It’s done! My mother of all surgeries (MOAS) was done on November 3. After four weeks in hospital I have been home a week and a half and couldn’t be happier. Not just about being home but with how well my recovery is going.
It’s hard to believe how quickly life goes back to ‘normal’ after such a massive surgery. I am sitting at home, up late typing away on my laptop. The Christmas tree is up, our house is a semi-organised mess. Surely after such major upheavals in our life, things should be different.
Of course, normal is subjective. There is plenty I can’t do at the moment which puts pressure on Naomi. And I have minor breakdowns over different aspects of my recovery at times but for all intents and purposes, life is going on as it always has.
The night before my surgery, I had a good, quiet cry in my hospital bed. I was so overwhelmed with what was coming. The morning of my surgery it was Naomi’s turn to cry. The poor thing had such a long day ahead of her. As they wheeled me to the operating theatre I willed myself not to cry because I was scared I’d tell them I’d changed my mind!!
In total, the operation took 11.5 hours. The surgeon told Naomi there was significantly more cancer than they had expected when they opened me up. Apparently three CT scans, two PET scans and an MRI couldn’t pick up the severity of it! In the end they:
- performed a radical hysterectomy (ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and cervix)
- removed most of my large intestine
- removed my gall bladder
- removed my spleen
- removed my appendix
- removed my omentum (fatty layer of tissue under muscles)
- removed peritoneum (lining of abdomen)
- created a stoma
- resected my rectum
- scraped tumours off my diaphragm
- scraped tumours off my bladder (and repaired a resulting hole)
- scraped tumours off my small intestine
So just a small procedure!
I spent less than a day in ICU having fought sedation, which is so unlike me! I remember the tube being down my throat and I remember my view of the ICU but that’s about it. Naomi tells me the nurses would ask me questions and I requested paper to write answers on – not just yes or no but full sentences! They had me sitting up in the chair the next day which I only believe because there’s a picture of it and then, 20 hours later, I was on the ward with 9 drains to keep me company.
Surprisingly through it all I’ve experienced very little pain. My back caused me the most grief. Some nights I had the nurses propping pillows up under me and changing them around every hour. The only unexpected complication was a blood infection which kept me in a little longer than I otherwise would have been. 41.2 degrees Celsius was the highest temperature I recorded whilst in hospital. The convulsions that went with it were a real treat!! But, a week of IV antibiotics three times a day and I was good to go!
I was released to Bezzina House, the accommodation attached to St George Hospital. It was amazing to be out of hospital but close by in case anything happened. The surgical team were pleased with my progress though so four days later we were homeward bound!
As well as my recovery is going there are things I’ve had to get used to. As with all major surgery there is no heavy lifting or driving for at least 6 weeks. Part of my scar opened up in the hospital so we have a community health nurse come three times a week to change the dressings and check it’s healing OK. Naomi has had to change the dressings a few times and she’s getting really good at it! I am just annoyed that it means no swimming in this hot weather.
I’ve also had a problem with minor incontinence and menopausal symptoms of flushed face and feeling hot. I’m fine with changing my ileostomy bag but the process is exhausting because my body is still quite weak from surgery, not to mention the frustration of any ‘mishaps’ when emptying it. I’ve also had to be a big girl and learn to give myself injections daily.
The most difficult part is remembering not to be too hard on myself. Everyone keeps saying how well I am doing but I see all the things I can’t do. I have to ask Naomi to pick things up off the floor for me or to make me a cup of tea because the kettle is too heavy. I can’t sit and play with the little dude because I just can’t get comfy. I also feel awful that Naomi has to take on such a carer’s role and do my dressings or help me tidy up after myself. She is amazing and does everything without complaint. I am truly lucky to have such a wonderful partner.
I am lucky too because I know that others operated on the same week as me have had much longer recoveries. Youth I think has helped me immensely. And my ability to rest when needed – something I’ve always been good at!
Hopefully things continue to go well. The Sydney team wanted chemo to start this month but because of my open wound my oncologist has said we have to wait until it’s healed. This makes me very happy! I am not looking forward to starting it again but at least I get Christmas and New Years!