For my regular readers, this post might be a bit irrelevant as it doesn’t have anything to do with travel.
So if that’s what you came here looking for, maybe have a browse through my Africa travel posts instead! 🙂
I decided to write because as I haven’t seen many first-hand accounts of what it’s actually like to have a myomectomy, and if you’re going through this I hope it helps you to prepare for what’s ahead.
As many as 8/10 of you (women) reading this post will develop fibroids at some stage in your life. So it’s important to be aware of them – however, don’t be alarmed, in most women they cause no, or very little issues.
This is my personal story which I hope will help prepare you with what to expect pre and post-operation, as well as some tips for what to take in your hospital bag and the things I did to help me through it all.
This is by no means medical advice, but simply an account of my own experience. For the record, I’m 40-years-old and I have no children – but haven’t ruled children out.
You can read a bit of my fibroids history and everything I’ve learned from the experience here. But to give you a quick overview…
In late March 2020, I was admitted to hospital for the urgent removal of my fibroids. I’d discovered my fibroids in August 2018 after developing pains in my abdomen after travelling on bumpy roads in northern Namibia (I run tours in Africa for a living).
Back in the capital Windhoek, an ultrasound revealed the tumours.
When I returned home, a couple of months later, I was put on the hormone-blocking tablets called Esmya for the next year and a half. The aim was to shrink the fibroids and stop my heavy bleeding. The major downside of Esmya was that you need monthly blood tests to check your liver function as the drug can have some life-threatening side effects in rare cases. As of March 2020, I believe the use of Esmya has been suspended.
The fibroids were annoying and twinged occasionally, but didn’t really stop me doing anything. I travelled, went to the gym, surfed and I even climbed Kilimanjaro… but everything was harder, I felt heavy, anxious and as time went on, my clothes got tighter. I felt very low sometimes, but I’m naturally quite a positive person so was able to pull myself up. It’s only now, after having them removed that I realise how badly they were affecting me.
An MRI scan in January 2020 showed that I had 2 fibroids measuring 11cm x 6cm x 11cm and 10cm x 15cm x 9cm. I’d been on Esmya for over a year at this point and they were still ‘massive’ (my Gynaecologist’s words) so we decided it was time to check out my surgical options and I had an appointment with a surgeon booked for early March.
At the end of February 2021, whilst travelling in West Africa, the pains returned with a vengeance. Back at home, I was in a lot of pain, but as my appointment was so close, I hung on, not wanting to be a further burden on the NHS at this terrible time. I was smashing the painkillers, but I was struggling to eat or sleep, and even walking was becoming difficult. I was in so much pain I couldn’t function normally. I stayed up all night watching TV, anything to distract myself.
I tried lots of natural cure remedies such as castor oil packs, celery juice, turmeric, hot water with black molasses and cider vinegar, you name it, but nothing really helped – I’d left it too late for holistic remedies.
However, now that I’ve been through this, I’m doing what I can to avoid them growing back (which is common) and I would highly recommend you check out my friend Phyllis’s website (Fibroid Queen) as she is a nurse who works with women to help them manage and shrink their fibroids holistically.
I spent hours in the bath each day as it was the only place where the pain subsided a little – our womb is connected to the water element, so water is a very soothing place to be when the pains get bad. I also found that an ice pack helped, more so than a hot water bottle.
At this point, Covid-19 was at the forefront of the news, and my consultation was cancelled, but my pains just got worse, so I asked my Gynae for an urgent appointment and when she saw me, she immediately sent me to the hospital.
I was shaking with the pain but after another ultrasound and some stronger painkillers they sent me home, but after a few days, the painkillers weren’t working anymore – I cannot even begin to describe the way I felt, but I’ll never forget the worried look on my husband’s face as I writhed around our room in pain.
The next morning I was back at the hospital.
Tests, Tests & More Tests
The pain in my womb was a dull and VERY intense pain but the pain on my right side (around my ovary) felt like someone was twisting a knife inside me. I could also feel the pressure on my bladder, bowels and lower back. I was ready for it all to be over, I just wanted the pain to stop.
I know some of you will be feeling like this right now too. Please don’t give up hope. 3.5 months later, I now feel better than ever and the pain is a distant memory.
