and were as bad as ever, I was treated for water infections a few times but nobody ever even thought about taking my coil out.
In August I was even admitted to hospital; I was dizzy and had a temperature, my uterus was in constant cramping state, it was treated as a pelvic infection caused by the coil but it wasn’t took out, the scans at hospital found a cyst on my right ovary but I was told there was nothing to be done.
Over the next few months my body went through major changes, I don’t know why I didn’t associate the two but every single one of these is a side effect of Mirena:
-I completely lost my menstrual cycle then now its came back I get it every 8 weeks for 10 days,
-I have very heavy cramps so much so that I take codeine nearly every day
-My moods have changed dramatically- I’ve been suicidal, I cry pretty much every day and my anxiety is through the roof.
-I get headaches and migraines every day and my vision is blurred sometimes.
-My boobs constantly ache, so much so that I barely wear bras anymore
-I’m nauseous a lot, particularly after eating, leading me to lose 2 stone. And even when I can’t eat I feel bloated.
-Vaginal discharge, inflammation of cervix, vulva or vagina.
-Pain during and after intercourse.
-Anemia- I was even given pills for this by my GP and they never connected it with my coil.
-Hair loss, skin irritations and back pain- I put these down to my other illnesses but all tests showed these were under control.
In November it all finally snapped it place and it was only because of seeing Elle tweet about the constant boob pain she was in and how this was related to the coil, I hadn’t even thought about it before. As someone who is on a lot of medication and reads everything before starting new treatment, I couldn’t believe that I’d allowed myself to just take my GP’s word for it. And that’s the thing I’m seeing in a lot of Mirena cases, most women are sold the Mirena coil as a wonder contraceptive and never fully told of the risks.
I raised my concerns next time I needed to go to the Dr, again with another UTI, and was brushed off yet again. So next time I went to see my Lupus consultant I brought it up with her. Her main point of confusion was to why I was taken off the Depo in the first place, I told her that it was the bone density risks with my osteoporosis, to which she explained that my last bone density scans were taken 7 years ago. So there may’ve been no reason for me to be taken off it in the first place. I had new scans and was supposed to discuss different contraceptive plans in the new year, and that takes us to this week.
By this point, aches and pains, in my lower abdomen are a pretty standard thing, but on Sunday it got worse than it had been since the aforementioned August hospital trip. I could barely walk and even had to use my cane in the house. The best way to describe it is that it felt like something was crawling around on my uterus. I knew I needed that thing out of me. Sick of being fobbed off by my GP surgery I went over their heads and went to my local sexual health clinic, they did my second insertion as my GP couldn’t do it safely, And honestly I wish I’d gone there in the first place. I had a quick consultation, got up on the bed and plop it was out of me. I’m still in quite a bit of pain as the removal is a bit painful but I hope it’ll get better.
Looking back at it now, I feel stupid when I think of all the warning signs I had and didn’t connect the dots. The thing with Mirena is that it’s billed as the perfect contraceptive and  for some reason GP’s seem to believe this. I’d greatly recommend doing your research before deciding if Mirena is right for you and if you are on it and notice any bodily changes keep a log and persist with your doctor. You know your body better than anyone.
If you’ve also been affected by the Mirena coil or this post has resonated with you, please consider signing this petition for more research into the effects of the contraceptive