Dec 3, 2020
It's done. Well it's been done for six days now, and healing up nicely. Taking longer and hurts more than I expected, but on the right track.
At first, when I read the article on medium and went to the gynecologist, and he told me about the surgery and the surgeon, I felt I was being very proactive doing this, "don't put it off" "get yourself fixed" "don't let shame or embarrassment stop you getting fixed, don't live with the discomfort and problems, go for it". The thought of improvement in going to the toilet, and just, well, feeling more supported and "back to how it was" fueled me and I didn't even have any doubts or fears about negative consequences or side-effects.
Then I mentioned mesh, that Victoria made the connection, and pointed me to the experience in the UK, where they have stopped trans-vaginal mesh insertion surgeries, actually stopped using mesh at all while it's being investigated, that I finally got scared, and when I started to look up what could happen, pain and mesh protruding through the vagina!! I had serious second thoughts then, backed up by the logistics. I made this list of pros and cons:
remember the daily toilet struggle (and travel issues and going to the toilet when out)
hemorrhoids and pain (linked to the strain of imcomplete elimination)
It might be how I initially imagined it - a quick fix!
It could be tighter, with no bulge of course and a better bum
time off!!! lol.
Get it done now while I'm younger and can recover quicker
schedule (Amy moving, work, Christmas coming up)
possible painful sex or limited positions
It's not really that bad right now, I could try the other methods - lose weight, exercise, use enemas, put in a pessary. (linked across to Pros column: But why not just take the easy way out?
I'd add as well, another reason I thought was even with those things creating an improvement, it's just going to happen again.
So, I finally decided to do it, and here I am!
I got into a bit of a routine - wake up super early - I'm waking at around 5 and unable to get back to sleep, so I read or do things on the phone with the light off, waiting for the nurse to visit. Then the tea comes, about half an hour before breakfast at around 7:30. I am trying to not eat all the rice, for bowel purposes but it's hard to resist at breakfast. Then I lounge for a bit with no aim and when they have taken the breakfast tray I get up. I think it's nice to divide the night and day. I get dressed in day clothes - a bra (bought some new soft up ones), pants (elastic waist only of course), and my new pink sweater or a hoody, and set the bed up with the cover on it, the back all the way up so I can lean back a bit, easier on my stomach, and type easily on the computer which I have on the tray table. I can't fix the height of the tray table, so I adjusted the bed instead!
Doctor's rounds are at 9, but usually earlier, I get the warning call at around 8:30. He's very quick - no problem? okay bye. After that a walk to the vending machine maybe, or if I have everything, I make a cup of tea. I eat exactly 2 almonds, 2 walnuts, and 4 dried apricots. I'm cycling through the Twinings Best 5 which now includes English Breakfast! Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Lady Grey and Prince of Wales, which I hadn't heard of before this set was on sale.
Then onto one of my projects - I've been plugging away at things like cleaning up things on my phone - photos, Notes, Safari tabs. Doing some blogging like this. Or I might just send messages and play scrabble, or go on long facetime calls with Amy and/or Lena. Lunch comes at 11:30 and after that I continue the tasks, or read, or play games. I've only managed one nap so far - usually it's too uncomfortable. 3pm is Afternoon Tea. I eat one kiwifruit and one banana. I have afternoon tea over on the chair by the table. Gotta change the scenery! Before or after afternoon I might take another walk to the vending machine and throw away the bottles. Back to tasks. I try to vary which task I'm working on.
Towards evening, I change to Netflix and less mentally demanding tasks that I can do while semi-watching. I'm mostly watching Star Trek because I don't want to have to focus too much. Things like the photo organization and culling are going to take much, much longer than the time I have here. Dinner is a 6, and after lounging a bit, it's time to settle into the night. I shower, get my pyjamas on, and change the bed to nighttime configuration. Official lights-off is 9, it doesn't really matter than much for me because I have a private room, but I tend to turn it off anyway, and use the wall lamp over the bed.
