Well, it’s now 12 weeks since my operation and I’m still signed off work.
It’s been an eventful journey thus far, with good times and bad, milestone moments, and ‘yardstone’ and ‘footstone’ moments. There are so many things I can do now that I couldn’t do in those early weeks, but I still find I can overdo things and my body lets me know in no uncertain terms when I have.
They tell you to move about as much as you can as soon as you can.With this in mind, and living at the top of a steep hill, my first exercise was simply to go out of the kitchen door at the side of our semi-detached house, walk to the front gate, along the street to the back gate and back to the kitchen door. I used to call this ‘walking the wall’ (there’s a low wall!) and I used to do this a few times a day. I suspect the neighbours, at least those who didn’t know about the surgery, thought I’d gone a bit bonkers – but then I’ve always said I fully intend to be the mad woman on the corner who gets eaten by her cats when she dies!
On a serious note, though, this was the extent of what I was capable of physically for those first few weeks – it was a big deal when I did it the first time; I was still in so much pain but knew I had to move about to help my recovery. Small steps, small steps. Now I can walk into town, a walk of about 20 minutes and a couple of times have even walked back, though I often resort to the bus as I’m still getting pain, and the more I move about, the worse the pain. It’s really good to think back to those early weeks, though, and remind myself just how far I’ve come – particularly on the days when I still feel a bit sorry for myself.
On a scale of 1-3 (which was what they used in hospital) though, my pain is now 1 and occasionally 2 but never 3 these days. Small steps again! Yesterday was a ‘2’ day, with more regular pain where I haven’t yet healed inside, and a more uncomfortable abdomen than I’ve had in a couple of weeks. It really does seem to be two steps forward, one step back and is a constant reminder that I’m still healing big-style. Even now, I’m still more comfortable lying down than being upright for any length of time – a consequence I suspect of my internal organs (definitely my bladder!) lying on what is actually a healing wound where my cervix was – eek! Yesterday I walked in to town and wandered around for less than an hour, and boy did I know I’d done it. I’d woken up feeling a bit tired and sore so I got the bus in and back. I’m conscious of walking the line between getting enough exercise to make me feel better physically and emotionally, and not overdoing it and stressing my healing body too much. It’s not easy to judge even now, and I’m generally not taking the painkillers anymore as I’m using the pain to tell me when it’s time to rest.
Another thing of note (don’t know if I’ve said this before) but since my pre-op assessment on 31st May, I’ve lost a stone in weight. However, my belly now has its own post code, so I’m not really sure how that works? It’s good to be lighter, though, and I just hope I can avoid putting it back on. Roll on the day I can go swimming!
Other milestone (yardstone? footstone?) moments include the first time I did a proper sneeze, not all that long ago actually. I’ve always thought that you can’t stop a sneeze but have learned that in effect, you can – at least I’ve been able to stop the hurricane-style sneezes that I naturally do. These days, I can sneeze and cough almost without impunity, though I still find it more comfortable to hold my tummy when I do. Small steps, like I say.
Waiting for my incision wound to become a scar felt interminable, and another definite milestone moment came on August 17th – my own personal D-Day. In this case, the D means ‘dressing’, though, for it was on August 17th, some nine weeks after my surgery, that my incision finally fully closed and I became dressing-free. Oh, the absolute joy of leaving the Chronic Wounds Clinic with NO DRESSING!!! I felt like I was going commando! Even now, three weeks later, being able to shower in the morning and even have a bath occasionally, is heaven, even if getting up out of the bath is both inelegant and uncomfortable.This was up there with the infection finally clearing after three weeks and the first relatively pain-free ‘Barry’ (see earlier post) and the first night of sleeping through without needing pain relief at 2am! Once again, small steps.
I was a bit concerned that this post would be a bit negative, a bit whingy, a bit self-indulgent, but I seem to have focused on the positive aspects of my step-by-step recovery from what is after all major surgery. It’s not all plain sailing, however, and even as I sit here on the sofa, almost upright, with my laptop on my knees (another milestone moment), I’m getting pains. Pain in my abdomen (which seems to be going through a sensitive phase); pain deep inside where my cervix was (really must come up with a name for that, but it’s ‘right up me jacksie!’); pain in my legs (which is apparently a lesser-known symptom of the lovely menopause – oh, joy). It still hurts when I go to the toilet, when I stand up for too long and when I bend or stretch. It even hurts when I do my pelvic floor exercises (I really must ask the doctor about some physiotherapy next time I go). It hurts when I get up off the sofa, when I stretch my legs out after having them bent at the knee while lying in bed and when I need a wee (which seems to be all the time at the moment). Just about everything hurts to some extent. But we’re talking number 1 on the 1-3 scale: just enough to remind me that my body’s been through a lot recently (in case I forget!).
I’ve never been anaemic in my life, even after two pregnancies, and I’m a regular blood donor but my last blood test showed my iron levels are a bit low – another reminder that I am apparently only mortal. Everything else is fine, though: liver, kidneys, red and white cell counts, platelets – all fine. I find it amazing how the human body can repair itself after the most extreme trauma. Anyway, I’m taking iron supplements in the form of iron-rich water from Snowdonia, which tastes so bloody awful you have to mix it with something else (not gin, unfortunately) but is apparently much easier to absorb in this form. Indeed in the absence of HRT, I’m taking enough supplements to sick a battleship and have just ordered some Red Maca on the advice of a hyster-sister on the Hysterectomy Association forum. As I’ve had a couple of hot flushes in the time I’ve been writing this post, here’s hoping all this works!
Can’t remember if I said this last time, but after much soul-searching and research, I’ve actually watched some surgical videos of the operation I’ve had. This was to help me to really understand what’s been done to me and why I’m not ‘all better now’ after 12 weeks. I had been getting (and if I’m being honest, still sometimes do get) incredibly frustrated and fed up with not being fighting fit. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s helped me to understand why I’m not back on my feet yet. It’s also made me ashamed to realise just how little I knew about how my body was constructed inside. I rather naively thought, ‘Oh, hysterectomy. They’ll just cut me at the cervix and stitch me up.’ I think I really thought it was just a cut inside. I didn’t realise how many ligaments, nerve and blood vessels there are. I didn’t realise that the uterus is a huge muscle that provides support to other internal organs and, I think, the skeleton. I now realise and am no longer beating myself up for not bouncing back immediately.
Anyway, as part of my hysterectomy clearly involved replacing my bladder with the thimble from a doll’s house, and I’m currently experiencing my third hot flush since I started typing, I’m going to end now and (1) go to the toilet and (2) stick my head in a bucket of ice. Okay, so maybe I won’t do the second but I’m SO doing the first.
Bye for now. x