As soon as I arrived they put a cannula in the back of my left hand and took some blood for testing. They were concerned because of the level of pain I was in, so said they would need to keep me in for observation. Luckily, I’d brought a bag with me (see below for advice on what to bring) as I figured they might keep me in.
No visitors were allowed on the ward the whole time I was in hospital, but hopefully, when you go in for yours, lockdown will be over and visitors will be allowed.
Over the next 2 days, they took blood, urine, and stool samples. I had both internal and external ultrasounds as well as an internal exam. Every time the doctor touched my stomach I burst into tears.
I was given a mix of paracetamol (both in tablet and drip form) and Oramorph to manage the pain but I found it very difficult to sleep and would be up most of the night.
They sent me for a CT scan. When the results came back, it showed that the fibroids had had a growth spurt, outgrown their blood supply, and started to degenerate. They call this the ‘the heart attack of the womb’ due to the amount of pain it causes.
The fibroids were also pressing on my bowel and ureter and the doctors were worried about my kidneys being compromised. I also had a cyst on one ovary and the other ovary was obscured by the fibroid on all scans.
The surgeon told me I would almost certainly need a hysterectomy, due to the position of the fibroids and that they may need to take out my ovaries too. They wouldn’t know until they did the operation. He said that they would need to make an incision from my belly button down. I think most cuts are done along the bikini line now, but as my fibroids were quite large, they needed to go top to bottom.
I don’t have children and hadn’t ruled out the option of having them, so this news was devastating. I wasn’t ready to let go of my womb or go through menopause yet, so the thought of losing everything made me desperately sad. But my husband, family, and friends assured were super supportive and I mentally prepared myself.
But to be honest, I’d been in so much pain for so long by this point that I just wanted to be well again. So I told them to get in there and just do what they needed to do.
My operation was scheduled for the Tuesday morning. To my relief, the doctor allowed me to go home on Saturday and Sunday. I had to go back to the hospital on Sunday to give a blood sample, but it was nice to be able to be home if only for a couple of days and not have a cannula in my hand.
Being alone, without any visitors made the days drag.
Plus, sleeping in a hospital isn’t always the easiest, because it’s noisy, you’re not in your own bed and they always wake you in the middle of the night to test your blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels, and temperature.
On the Sunday evening, a friend’s sister sent me distance Reiki whilst I lay in the bath, with candles and soothing music playing. I was willing to try anything to make the pain go away. I was a bit skeptical, but to my surprise, it really worked.
Getting out of the bath, I felt a sense of calm and the pain had subsided considerably (even through the night) and I got about 6 hours of continuous sleep, something I hadn’t had in some time. I’ve since trained to become a Reiki practitioner myself – it was THAT powerful.
I returned to the hospital on Monday, with my operation scheduled for the following morning. That night, I messaged all of my female friends and asked them to send me their positive vibes, especially during my operation time, with a focus on healing my womb.
At midnight I went nil by mouth and tried to get some sleep.
I was up early, nervous and super thirsty, but unable to drink. It really helped just to swill my mouth with water, even if I couldn’t swallow.
In the morning I was visited by the surgeons and the lead anaesthetist. They asked me some questions, explained what was about to happen, and gave me the opportunity to ask some questions. They explained that I would also have urology surgeons assisting because of the position of the fibroids on my ureter (the pipe that leads from your kidneys to your urethra) and they would be fitting me with a stent to protect my ureter, as well as a catheter during the operation – both go up your wee pipe.
The catheter is fitted because it’s hard to walk for a couple of days after the op so you can’t go to the toilet, but from what I understand, it’s not that common to have a stent as well as a catheter.
The nurses gave me a gown and fitted me with a new cannula. They said I could wear my underwear, but as the surgeons would need to remove it anyway so I didn’t bother. I wore a dressing gown to cover my bum and a nurse walked me down to surgery. I was scared and my heart was racing, but I tried to focus on a positive outcome.
The nurse stayed with me whilst I got comfy on the bed and told me about her own hysterectomy. They gave me some inflatable massage socks to help lower the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The plan was to do a myomectomy if at all possible and just remove the fibroids, but I had to sign all of the relevant paperwork to allow them to take away the uterus and ovaries if necessary for my health.
That was a very strange thing to have to do, but I focused on being well again. That’s all you can do in that situation and I truly believe the mind is more powerful than we can imagine.