Day Nine, Friday December 4
Up at 5:30 for the blood test that determines whether I can go home tomorrow. I was already awake. Over in no time, but seemed to hurt more than usual, whether it was the dark and she wasn't very good I don't know, but at the time I was thinking, I am just SO sick of being stuck with needles! I got up and dressed into my check pants and the pink sweater. Doctor came just before 9, with the 2 residents, quick as usual, in and out, but then just after everyone left the room, the older nurse paused in the door and asked about my belly button. I had been reporting to them yesterday about the fluid collecting in my belly button. It was worse this morning, and I could see the hole at the top of the wound. I said yes it was the still there, and she called the doctor back. He took at look at it, said it was quite bad and started pushing around it, trying to press out the fluid I guess. A nurse came in with a treatment table and he swabbed it and then shoved some gauze into the hole! (There were 8 people in the room for this - doc, 2 residents, and 5 nurses! Meanwhile I hadn't had time to pause Netflix so Star Trek was it was playing in the background, making me think of weird alien anatomy episodes in the sick bay). And yes, it hurt. I was wincing, didn't cry out, and practicing all my jaw-and-shoulder relaxing, but mostly hoping it would just be over soon. It didn't hurt as much as it sounds like it would though. That was covered with gauze and taped down, it's a fragile arrangement though so I'm being careful moving. He also said this means I may not be able to go home tomorrow! So yeah I was pretty depressed after that. Blamed myself of course, for moving too much, for sleeping on my side, for being too fat. It's after lunch now and I'm settling into the afternoon, I'm also constipated today so I'll ask the nurse when one comes around for a suppository. Sigh. And another day.
Doctor came, didn't even look at the wound, just said he would look at it in the morning and it was unlikely I would be out tomorrow.
I finished tidying the tabs in Safari, and the March set of photos. Tomorrow my plan is to add to this, do April, and cull and organize the folders and albums before moving on.
Day Ten, Saturday December 5
Sigh. Was supposed to be going home today. Resident dressed the wound, re-inserted gauze, so that's another day of limited motion for me. And another day with no shower. I am internally protesting by having a pyjama day. There really is nothing else to add. Day plan: continue to sort photos (finished tidying my karaoke list Note this morning), watch Dash and Lily for some Christmas cheer, do some more online shopping (golf gear for Kanji), update this!
Day Eleven (sheesh, really??), Sunday December 6
Doctor came around just before lunch, there is still fluid, he cleaned it out, and replaced the gauze so that's one more day. And still no bath since Friday night! My hair is suffering the most, since I hadn't washed it since Wednesday. But I had a towel bath this morning and got dressed into clean clothes so I feel not too dirty. I'm getting worried about work and will start work this afternoon on my schedule and work out when I will have classes and which can be Christmas lessons (ie, goof off) and that should help me feel less stressed. Still plugging away at 'tasks' - started up Spanish on Duolingo again, continuing work on the photos, if I get my schedule done I might start work on my Yahoo mailbox. I can't download anything though until I get my recovery software so I can find that Covid diary document! I'm still so upset I lost that.
Day Fucking Twelve, can you believe it? Monday December 7
Doctor came, gauze out, antiseptic and a bandaid. And for that I have to stay another night? Well at least I got to a take a shower - a very loooong shower, I really didn't want to get out. Finally washed my hair, though I was going to wash it over the basin if they stopped me showering again today. K brought konyaku jellies and I'm having 2 after each meal, and slightly increasing snacks so I am better able to reject the rice. I eat the morning rice and maybe a little of the other meals' rice, if the side dishes need something to wash them down, but otherwise leave the whole bowl. Crackers and fruit and now cheese to keep me going. Cheese and anger. At least my schedule is lighter than I feared - the Tuesday online class dropped, and only 3 Ryukoku classes in total in December, so my first Thursday might be light - if I can remember which days I agreed to work!
Well the bandaid is off. If I thought staying overnight to monitor a bandaid was overkill, how about staying overnight to monitor no bandaid? To be honest, there is still a hole, and I can see blood inside it. The sides look like they are healing that way - will I always have a second belly button now? Perhaps I should pierce it. And also to be perfectly perfectly honest... I don't mind that much. I know the house will not be tidy and the laundry will not be done, and I will feel pressure to do it. I AM looking forward to opening my amazon packages and checking out my Costco order but I'll have to be careful and take it slow. Then back to work on Thursday! I tried to get Erica to help me find my new OIT schedule but I think I'll have to call them and check, so at least I know and can start to plan.
