Life After Surgery
Following on from my first blog here is the second part of my cancer journey after I’d had my surgery.
To be honest I don’t really remember much of my surgery day. Since looking into this and a combination of high doses of morphine and the body’s own coping mechanisms of dealing with trauma means that the mind can automatically block out traumatic events for us (like a built-in filter). The nurse told my family not to come and see me till the following day as I would be very groggy from the general anaesthetic and the high doses of pain killers that I was on and also as it was a long journey for them too. I just drifted in and out of sleep later that evening and really knowing what was going on as my observations were taken regularly throughout the night.
My Home For The Next Week
I was in a small ward with just 5 of us on there as the idea was that you had your surgery and were back home within a week. At the time I thought wow that’s quick, they take half my insides out and I recover enough from that to be back at home within a week, really?! The thought of this didn’t excite me in the slightest as I knew what I had to do in order to be able to go home in a week. Basically, I had to be able to stand up and walk a certain distance and also up half a dozen stairs as well, as well as that I had a new body part that I had to be able to take care off as well and this is what scared me the most. As I said in part 1 of my blog I was having my large bowel removed and I would have an ileostomy bag fitted to just below my belly button on the inside of my right hip, this bag had to be emptied on a regular basis and also changed when necessary too.
The Day After Surgery
The following day I was woken up quite early by the sound and feel of a BP cuff inflating on my arm, it was about 6am. I had actually woken up in pain but I couldn’t feel my legs so I started to panic, I was then reminded about the epidural that I was given prior to surgery. This was a most peculiar feeling as I literally couldn’t move anything below my ribs. It turned out that I’d been given too much which was why I couldn’t move my legs, this was later reversed but took a while to wear off which resulted in me getting bed sores and burns on my elbows and arms as I attempted to move about, not good. The rest of the day was a blur, my family came to visit me and I was still high on morphine so I don’t really remember much.
Day 2 Following Surgery
I couldn’t figure out why I was still in so much pain considering I was on a big dose of morphine every 20 minutes. The penny finally dropped when an amazing Spanish nurse started her shift that evening just after my friends had been to visit to me. She finally found the cause of my pain. My surgery resulted in me having a very large scar that went from my sternum to way below my belly button (about 8 inches). She said in quite graphic detail that when they opened me up to operate that I will have accumulated a lot of air in my body while they did the surgery and then stitched me back up with no way of removing the air.
Luckily for me this nurse was also a massage therapist as well. With me leaning forward over a pillow she gave me the most wonderful back massage starting from the base of my spine and worked her way up. This was to remove all the trapped air that I had acquired during my surgery, this resulted in me burping in a most unladylike fashion. She basically winded me like a baby but it worked, I was no longer in that intense pain and was taken off the morphine the following day! Polo mints and peppermint tea were also advised to keep it at bay. I was so happy, she made my day!
The Week Following Surgery
I was feeling so much better, I was even able to walk a few steps. Having someone wash my hair for me while a sat on a chair in the shower was not one of my most comfortable moments but my hair was such a mess and I couldn’t lift my arms above my shoulders so it needed to be done.
I don’t really know what I did to pass the time as we weren’t allowed televisions, I sent all my books home with my parents as I couldn’t concentrate. I looked at photos in magazines and chatted to my friend Aisha in the bed next to me. Unfortunately she very quickly became quite poorly even though she’d had her surgery a few days before me. It turned out that she had contracted MRSA and was moved to her own room. I never saw her again but I did speak to her on social media regularly once we were both better and we eventually managed to arrange a catch-up face to face just last month and we’ve already arranged to have dinner to celebrate our 10 years of friendship and matching surgery once I’ve returned to the UK. I’m currently in Australia on holiday, if you don’t follow me on social media you can here
The next couple of days was spent being constantly swabbed and having blood taken as I was the closest to Aisha on the ward so I was at a very high risk of catching it as well.
The Most Challenging Day Yet
I’d avoided having to do anything that involved my bag, mentally I wasn’t in the right place to even make friends with it. I’d also stopped eating as well as I was sick constantly and was now on supplements which tasted vile, my family and friends brought food in for me but I couldn’t stomach it at all. I think in my head I thought that if I didn’t eat I could just ignore everything. This wasn’t the case, my Specialist Nurse Eunice that as soon as I started to look after myself then I could go home. I was desperate to go home and sleep in my own bed and my best friend was also due to have a baby any day.
I sucked it up and just got on with it, no more pity parties otherwise I’d be in here even longer. By now I was up to day 10, I should’ve been home 3 days ago.
Eventually, I overcame my fears and did what I needed to do and tomorrow I was allowed to go home once I’d had all my stitches out and care had been put into place by my local district nurse team. I was determined to be home that Saturday so my best friend (a nurse too) managed to sort out my home care. I was finally free to go home at last after 11 days!
Part 3 to follow in 2 weeks’ time.
Click here to find out how I can help you following a cancer diagnosis life changing illness or event here