I was wheeled into the anaesthetist’s room where I met the full surgical team, all scrubbed up and ready to go. They were all serious, yet bright and cheery which put me at ease a little.
The last thing I remember was being told to shuffle up on my bed and the smell of anaesthetic – if you’ve had one before, you’ll know the smell I mean. They told me they were adding something to my cannula to relax me, but I was soon out for the count.
In what felt like seconds later, I was waking up in the recovery room with a nurse by my side.
When I came to properly, I couldn’t really feel anything, I was just glad to be awake and I looked around to see fellow patients, also coming out of their own surgeries.
I was wired up to a blood pouch and had an oxygen mask (as you can see above). They told me I’d lost a lot of blood during the operation and they’d had to give me a blood transfusion – this is very common with this type of surgery. I think they said they’d given me some of my own blood back, plus some donor blood – but this part of the day is a little hazy.
I was drifting in and out a little bit when my wonderful surgeon came to see me. He told me that they had been able to perform the myomectomy after all and that both of my ovaries were ok. It was a miracle.
Eventually, they wheeled me back down to my room.
I wasn’t in too much pain that day, as the anaesthetic was still in effect and my stomach was pretty numb. I had a very thick bandage/pad over the wound so I had no idea what state my stomach was in.
I was able to call my family but I was pretty wiped out and I wasn’t allowed to eat still, but to be honest, I wasn’t very hungry. But I was encouraged to drink lots of water to flush out my system.
The nurses gave me paracetamol and Oramorph throughout the rest of the day and I was prescribed iron tablets, as the blood loss had left me with anaemia. I also needed daily stomach injections (they didn’t hurt) to help prevent clotting and they would sporadically check me for signs of bleeding – I didn’t bleed at all really. Most of them seemed surprised when they spotted the stent as some of them hadn’t seen one before.
It was weird to know that I had two tubes up there, but they weren’t that bad. I could only really feel them when I moved. It felt like mild cystitis. And it’s nice not having to worry about getting up to go to the loo.
One thing that they didn’t tell me, was how the anaesthetic affects your breathing.
Firstly, as anaesthetic stops your muscles working, it also stops your urge to cough, so you get a bit of a mucus build-up. So when you wake up, you end up needing to cough relatively frequently, but coughing after abdominal surgery is scary.
I held my stomach and did a kind of throat-clearing cough, trying to limit my movements and it was fine. It was a bit sore, but nothing you won’t be able to handle.
Your breathing will also be a bit funny for a day or two after your surgery. I kept feeling myself stop breathing for a moment when I was drifting off to sleep, a bit like sleep apnoea if you’ve ever experienced that. It’s nothing to worry about, but just be aware that it happens and it’s a bit freaky.
I also felt the need to tense my body a lot, almost like I was stretching, without actually stretching. This is kind of hard to describe, but it must have been another side effect.
I’d slept pretty well overnight and I was allowed to eat today. I wasn’t very hungry, although I managed a little bit and I was super thirsty. I brought in some Ribena fruit cordial, which made it much easier to get the fluids in.
I just lay there on my back for most of the day, watching TV, my massage socks inflating and deflating – they were getting on my nerves now. Again the nurses would come in to check on me every now and again, I had some more blood taken and they gave me another stomach injection.
I was prescribed two types of antibiotics (one was because I was showing signs of infection, the other due to a bug I’d picked up in Africa prior to my operation – I’d been taking these tablets the previous week too).
The surgeon came in to remove my stent. I was pretty scared about this, as they said he would just pull it out. I braced myself for pain, but it didn’t hurt – again it just felt like a little cystitis pain and it was only for a split second.
Once my stent was out, the nurses were keen for me to try and stand up. The thought of this terrified me. I was scared it was going to hurt and I was horribly weak.
Eventually, I plucked up the courage to put my legs over the edge of the bed and get to my feet, aided by one of the nurses. My stomach felt quite sore and it was really exhausting.
I felt like I might faint so got back into bed, wondering if I’d ever be able to move normally again.
That evening was probably the worst, as I was in a lot of pain. The nurses brought me all the painkillers they could, but I was in agony. I thought that something must have gone very wrong. I cried and cried.
In the middle of the night, the nurse called the doctor who examined me and confirmed that the pain was caused by… trapped wind. So she promptly prescribed me some laxatives and peppermint tablets.