Edited Jan 11 to add that I was told on the 13th day that I could go home tomorrow, so I went home on Wednesday December 8th. I got Kanji to come and get me in the morning and I was ready by about 9 but he was busy at work and couldn't come for a few hours. Recovery went well, I had only the 4 Keio lessons on the Thursday. My worst moment was the Monday - I had OIT lessons in the morning but with the open door policy I got cold and just couldn't get warm. I came home and actually cried with the stress, and canceled the rest of my lessons. It's now been six weeks and I have no more pain, the scars are healing nicely, and bowel movement is more normal, but still not all okay, still working out how to use my new body I guess!
Backstory Begins Here
Day One, Thursday November 26
We arrived with my many bags, feeling like I was going away for months. Can't be that unusual though, as we were immediately offered a large shopping trolley to put them all in! I had one more blood test, then it was bye bye Kanji and upstairs I went! He couldn't even go up to help with the bags and say goodbye. He had instructions to come back at 12:45, when I would be entering the OR, and then he could leave again and come back at around 4 to see me once more before I was taken to recovery. Of course he would not be allowed in recovery.
I was taken to a four-person room. They had said I might not be able to get a private room at first, so that was okay. I busied myself finding places to put all my things. Said hello to my roommates as they woke/entered. Two older ladies, no one in the bed opposite me. Lunch was awful, not a good start to the stay! Bread, but no butter, just some jam and I do not like bread and jam. And awful, tasteless tofu and ?daikon patty things. So depressing. I was glad I'd brought the sachet of chili sauce from Asiana airlines last year that Erica didn't eat, that had been in the fridge since then. Victoria suggested I bring tabasco sauce, but I couldn't find any.
But just as lunch was being served, the nurses came back to tell me a private room was available, so I packed everything back up again, and moved to the other corridor. In the meantime I'd met my roomies and one had brought us all a can of zenzai. I had saved it for after lunch, but the nurse came in after lunch to tell me I would not be eating anything more that day, clear liquids were fine until midnight. Well, I wasn't that keen on the zenzai anyway... The not eating was easier than I expected. I just distracted myself, and with no access to food, except the fruit and nuts I'd brought, which were hidden in the fridge, and no need to prepare it for anyone else, I was able to forget about it, just not think much about it. I filled the bathtub and had a nice-ish bath (it got a bit cold and ran out of hot water), which I knew would be be last for a while.
I was more worried about going all morning without food. It's one thing to sleep on an empty stomach, quite another to have to go another six hours in the morning. Why couldn't the surgery have been in the morning?
Day Two, Friday November 27
During the morning I was changed into a yukata type robe with an over-robe, got more blood tests, got a drip put in at 9, and the surgical nurse came to take me through the procedure and recovery. I would spend an initial period of time in recovery before being taken back to my room.
Before heading to surgery I had to remove the over-yukata, they passed the drip bag through the sleeve, which seemed rather awkward, and put on pressure socks and a cap. I walked with my drip, nurse beside me, through the corridor, past the nurses' station at the hub, past the TV corner and down the Tunnel of Light. I thought it was a rather inapt association... Kanji was waiting at the other end. I stopped, I thought he was coming with us for a pre-op consult, but that was it, just say Hi and off I go to the OR and he to the waiting area.
Typical OR except for the booth and big machine, presumably the robot arms, but standard table. I climbed up, the staff were so careful of my modesty, only to immediatly remove my robe - I did have a large towel placed over my body first though. Blood pressure cuff, pulse ox monitor. Someone asked where I came from, and when I said NZ they said, Oh, where koalas are. I just laughed and said No, Kiwis. Eee? the fruit. No, a bird. Another nurse chimed in, yes the miniature ostriches and had a good laugh at that! Next came the epidural, and I had to curl inwards to get my spine showing. I was careful to stay very still but it really didn't hurt much. I remember the anesthesiologist popping his head over to say hi at one point. He explained what he was going to do, what the drugs would do. Then the mask came down - but not touching my face. I don't know why, I don't mind it touching my face. He told me to breathe deeper and deeper and eventually the edges of the room started to darken, the voices fade...
Woke up to people calling my name, telling me it was all over. Gotta love general anesthesia. Literally took 2 seconds in my head. So I was awake, but very drowsy, they told me the time but I couldn't make sense of it - 6:30? It was meant to finish at 4, so that just confused me. There were Kanji and Erica and I managed to say Hi Sweeties as the bed rolled past, not sure if they could even hear me. I was aware of where I was and where I was going, and I was rolled into the recovery room. I was not comfortable.
