Major Surgery & the Swimmer Part Three: One Year Later

In last week’s post, part two of the three-part series, Major Surgery and the Swimmer, I noted that while the first three months after my hysterectomy moved along in terms of healing, they were a bit rough for me in the water and mentally.

December (six months post-op) proved to be the turning point for me in general and in the water. I was able to sleep in a non-fetal/pillow-bolstered position. I could rotate my torso and stretch my arms over my head without feeling a tugging sensation on either side of my core. My head was clear (no more brain fog, yay!), and I was finally able to push a bit physically without feeling like I would break myself. But, at the same time, I felt very blobby-out-of-shape. Looking back, I suspect I still had some inflammation from surgery. And, I still really needed my afternoon rest hour.

December was also the month that my freestyle was starting to feel automatic and peppier. As a flyer, it made sense that my fly was the next stroke to come back. My back and breast however, my weaker strokes, still felt really off, with a 10+ seconds off in repeat times confirmation.

By February, I was mixing in weights twice a week and my free/fly times were ticking down a bit, but I was still worried my back and breast would not click into place before Spring Nationals (April) or that I wouldn’t have enough conditioning built up to swim a distance event each day, and decently. Luckily that meet gave me a big confidence boost. And, if you’ve been reading along, you know how my summer went.

My one-year anniversary, June 13, 2015, was a bit anticlimactic. I celebrated by swimming long course meters outside (of course!) with a new suit.

But it was really exciting to reflect upon how incredibly far I’d come in just a year’s span.

Most noticeable is the lack of pressure on my stomach and low back. Now pain free, I can’t believe how much constant core distress (the gamut: severe cramps, sharp low back pain, nausea, bloating, heaviness, restricted movement) I swam with during the years leading up to surgery. They say hindsight is everything. In my case, looking back to when asked in doctors’ offices to rate my pain on a scale from 1-10, I want to amend my “8” response to “100.”

Today I’m back to 4,000m workouts five times a week and two weights days. I feel light in the water, like I did as an age grouper. Not only can I reach and extend my arms without any pressure on my core, I can get into a tighter spin on turns with every month that passes. I can push harder when swimming now that I have greater core health and strength. I’m convinced I dropped an entire suit size solely to the removal of core inflammation because other size-affecting habits (workouts, diet) haven’t change much in the past year. And, I’m hopeful that an improved streamline position is in my future now that I can pelvic tilt again.
Perks beyond the pool, all still joyful for me even a year+ later are:

–wearing bright and light colored clothes and using linens

–taking only the occasional OTC painkiller

–flipping the page whenever I see “feminine hygiene” product ads/coupons

–no more annual checkups with pelvic exams/pap smears

–planning events in advance; having options again

–sleeping through the night (prior: 3-6 bathrooms trips!)

–barely visible scars, almost like I never had major surgery

I do notice I still tire a bit more often and more easily now (e.g. still can’t get past a 9 p.m. bedtime, and this summer swimming and cycling to the pool was my limit—I didn’t have remaining energy to do weights), but am confident that I’ll be back to full swim and weights schedule by the end of fall this year. And, I’m still chugging towards menopause, so am expecting some symptoms to deal with soon.

My final assessment? Having surgery was absolutely the best decision for me. Prior, I had no life, or seeming future, because my symptoms, and thus restrictions, continued to worsen. Every single woman I met who had a hysterectomy before I had mine told me that by the time you need surgery, afterwards you’d wish you had it five years ago. (Unfortunately, that was a key problem I faced while seeking treatment—I went to four different doctors before finding one who took my symptoms seriously, and deemed surgery appropriate despite my “young” age.) They were right—surgery eliminated my suffering and gave me a new lease on life. I’m motivated to make other life-changes, train hard and set ton of swim goals!

Next week: Seasonal Switch

Major Surgery & the Swimmer Part Three: One Year Later

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