Again, what they may not tell you (or at least I had no idea), is that you are pumped full of CO2 gas during surgery and what goes in, must come out. Albeit with a little help. Plus I hadn’t been to the toilet in days.
I text my husband this: ‘Trying to pass wind feels worse than giving birth right now!’ Not that I’d know, and I’m sure it isn’t, but it was very painful.
So after a few big, long, strange trumps (you really don’t care when you’re in the hospital), the pain subsided to normal levels and I was able to sleep.
The next morning, I was tired, but in a lot less pain than I had been and the next step was to get me walking and remove my catheter.
I managed to get out of bed and have a little walk around the room (holding my wee bag) but it wasn’t easy! The catheter was really starting to annoy me but you can’t remove it until you can prove you can walk to the bathroom.
After doing a little lap of the ward, the nurse came in to remove the catheter, take my dressing off, and give me another anti-clotting injection in my stomach. I was able to take off the inflating socks too.
The catheter removal was much easier than I thought. They deflate the balloon inside you that holds the catheter in (you can’t feel that) and then the tube just slipped out. I didn’t even notice it coming out.
I was scared to remove the stomach dressing as I thought that would hurt too but it didn’t. However, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the wound just yet. Not yet anyway.
I then sat in my chair for a while. It took all my strength, but it felt good to be somewhere other than my bed. I was so, so tired due to the anaemia and dozed off to sleep numerous times.
A bit later, with the help of one of the nurses, I walked to the toilet. It was weird because I couldn’t tell when my bladder was full. It was the strangest sensation.
Going for a wee burned a little and it was pink, which they said was normal due to the catheter and stent likely irritating my bladder.
The second time I needed to pee, I went on my own, but didn’t quite make it and peed down my legs a bit. This scared me as I was worried my bladder was damaged forever, but of course, it wasn’t and and that never happened again.
At this point, I still hadn’t managed to poop yet. The downside of painkillers like codeine and Oramorph, is that they bung you right up.
On day 4, I managed to eat breakfast, get up, and shower. I felt pretty weak, but I did it. I didn’t really want to, but I think the motivating factor was that they said if I could shower and get about, they’d probably let me go home today – blood and urine tests aside.
Showering was weirdly scary. I was afraid of collapsing, afraid of the water touching me, and afraid of catching sight of my scar and fainting. It was weird to be scared of such normal, simple things, but Thankfully, I didn’t faint, I managed to look at my scar (and it looked a lot better than I expected) and the water was nice on my back but I didn’t let it run directly onto my stomach.
When I went for a wee, it still had a pinky tinge to it and the nurses said that it might be like that for a few days and it also burned a little, at the end of each wee. So it would feel normal, but as my bladder emptied, I would sting a bit at the end. Again, this is normal and went on for about ten days after the op…
Later that day, the doctor discharged me and I was allowed to go home.
This week I really took it easy – as my house was being renovated (dust = coughing, and as we know abdominal surgery and coughing do not mix well) I was staying with my brother, his wife and their kids, so I had lots of help.
You shouldn’t really do anything. No lifting (some say not even as much as a kettle), no hanging washing out, no stretching – lots of resting – both body and mind. I attribute my quick recovery to eliminating stress during my recovery too.
I know this isn’t always easy, but even doing some simple self-care practices such as meditating breathing or just staying off social media will help. And definitely take at least 2 weeks off work, 4-6 weeks if you work in a physical job and you also can’t drive for around 4 – 6 weeks after abdominal surgery.
I was taking a mix of ibruprofen, codeine and paracetamol (Tylenol for the Ameican readers) for the pain relief.
After a couple of days (and some laxatives) I was able to go to the toilet again (again, it wasn’t painful like I was expecting), but with the iron tablets and anti-biotics, things weren’t quite back to normal yet and my stomach was upset. Iron tablets also turn your poo black – so don’t be shocked by that.
I remember one night, maybe around 6 days after my operation, I was super weak and completely spaced out, the anaemia had really kicked in. I could barely function. Some of you will already have experienced this when bleeding out, but I’d never had anaemia before, it knocked me for six.
But it passed and towards the end of the week, I was feeling much better. I made my own dinner one night, but it was really tiring to stand up for any length of time. It felt like I’d done a hundred sit-ups even though I was just pottering about the kitchen.
