My Post Operation Experience – recuperating at home and what life is like now
I can’t believe it has taken me so long to write this blog. The last year has just whizzed by in the blink of an eye. I had thought I had already written and posted this blog until somebody got in touch to ask if I could write about my post-operative experience. If you haven’t read about my bowel resection surgery you can do so here.
So here goes…. I hope I remember most of it and I don’t leave out anything important.
I left the hospital a week after the operation. I remember my then fiancée (now husband) collected me and we drove home very slowly. I was still very tender from the operation and every bump in the road hurt a lot. I had a pillow between myself and the seat belt to cushion myself but it still hurt. The journey home tired me out and I was only good for laying on the couch for the rest of the day / evening.
It was strange going back to my own bed and lying down flat after a week of an adjustable hospital bed which had me propped up. I had to sleep on my back as it was too sore to sleep on my side. I remember not having the greatest of sleeps for the first while when I went home as it was uncomfortable and sore.
It was hard to shower and dress myself at first. My shower is in a bath so even getting my legs over the side of the bath was a bit of an ordeal. I had to also be mindful of my wound and dressing. Basically, everything took way longer to do and was sore. But I was able to do everything for myself and didn’t need assistance from my fiancée.
The day after I left hospital my sister came to visit and brought me to the supermarket, so I could stock up on groceries. I was able to walk around and even carried a basket of items. I probably shouldn’t have as it ended up being heavier than expected but I managed it fine. We walked around the shopping centre for an hour or so. I was wary of people coming too close in case they bumped against my wound or I needed to move quickly to get out of their way. I wasn’t able to make any fast movements. Needless to say, I was bunched after the outing. That was possibly the only day that I went back to bed for a nap.
For the first week or so I felt tired after too much exertion and would need to go to bed early but for the most part I would just take it easy on the couch rather than napping in bed.
The only things I could wear for a few weeks were a pair of old jeans and tracksuit bottoms that were loose around my belly button where my wound was. It was very sore to laugh for the first while also which was hard as my husband and I are always joking around and he makes me laugh a LOT.
Food wise I kept it very simple – broth, homemade jelly, well-cooked meat, fish and vegetables, stewed fruit, ripe banana, coconut yogurt and some gluten free toast. But as the weeks passed, I was able to increase the variety of foods I was able to introduce.
I got out for a walk/walks every day. I’m an active person so being indoors all day would have driven me mad. I started off very slow but as the days and weeks went by my pace increased. I started off with maybe a 15 minute walk from the apartment, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes and then up to 45 minutes by which time I was ready to drive again (about four weeks after the operation) and could drive to the local park for a walk there. I started back at yoga around that time too. Obviously I took it very easy to begin with which was difficult enough for me as I have been doing a yoga-based class for about 15 years but it was a practice in listening to my body and being gentle with myself.
I remember reading a lot of blogs before the operation with people saying they got through so many box sets and movies while they were at home recuperating. I just about got through the first season of The Crown. That first week at home mainly consisted of visitors calling by and studying. I sat an exam a week after coming home (two weeks after the operation, I know…. Crazy!!!) and then once my exam was out of the way I got stuck into wedding planning, cleaning the apartment, going for walks etc. The days actually flew by. I started working from home at around four weeks and went back to work early (five weeks after the operation). I was still tender at that stage but felt I was able for public transport and sitting in an office all day. The first couple of weeks back to a ‘normal’ routine were definitely tiring.
I had to go back to the dressing clinic twice during the first weeks as my wound wasn’t healing very quickly but it eventually started to dry up and heal. I wasn’t as sore. I started to put on some weight and could eat a greater variety of foods. I didn’t get bloated anymore which was amazing.
I got married nearly six months to the day after my operation and to be honest having the surgery when I did was the best thing I could have done. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my wedding and my amazing three-week honeymoon in Italy if I hadn’t had it done. There’s absolutely nothing I would have changed about my surgery experience. I’m lucky, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I had a positive experience and my recovery was a lot quicker than expected which I put down to diet, lifestyle and self-care.
20 months on, I’m still medication free and for the most part feeling good. In comparison to before the surgery it is night and day. My CRP (inflammatory marker) is down, I hardly ever get bloating, the intestinal gurgling I had before is non-existent, my energy levels are much better (although there’s always room for improvement), I’ve put on weight and the scope of foods I can now have is much wider than before. The scarring is minimal – I’ve even gotten a belly button of sorts back! Is everything perfect? Not quite. I still have some bowel issues from time to time, my hormones aren’t as balanced as I’d like them to be (periods are still ad hoc) and my mood isn’t as bright as I’d like it to be (which I put down to hormonal imbalances). So… I’m still a work in progress 😊. But I realise it’s a journey and I love continually learning more about health and applying new things to myself.
Do I wish I had the surgery sooner? Not really. Knowing me, I think I needed to get to a place where I couldn’t go on the way I was so that I was 100% ready. I tried every other avenue and had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes surgery can indeed be lifesaving and I didn’t need to feel like a failure as I couldn’t ‘fix’ myself just with diet, lifestyle and alternative therapies. My disease had left such a mark despite being in remission (thanks to cold structuring). I firmly believe that not only was surgery life-saving, it also gave me back my quality of life.
I’m now a qualified Nutritional Therapist and am looking forward supporting people on their health journeys.