Are you healed?
I don’t know how to answer that question. Or to quote Lucille Bluth, “I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.” Do you mean mentally? Still over here unpacking years of medical trauma. Physically? Still not allowed to run or practice circus arts, which is also tough mentally. Worldwide, we are in a pandemic. Worldwide, white folks that have opened their eyes to systemic racism should still be actively doing their part learning about and changing the systems.
So. I am almost eleven weeks postop from endometriosis excision, a hysterectomy, and an oophorectomy. How my body has responded won’t be clear until 6-12 months postop. I refer to it as major surgery, because it is. Saying it is a reminder that recovery takes time. That recovery is not linear.
Today, I’m taking time to reflect on the recovery process. What has helped, what hasn’t, and where my head is.
I finished Big Friendship in two days. Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are two of my favorite cultural commentators. As a fan, reading the book was part celebration of their work and part hard-look at what friendship could be. I’m still ruminating over it in my mind. Perhaps I’ll have a longer response (or submit an essay about it for publication *gasp*), but for now, read it. Hurry to your library or local bookstore. It feels as pivotal in identifying the language and support around friendship as reading The Ethical Slut was in learning about communication in romantic relationships. I consider The Ethical Slut key in working on open communication, even if you are not polyamorous.
I joined HysterSisters shortly before my surgery to receive recovery checkpoints. The reminders have been helpful, but as a queer woman without much connection to my womb as a miraculous, life-giving thing, the assumed gendered response to surgery in most online spaces hasn’t been helpful. My uterus was a temperamental organ that only brought me pain.
Language around sisterhood and fertility is deeply entrenched in the endometriosis community. A common tag on Instagram is #endosisters. What about our enby and trans peers? Endoqueer, founded by Les Henderson after they participated on a race and endometriosis panel, is a new support group centering queer BIPOC voices. The space has a different dialogue around access to resources in which fertility isn’t necessarily the goal. I can’t wait to see and support more of what Les is doing. Can you see the recurring theme in which I deeply believe healthcare is critical in quality of life?
I’ve noticed that Mary Elizabeth Garrett—yes, I named my remaining ovary after a 19thcentury coercive, likely queer, Baltimore philanthropist (even though the crowdsource naming on Instagram overwhelmingly favored Gertrude Stein)—has been working hard. My naturopathic doctor recommended using ovulation test kits, but at this point, my hormonal cycle has stayed pretty consistent. I’ve been able to track it through the Garmin app, except for the week the app was down. Have fun with all my period symptoms, hackers! Use my data to change healthcare, thank you.
Even though I wrote a few paragraphs ago that I don’t like the gendered assumptions about my emotions around evicting my uterus, I’ve found post-partum recovery journeys from friends and strangers SO HELPFUL. There are many more accounts of returning to running after pregnancy than hysterectomy. (Please share any post-hysterectomy running journeys you are aware of in the comments!) Where do I find the parallels? Hysterectomy is the second most common surgery for women, after childbirth by cesarean delivery. I want more stories. Talking about anything related to a period has been socially considered TMI, even though sharing that kind of health information can be life-saving.
My run coach (miss you, Nick!) works for Lift Run Perform. The founder, Mary Johnson, has been open about her running journey throughout pregnancy and postpartum. I’ve been following her story in particular as a reminder that RECOVERY ISN’T LINEAR. I talk about this with my doctors and coach, but seeing someone live it, adjust their expectations, and now start to see success after so much patience has been critical for my mental health. One piece of media I’ve found helpful is Mary Johnson’s appearance on the Ali On The Run Show.
When I am cleared to run, I’m toying with the idea of posting highs and lows on the blog weekly, so there is another story out there for someone Googling “returning to running after hysterectomy.”
Books I’m thinking about and organizations to support:
- The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt
- Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
- Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
- Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
Stay sweaty and glittery. Black Lives Matter.