One thing that I did get, was like a nappy rash on my butt. Almost like bed sores from all the lying down. I think it was a mix of wearing a hospital gown with no back for almost 3 days, lying on a pad (they put down these pads – like a puppy training pad – on your bed in case you bleed) plus my super sensitive skin.
My best friend is a nurse and she said it didn’t look good – so just watch out for that. It kind of snuck up on me. I just put Sudocrem on and after a few days, it went back to normal.
It’s important to not sit in one place for too long and keep a little bit active, even though you have to take it easier.
My belly was still a bit swollen and I weighed myself for the first time, I was almost 2 stone lighter than I had been a couple of months ago – a combo of the fibroid removal and the lack of appetite in the weeks leading up to my operation and the few days after the op too. Even in that first week, I still ate very little.
I also managed to get more sleep than I’d had in weeks. For the first week I had to sleep on my back, and I would often wake up in a cold sweat – I’m not sure if that was the surgery, or the antibiotics I was taking.
But despite all of the above, I was feeling amazing. Very tired, a bit sore but nowhere near as sore as I was expecting – believe me, the pain prior to the operation was far worse than the pain after the operation (apart from the wind on night 2, and the laxatives/peppermint fixed that).
I got stronger each day, my stomach was still a bit swollen but much less swollen than before. And I was feeling so happy and grateful to be on the road to recovery.
Week 2 & Beyond
Each day I felt stronger. Once I stopped the anti-biotics, my stomach started to feel a bit better, however, antibiotics can cause yeast infections – so be prepared for that and I was still on the iron tablets, so things weren’t totally normal in that department yet.
I began studying Reiki and Chakra Healing, the world started to become exciting again.
By the end of week 2, I’d stopped taking painkillers, only taking paracetamol if I needed it. I was able to move around more and walk a little further. My appetite started to come back and I even managed a glass of wine (just a small one).
My belly began to look a bit better, less swollen and stitches began to come out – I had some that dissolved and some that worked their way out. I began to rub Bio-Oil on my stomach to help with the scarring.
I’d mostly been wearing maxi dresses during recovery which really helped (try to avoid leggings and jeans or anything that’s tight) and I was spraying ‘My Expert Midwife -Spritz for Bits‘ onto my wound and taking Arnica tablets.
Each week I felt much better. In week 4 (my 40th birthday week), I attempted an online vinyasa flow yoga class. This did not go well and I felt sick after about 5 minutes and ended up sitting on the couch, watching the class whilst eating chocolate, and having a cup of tea. Thankfully, my video was off.
My scar was healing pretty well, although it started to spread a little.
At the beginning of week 5, I attempted another yoga class. This time I didn’t feel sick, but I may have overdone it and my stomach was killing me. I ended up going back on the codeine and having to rest for the night.
This didn’t last long though and by week 6, I was feeling a lot better. I was doing quite a bit of yoga (taking it easy on the belly) and the last bit of the external stitches came out. In fact, I was feeling great.
In week 7, I was feeling normal again and I began my yoga teacher training.
It’s now been 3.5 months since my operation and I am feeling better than ever. I’m a qualified yoga teacher and fitter and healthier than I’ve been in years.
I hope my story helps you prepare and also gives you hope for the future. Things may seem awful now, but there are ways to help get better, whether it’s holistically or via medical procedures.
Now my aim is to make sure they don’t grow back. I’m looking after myself, eating well, and taking time to rest. Life is good again and I intend to keep it that way!
ps. UPDATE: I went swimming with my 4-year-old nephew the other day and was wearing a bikini. He caught sight of my scar and shouted “Wow, Auntie Helen, your scar looks cool!” He approves. #badass #warriorwoman
Since I had my operation, I’ve had 3 periods. The first one came about 3 – 4 weeks after my operation.
They’ve all been much lighter and shorter than they were previously. The first one caused me to have quite strong, nauseating period pains (for a day, which required strong painkillers), but since then, they’ve not been bad at all. Regular and a lot less painful than they used to be.
Things to Take in Your Hospital Bag
- Soft nightie or pyjamas that won’t sit on your waistline (at least 2 in case you bleed or have night sweats).
- Change of clothes (for when you leave).
- Warm socks – I had some thick winter Heat Holders ones..
- Dressing gown – I also used this as a blanket, both for warmth and something nice to cuddle.
