Naomi’s story: “Thankful” after robotic-assisted hysterectomy
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Naomi Pulvermacher knew something wasn’t right when she awoke one morning in April. She discovered what she calls a breakthrough bleed.
A five-year breast cancer survivor, Naomi had been on breast cancer medication and was post-menopausal for about four months.
“I shouldn’t have been having a period,” she says. “Since my breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve learned to question everything.”
Naomi called her oncologist, who immediately scheduled an appointment with a gynecologist. The gynecologist performed an ultrasound and a biopsy and referred Naomi to Dr. Peter Johnson, a gynecologic oncologist with Aurora BayCare.
“She had a severe pre-cancer of the uterus,” Johnson says. “We knew, based on previous studies there was a 25-44 percent chance it could be cancer.”
For Naomi, the choice was simple. Remove it.
She opted for a total hysterectomy.
“I have three kids, we have a grand baby,” she says. “I wasn’t having any more kids, and I think there was this feeling that if it was cancer, or even could be cancer, I wanted it out. I didn’t need those parts.”
Johnson, an expert in robotic assisted surgery, recommended Naomi undergo a robotic- assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy, a procedure during which he’d also remove the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the most important lymph nodes just in case the biopsy returned with information that it was an invasive cancer.
Johnson performed the procedure through five 8mm incisions.
“We’re getting the same results with much smaller incisions,” Johnson says. “The robotic portion of this is another instrument between the patient and me that allows this to be performed much more smoothly, much more elegantly and with better recovery times.”
In a traditional hysterectomy, a patient would spend days in the hospital. With the robotic-assisted procedure, a patient can go home the same day.
Johnson performed his first robotic-assisted surgery in 2006. Naomi’s hysterectomy was his 2000th robotic-assisted surgery. He has championed this advancement through research and teaching for more than a decade.
“I feel great,” Naomi said a week after her operation. “It’s actually a little scary (how great I feel) because I have to remember I still had a major surgery, and I can’t over do it.”
Initially, Naomi was worried, but Johnson’s confidence and expertise reassured her from the beginning.
“He was very sweet, and reassuring,” she says. “Before meeting with Dr. Johnson, I didn’t realize they could do this. I was expecting the old-fashioned hysterectomy. I was very nervous about that. I was relieved it was going to be a lesser deal than I had in my mind.”
Naomi’s biopsy came back and indicated no sign of cancer.
“I’m just very thankful,” she says. “Thank God, thank my family and thank Dr. Johnson.”