As most of you know, I had to undergo surgery AGAIN this past Wednesday (2/17)! After returning home from Swaziland, I had to see multiple doctors to try and figure out the why’s of my illness that landed me in an emergency surgery situation and fighting for my life afterwards. After seeing a travel specialist to rule out any “African” diseases, my PCP to rule out any “normal” medical diseases or conditions, my GYN to rule out any “female” medical diseases we decided to do an “exploratory” surgery. Since I had seen these doctors and each one did so many test, and so many different scans and not one of them could find a definitive reason for my health issues present or the illness in Africa, since nothing was ever consistent or “normal” we decided that the best thing UNFORTUNATELY was to look inside and remove the cyst on my right ovary that seemed to pop up on the scans occasionally, varying in size from 4 – 7cm. Going into the surgery, I was unbelievably scared and anxious but who could blame me after my last operation.
Luckily for me, I had some of the best at our local hospital. They were prepared for the worst and they took time with me and my situation. In all my years of not only working in the medical field but also with my personal health scares, I have never had a team of people so thoughtful, caring, compassionate and helpful, then I did with this surgery. I mean everyone from the check in staff to the doctor. Having the treatment that I had made my experience so much easier on me.
Upon waking up I learned that I had once again had massive amounts of scarring from the last emergency surgery which was the cause to the problems that I was having since that surgery last April. I am not sure about South Africa’s normal protocols for abdominal surgeries but in the states they do everything in their power to try and reduce the chances of scar tissues and that is not an easy thing to do. I hate to ever question a doctor but I feel like had they taken the time to do some of the normal protocols then I may not have had the issues that I did. Then again sometimes there is just nothing you can do about an emergency surgery, it isn’t neat and meticulous it is about saving your life. But I do know that the days following the surgery last year I was not mobilized early, they kept the catheter in and kept me bed ridden for weeks which contributed to my problems in my opinion. I do know that had they made me get up and move around I would have complained and been in tremendous amounts of pain but I would have done it, just as I have done now and with my previous surgeries.
At any rate, I am thankful once again to be alive regardless of what they did or didn’t do last time, they saved my life by removing the infection and unfortunately we will never know what caused the illness that led to the surgery or the cause of the fever afterwards. I always tell people it is kind of like the question “which came first the chicken or the egg”, we will never know if the ovary became infected first causing the illness and the need for the emergency surgery or if SOMETHING caused the illness leading to the problem in the ovary. Then afterwards we will never know what truly happened to me to know why I didn’t heal properly or timely, we will never know what happened or why. But it doesn’t matter now, I am alive and all my test are getting better. I do have to heal from this recent surgery but I am doing a good job so far. I have 3 more scars to add to my collection on my abdomen that will remind me of how precious life is. I am going to continue my path of living a healthy lifestyle and I will do everything I can to live for the day.
This surgery was no easier or harder then any other that I have had but since I have been down this road several times I now have a system for it, is that sad or strength? To me I see it as strength, there is always strength in knowledge…. So I am going to help some of you out and give you my list of preparing for this process and please remember each operation, each surgery and each person is so different so adapt this to what is best for you:
- First, listen to your body and know your body – if you feel something is wrong don’t stop until you get the answers you need. Ask for test, do your research and do not ever think Doctors know everything because they don’t – no one does.
- Get a second or third opinion – this time I seen 3 doctors, did 4 scans and a multitude of test before I finally agreed that surgery was our last option … luckily for me I didn’t have gung ho doctors, they were all with me on putting surgery at the end of our list, they did everything that they could until they finally said “we are backed into a corner and the only option forward is surgery”, it wasn’t what anyone wanted but it was what we had to do.
- Once your surgery date is set, do your research on possible problems and ways that YOU can avoid them. Don’t overlook, “Googling” can make you be too paranoid so find that fine line between being educated and being paranoid.
- Go grocery shopping for after your surgery. Get easy to make items, as well as plenty of high fiber, high nutritious items like fruits and veggies. Keep your processed foods to a minimum. But I will admit one day I just wanted a cup of noodles but instead of water I used bone broth as the liquid so half good half bad but totally tasty!
- I personally suggest getting the ingredients to make a couple of soups or meals in advance and possibly freeze those so that you can heat them up when needed. Soups are good for healing for many reasons but mainly because your bowels will need time to get back to normal after the operation, anesthesia and medication. The soups I liked and found beneficial were: Bone Broth, Cabbage Soup, Chicken Avo Soup and of course Chicken Noodle. But you can do any type of soup.
- Stock up on premade juices – I am usually a fresh juicer kind of girl but after a surgery you will not feel like standing there; so invest in some really good brand of premade organic juices like Suja (but I don’t care for the taste honestly but I haven’t tried them all so I continue to try them) but Evolution is really good as is Trader Joe’s Cold Pressed Juices. Watch the sugar content and make sure that the only ingredients are the ones from fresh fruits and veggies. If after a few days or weeks you feel up to making smoothies I suggest using a good protein powder, a good mixture of greens and fruits as well as almond or coconut milk.
- Stock up on your pharmacy items: ibuprofen (best choice for after surgery from what I was told), stool softener, laxative, Pedialite (in case you are nauseous), and anything else the doctor may suggest.
- Have a heating pad or blanket for the sensitive areas and for the gas pain that you may feel in your shoulders (I felt it for days, some feel it more or less then others, mine personally was horrible).
- Have a plan set up on where you will sleep, who will help you with your daily items, what movies will you watch while your down, etc. Just have your area set up before you come home so that when you come you then you don’t have to burden others or make yourself any more uncomfortable then needed. I had a chair by the couch that had my phone, ipad, a book, coloring book, tissues, bottle water, a trash can (in case I got sick), some gum, remotes, etc. right there within reach. I used a chair so that it could easily be moved if it was in anyone’s way. My husband, son, daughter and mom were all on hand to help as needed but I am a stubborn person and didn’t ask for help much.
- After the surgery try to get mobile as quickly as possible and I don’t mean running a marathon but I do mean walking to the bathroom, taking a few steps at a time, even just changing your position... These things will help you feel better faster; it will help the gas dissipate sooner. I personally would alternate between sitting up, relaxed, sitting straight while taking some really good deep breaths and then laying totally flat and let me tell you flat hurt like hell, it felt like I couldn’t breath at times from either the gas or pain or something but I focused on breathing and after a few times it got easier.
- Breath, Breath, Breath oh and meditate – however works for you but breathing through the pain will be a lot better for you in the long run. Focusing on breathing, or meditating will take your mind off of the pain and will help balance you during this tough time of doing nothing but healing.
- Keep your brain in check! Read, play video games, mediate, coloring, writing – whatever you like – just keep your brain busy so that you don’t go stir crazy and over do it trying to push this healing process.
- Do not compare your process to anyone else’s, we are not the same when it comes to these things. Healing is very personal to you, so go at your own pace and do what feels good, listen to your body and when you become tired or weak then take a step back and relax!!!!
I hope this list will help you, I am no doctor and I can’t make any claims about what I am suggesting but this is what worked for me. I hope you never have to use this list but if you do, I hope it helps you in some way.
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