On Sending my Cape to the Cleaners

I got a smackdown from my primary care physician a couple of days ago, followed by an I told you so! from my husband and close friends. Well-deserved, I might add. In an effort to get back to moving, I foolishly tried to get in my Fitbit 10,000 steps….five and six days after having a total hysterectomy. Yeah, I know… My surgeon (not knowing my propensity to over-do most everything in my life) told me to walk as much as possible and not to lift more than 10-15 pounds- no yoga, no kickboxing, no clarinet, no vacuuming, no driving until further notice. Walking? That’s nothing! Except that it is, especially when you’ve had organs removed from your body and the stuff not removed jostled around.

IMG_4822Heavy D was always on the go!

I’m afraid that I have my mother’s ‘Go’ gene, the one that keeps you constantly on the move, taking care of things, taking care of others, unable to sit still for more than a few minutes. My sister, Linda, has the same gene. Normally, the Go gene serves me well and I thrive on the often frenetic pace, but perhaps not so much when I’m recovering from major surgery. It is so strange to me; when I broke my ankle seven years ago, it was crystal clear what I could and could not physically do. With the hysterectomy, the healing is taking place inside my body, with five incision sites on my abdomen as the only visible physical marker of the surgery. I have a litany of things I am not to do and weeks to wait until I have healed internally, but outwardly I look fine- healthy as a horse.

I look around at the housework that needs to be done just over a week after my surgery, and I am itching to get to work, to vacuum, to dust and mop- the dog hair tumbleweeds!…But everything I read tells me that doing so could possible tear out internal stitches and cause major issues down the road. Things are popping up at school that need my attention…oh, how I want to jump in my car and drive down there! However, if I do try to do most of those things- such as walking too much- I begin to have abdominal pain and experience a fatigue such as I’ve never felt that completely saps every bit of energy out of me. It’s like some foreign creature has taken over my body and I am no longer in control of anything. Is it possibly the revenge of George the Tumor?

I have been really grateful for the HysterSisters.com website that has connected me with a wealth of knowledge and – even more importantly- connected me with other women who have gone through the same thing. We write and share what we are experiencing physically and emotionally, and while everyone’s experience is inherently unique, it’s good to find that what I’m going through and what I’m feeling is normal. I’m not crazy…well, at least not as crazy as I thought. So many women who’ve had this surgery have fought the same battle of not knowing when to hang up the Superwoman cape and submit to the slow process of healing.

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With all of the research that I’ve done and continue to do, I can’t seem to figure out what my own personal limitations are. How much can I walk to get stronger and not weaker? How many stairs can I do in our home that is all stairs? How many small chores around the house can I do without causing my belly to ache? Do I really need all of these naps? I will feel a burst of energy, just knowing I can walk miles, and then suddenly it seems as if my fuzzy slippers have turned to cement on my feet. Game over. At least there’s chocolate.

It seems we women are used to pushing through most anything (and I realize that many men have that propensity, too). We go to work when we are sick, take care of our children and spouses and parents. We are programmed to be nurturerers, to often take care of everyone and everything but ourselves sometimes. It is a beautiful quality, and something I have always loved to do and to be. And yet…when do we get to stop and be ill? To step away from our lives and take the time to recover from surgery or loss, or heartache- or just a bad day? I can’t even imagine what women do who have children during these times. I read the comments of another HysterSister who has three small children at home and no help. How in the world does she do it? That makes me feel like a complete and total wuss, for sure.

I am in no way complaining about my Superwoman cape- I love everything about it and have it in several colors (and sizes…but that’s a another story for another day). It fits me well and gives me purpose and passion in my life. I just want to be able to give myself permission to send it to the cleaners for a little bit- just long enough to let my body heal the way it needs to without feeling like I am being a slacker by not cleaning the house, walking the dogs, pulling weeds, doing the grocery shopping, being at the office, baking cookies for the neighbors, playing a recital, and solving world peace- all while looking good doing it.

IMG_4136Coops doesn’t care a bit (as long as she gets dinner)…

I know in my case I put the burden on myself- I don’t feel that pressure from anyone else in my life. So, the answer lies within me. The dogs don’t care. My husband always jumps in and helps with things already- and he’s the first to encourage me to step away and rest. Now, it’s time for me to give myself permission to shed that cape for a while. What could it hurt? It needs a good cleaning, anyway, which I’m happy to get to…in just a few weeks.

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