Hi ho, hi ho. It’s back to work I go…

So it feels like it’s been a while since I updated. A quick look back reveals that in my last post I said my referral back to gynae gave me an appointment at the same time as my next GP appointment, with the elusive Dr M.

Anyway, I’ve now seen my consultant again, who was surprised to see me back. He examined me and said I still have this granulation tissue I’ve talked about in previous posts. He removed some of it with something called polyp forceps, which wasn’t as painful as it sounds. He then examined me internally and said there’s still some granulation tissue there, which probably explains why I still get occasional pain. The whole thing was uncomfortable and inelegant but him feeling my tummy was far more painful than removing bits from up me jacksie!

I have to go for a scan next week to see what’s going on in my abdomen, which continues to be tender. Consultant said it might be an issue with my bowel, considering where I was wincing as he prodded and poked. Oh joy. He did tell me I’d done well after the procedure and examination, which he’s never done before. Maybe he’s had some bedside manner training?! I have truly mixed feelings about this scan – part of me hopes it shows something they can fix, so I can stop being in pain and know I’m not being a wuss. The other part of me hopes it shows nothing so I can be left alone; I get fed up with being examined and poked about. Then I feel guilty because there are so many women in the world who don’t have access to the healthcare I do, and women who are experiencing MUCH worse than I am.

Anyway, last week I finally began my phased return to work as an English teacher in a state secondary school. I have to say, work have been great so far, and have listened to me and what I feel I can and can’t do. I asked for a day off last week, which they gave me on Wednesday, splitting the week into two manageable chunks. The mistake I made was in agreeing to be in school the full day on Monday, my first day back (though not teaching). I agreed to this because I thought I’d manage okay but it was way too much after five months off and still having pain. On top of this, I was still taking a strong dose on a long course of antibiotics for an internal infection so was feeling grotty anyway. Even just sitting in the office, working at the computer was too much for that first day. Thinking about so many different things, talking to lots of different people, trying to be all positive and pleasant when I just felt like lying down and crying was too much for me. I didn’t really know what to expect returning after such a long absence. I thought it would be like returning after maternity leave, and to some extent it was, but much more intense, presumably because my body has been through so much and I’m obviously still not fully right after the surgery, never mind the instant and intense menopause.

So I didn’t sleep much that night and ended up in floods of tears in bed at 7am on Tuesday last week, when I was supposed to be in school until 2pm. I was sensible and spoke to my head of department, again in tears, who gave me a hug and agreed I could go home at lunchtime and do fewer hours on Thursday and Friday. This week, I’m on fewer hours, having done two half-days in school so far. I’m off today (Wednesday), which is a life-saver, and am teaching most of my lessons on Thursday and Friday (bar one tomorrow for my appointment with Dr M). For anyone contemplating their return to work following this surgery, I have to admit that I MASSIVELY underestimated the physical and mental impact going back to work would have on me. It’s one thing feeling okay when you’re pottering around the house, or doing odd work-related things, like I did. It’s a completely different matter when you actually have to do these things, and have to think clearly  and have to communicate effectively and positively. On my first day back, someone asked me if I’m fully recovered. I’m not, but couldn’t tell this person details of why I’m not (in a busy corridor surrounded by pupils) so I just said that I’m not 100%, which is a huge understatement.But when you’re seen around the workplace again, after a long absence, most people will naturally assume that you’re ‘all better now’. Even now, I’m finding it wearing to be constantly almost pretending that everything’s okay and it’s hard to admit that I’m struggling physically, whether it’s because of the pain or the swelly belly or the lack of sleep, and mentally as well. When I’m being honest, I feel like I’m constantly whinging and being self-obsessed. So, all in all, I’m very lucky that my head of department and headteacher are being very supportive at the moment. I just worry a bit about how soon they’ll get sick of me if I take too long to get back on my feet again.

The other thing about teaching, of course, is that it’s not just the actual contact time with the pupils – the lessons themselves. It’s the planning the lesson and preparing resources, Powerpoints etc. beforehand, as well as the marking afterwards. Monday this week, for instance, was down as a half day, but I still had to come home and prepare my lessons for yesterday morning and mark a set of books before the next lesson. So even though my phased return timetable for this week states Monday morning, I actually worked all day, it’s just some of it was done at home. It’s something I need to be careful about and I’ve been very disciplined and I prepared lessons for today and tomorrow before I left yesterday so I can actually have a break today.

I have to say, the pupils have been great. There’s just the one class I’ve kept from last year (now Y11), and though they’re a noisy bunch, they’re actually great kids and do seem to understand why I’m not in all the time, even though they don’t know the exact surgery I’ve had. The Y10 class I’ve picked up are a delight; there’s a trainee currently teaching my Y9 class (which helps my getting back into the swing of things); and the Y7 & Y8 classes, though they have some characters, are quite manageable. It’s the kids that make this the job it is: challenging, knackering and exciting; inspiring, satisfying and at times frustrating. It’s been lovely this week to be visited in my classroom by pupils I taught last year, but don’t teach this year and I’ve already had some hugs and a chocolate muffin! So despite all I’m saying, it IS good to be back.

On a serious note, one final thing I’ve noticed – and this again is for anyone who’s had the surgery and not yet gone back to work – is that when I’m at work it takes a lot less time for the whole swelly belly thing to kick in. Before I went back, it was late afternoon or early evening before my abdomen swelled uncomfortably. This week I’ve been swollen and sore by lunchtime. I wasn’t really prepared for that, and even this morning my tummy feels like I’ve already been on my feet all day (it could, of course be related to whatever’s going on in my abdomen). Luckily I’ve found that I can tolerate a lightly filled hot water bottle on my stomach, which does seem to help the swelling, as well as lying flat on the sofa and some painkillers. So it’s manageable.

All in all, it’s been a bit of a rocky start to my phased return. I have underestimated the toll being back of work would have on me physically, mentally and emotionally, even on a light timetable. And I have overestimated how far along I am in my recovery and how much I can do physically and mentally before I become exhausted. I’m also a lot more emotional these days, which is of course the whole no-hormones thing, and I’m already feeling twitchy because there’s marking I haven’t done and my lessons aren’t as dynamic as I want them to be. Luckily (?) my body is more than capable of reminding me that I had a highly invasive, major surgical procedure just a few months ago and that I’m still not fully recovered.

Hope this helps any woman who is contemplating their return to work after hysterectomy, and anyone who knows me to understand where I am in my journey at the moment. It certainly still helps me to write it all down. Next post will be sometime after the scan – I’m not back at gynae until December 21st, but will see how work progresses.

That all for now, folks. x

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