I had an oxygen mask, a blood pressure cuff, a drip, a pulse/ox, the epidural, a catheter, and blood clot massage machines on my lower legs. The catheter bothered me the most at first, I just felt a constant My right leg was numb but felt restless and like it had been placed on pillows, elevated. This bothered me the whole time. But I was pretty stoned so I just told myself stories in my head, amazing, interesting stories that reeled out like movies and that quickly got me back to sleep. The blood pressure cuff kept waking me but I learned to use the leg massagers as a kind of kinetic white noise, just waiting for, then feeling them - left leg, then right. It was the only thing relieving the restlessness in that leg. I was asked if I was in pain, and given more through the pump when I said yes.
While the initial plan was for me to back in my room Friday night, because the surgery had gone on longer, and it was late (plus the longer you're under the longer it takes to recover). So I stayed there overnight and was brought back to my room in the morning.
Day Three, Saturday November 28
The leg machine and epidural were removed but I kept the other things. They talked about taking the bed but decided to use a wheelchair. Someone found my slippers somewhere. I warned them about my numb leg - I'd been complaining to several nurses about it - and indeed I was unable to stand on it, but I was ready for that and had most of my weight on my arms. Memories of all the folks in wheelchairs I've taken care of, memories of their wobbles, so similar to mine that day. One step to the wheelchair, one to the bed, that's all the walking I did that day!
Back in my room, settled and as comfortable as I could get for now, I finally asked for my phone. I had thought about it several times but just couldn't be bothered! Just tried to relax my body and get back to sleep. I had a bunch of messages of course and it was good to finally catch up. I was allowed to eat finally - a single jelly for lunch, and some tea. I watched TV as it was easier than trying to set up my computer and Wifi. Dinner surprised me as I thought it was just going to okayu only, but I got side dishes too. I did not eat all the rice but did my best with the other dishes and especially enjoyed the soup, wonton soup, and the main dish, karaage. I don't think I had a shower this day...
Day Four, Sunday November 29
Coming back to life. I wanted to know two things - when could I go home, and when would I get the catheter out. I had stayed in bed Saturday, thinking I was supposed to, not wanted to upset the catheter, or the bandaging on my tummy. But when the resident said I would get the catheter out on Monday, I thought that was in response to me saying I still had a lot of pain and wasn't moving much. I thought I was being punished for not moving much, even though I hadn't been told to move. So move I did, just up and down the room, every half hour or hour or so. I was also constipated so had a suppository. The main thing was learning to move with the catheter, and bandages, and pain. How to lie, how to sit up etc. It took quite a bit of effort. I managed to have a shower that night too. All the while I was hoping I could talk the surgeon into taking the damn catheter out early, it's uncomfortable, painful, and makes it hard to move around.
Days Five to Six, Monday-Tuesday, November 30 to 31
I hit my low this day. My intention to ask the doctor to take out the catheter fell to nothing. Day 5 is standard, it's written on a chart at my head, they were not going to move from that. I was sorely disappointed though, facing two more full days of it. I cried and hit a low - all my carefully laid plans to do tasks went out the window, and I messaged as many people as were online right then. I ended up having a nice chat with Fay, and we planned a New Year karaoke party! Lizzie and Maree answered and the usuals - family and friends. I was kept busy all morning answering messages, it was a good idea.
Tuesday was basically the same day, minus the depressing low!
Day Seven, Wednesday December 1
Catheter out! I had a huge pimple on the lip, probably from chafing, and what seemed to be a cut or graze near the bottom - the first discovered in the toilet, as it bled a bit, the second in the shower as the water stung it. I did mention these, but just got told not to touch the area. Hello, I have to go the toilet and shower! I was a bit annoyed at that. I was also annoyed at one nurse calling my 'masshiro' (pure white) skin "weak". My skin is not weak. And it certainly isn't weak because it's white! If I'm itchy, it's because I'm healing/reacting to tape adhesive/reacting to anesthesia itself, or WORSE a sign on internal inflammation, don't just ignore all that 'because white skin is weak' Grrrr. I'm also discouraged by the lack of counseling. While I was happy at first with the extensive amount of preparatory paperwork and surgical disclaimers, and the pre-op nurse consult, there hasn't been much apart from single sentences said almost as an aside by nurses. I would like a fully detailed analysis of what is expected, a timeline, and possible pitfalls. I was particularly annoyed that no one had asked how my bowels were, given that that was a major reason for the surgery. But the surgeon finally asked this morning - only for me to say I don't know, since I still constipated!