- Big knickers – a few pairs of comfy ones.
- Sweater/hoody – it got cold in the hospital at times.
- Pillow – it was nice to have my own pillow as the hospital ones aren’t great.
- Books/computer/tablet – not all hospitals have TV’s. Mine did but it was only free to watch in the mornings.
- Journal & pen.
- Toiletries – cleanser, moisturiser, toothpaste, toothbrush, shower stuff, shampoo etc.
- Lip balm – make sure you put in lip balm, as your lips will be dry and sore after the op. The one I use is O’keefe’s Lip Repair & Protect and it’s really good.
- Hairbrush – otherwise it can get a bit matted.
- Sanitary pads – you can’t use tampons for at least 6 weeks afterwards.
- Hand sanitiser – I couldn’t always reach the stuff in my room as it was attached to the end of my bed so I wished I’d brought some.
- Vitamin C & Zinc tablets – check with the docs, but these are great immunity builders.
- Turmeric tablets – great anti-inflammatories, but again, check with the doctor.
- My Expert Midwife Spritz for Bits – I started spraying this on the wound when I got home.
- Arnica tablets – to aid recovery
- Eye mask & earplugs to help you sleep.
- Peppermint tea/oil – for the wind.
- Throat sweets – in case you get a sore throat after having the breathing tube in.
- Fruit cordial – I really liked having some Ribena with me as it helped me drink more water.
- Snacks/sweets/mints – in case you don’t love the food, I quite liked the food at the hospital.
- Crystals – if you are spiritually inclined these may help (Carnelian is a good one).
- Essential oils – lavender is a good all-rounder for calming/sleeping, orange for positivity, Albas Oil/eucalyptus for keeping your lungs clear.
Tips for Recovery
- Take it super easy, especially in the first couple of weeks after the op. Don’t be lifting anything heavy or even anything light. Take it easy and let people look after you.
- But keep moving. Try and walk a little further each day, it will help you get back to normal quicker.
- If you live alone, make sure you have someone staying with you for at least the first 2 weeks.
- Be patient, it takes time to get better. Week 1 is the most difficult, but after that, it gets significantly easier.
- Keep an eye on your butt and try to avoid bed sores.
Tips for On-Going Life Changes (or at least what I’m doing)
- Listen to your body. going through an experience like this really opens up your eyes and your mind to what your body needs and wants. Listen to it. Notice if something triggers you, notice if a certain food doesn’t sit right for you – keep a food diary. The weeks and months since my operation have been the most ‘connected’ to my self that I’ve EVER felt.
- Get some sunshine if you can. Vitamin D is really beneficial in the fight against fibroids and general well-being.
- Eat/drink healthily. This goes without saying, but there are lots of foods that are known to help the fight against fibroids – leafy greens, celery juice, carrots, sweet potatoes, turmeric, grains, legumes etc.
- My friend recommends making a tea from turmeric, ginger, lemon, honey, and black pepper. I love this drink. She also said to cut out coffee.
- It is said that cleansing the liver is super important to regulate your hormones – this means avoiding high-fat, processed foods, red meat, dairy (although there are lots of contradictions around this), any foods with high-salt content, refined carbohydrates, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. I’ve cut out milk completely and limit other dairy products with the aim to cut dairy out completely in the next few months (bye cheese – sobs).
- Avoid stress. I strongly believe that stress plays a major part in fibroid development. Stress causes hormone imbalance which messes with our bodies. Watch the Netflix documentary ‘Heal’ and you’ll get an idea. Many of my yoga teachers also talk about this too.
- Yoga – I’ve found that yoga has really helped me recover. There are lots of yoga poses that can help fibroids and balance your Sacral chakra. Click here and here for two great classes. I also do my own practice with my own students which I’ll hopefully be able to share with you at some point. I also really love the classes by Tina Nance at The Yoga Barn, Bali – she teaches a lot about womb health and the Divine Feminine.
- Breathe – breathing exercises are amazing ways to calm your system and take time for yourself.
- Meditate – this is great for de-stressing and there are lots of guided meditations online for beginners, but if you want a super-powerful womb meditation, click here.
- Check out my friend Phyllis’s Fibroid Coaching Programme.
If you have any tips or want to share your own experience, please leave them in the comments below. Or if you have any questions, feel free to ask!