Chapter 3 – The Long Long Winding Road to Recovery

Fleurs de soeur

Fleurs de soeur

Well now here are some positive things:

  • I can brush my own hair once more;
  • I can shower without having to wrap myself in clingfilm (WE ACTUALLY DID THIS) for fear of getting my wounds wet;
  • I am no longer Teddy Ruxpin – the blue ovarian suspension buttons are gone;
  • Walking is at a pace faster than a snail on sedatives;
  • The metallic taste in my mouth from god knows what medication has vamoosed;
  • Crisps are no longer my main food category;
  • I am out of pain world*.

*pain world: a place I hope I, nor anyone I know, ever has to visit ever again.  I refuse to capitalise it because it does not warrant such majuscular respect.  It looks like a barren wasteland of hopelessness, it sounds like screeching and then complete, deafening silence, it smells of burning and despair, it tastes like rancid metal and it feels like molten lava is passing through your insides.  If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know.

And then into the doom comes the beam of family and friends.  Suffering is something no one should have to do alone, but it is also so hard to let people in, for me, like many others, it is especially so because I am so conscious of tainting others. That is a big reason why depression isn’t talked about – it’s not contagious but it sometimes feels like that for both the talker and the listener.  I have tried not to vet everything I say and my feelings because in all honestly it has been absolutely and unequivocally shit.  When you’re in the can’tbreatheit’ssoheavy hailstorm (because it sure don’t feel like a gentle fog or touchy black cloud) it feels as though it will always be this way.  But it isn’t.  As much as it isn’t about the superficial things, every card, flower, phone call, visit and message feels like a moment hail-free, a glimpse of something bigger and better with space to breathe.  That’s why it’s so important to reach out. Pain grips on to you for dear life, it feels like an internal demon and you start to believe that’s all there is, that you deserve it, that it will never let go.

Get well cardage

Nan & Grandad G, Cass, Lauren, Sarah, Debbie & Ellie, Saffron, Ruth, Nicola, Liz – what cards

So I shuffled out of hospital the day after surgery, medicated up to my eyeballs and holding on to my stomach.  Now this might sound crazy (ok, forget the might) but it felt like if I didn’t hold on to it everything would ‘fall out’ – and this continued for a week.  Awfully bizarre sensation.  So we got a taxi back to Marsh, after asking the driver to be gentle, and henceforth the week of horror pain commenced.  Albeit cushioned somewhat by my own personal nurse, chef and pharmacist in Phil (still looking for an appropriate uniform, Saff).  I knew I had to get up as often as possible – it’s funny how you’re always told that by people that have never been through the ordeal themselves.  I am more than a bit a lot obsessed by reading but even ‘The Book Thief’ couldn’t hold my attention for more than 10 minutes.  Thank the lord that week for flowers from my beautiful sister which cheered me up and the Commonwealth Games and WWI Centenary celebrations on the ol’ BBC because that’s all that would keep me focused, well, as focused as you can be in an opiate fugue.  How Sherlock did it, or celebrities do it, I’ll never know.

It’s a bit frustrating to not be able to brush your hair, go to the toilet alone, stand up by yourself etc but it’s the pain that does you in.  Hello and welcome to pain world.  The thing that kept me going was filling my body back up with nutrients and good things, comme ci:

  • No raw food allowed (my large intestine could not cope with that seeing as it had been ransacked by Moviprep);
  • Just a convalescent diet for the first 4-7 days; soft food’s the best: soup, omelette, sorbet, boiled egg, oily fish, mash, live yoghurt, jacket potato, berry porridge – Phil is an expert at these culinary delights and don’t they just sound so exciting;
  • Restorative Aloe Vera Juice.  Now, my nutritionist (the wondrous Dian Shepperson Mills who warned me there’d be hell to pay bowel/digestion-wise after this surgery – she were right) said this tasted delightful.  This was a lie.  But it is extremely good for healing;
  • Supplements to include multivitamin (Biocare veg capsule without any crap in it that you often find in high street shops), slippery elm to heal the gut lining, Vitamin C, E and zinc to promote healthy new tissue, fish oils to balance hormones and reduce inflammation and Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifido bacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus bulgaricus to re-establish healthy bacteria.
Ruth's sunshine

Ruth’s sunshine

Mr Trehan warned that many people go to A&E because of the pain but that they’d just put me on a drip, conduct unnecessary tests and potentially ruin the good that’s been done. It is only now that I understand why people would run the traumatic gauntlet of A&E during this period of recovery.  The pain in my left side stopped me breathing and I felt like I was being continually stabbed.  Warning: when you have a laparascopy they pump you full of gas. Like full to el brimmo. Pleasant.  Organs do their best to absorb and excrete it but generally it gets stuck.  In your stomach/bowel. Now I am able to understand why people mistake indigestion/wind for a heart attack.  That indescribable agony lasted for about 10 days, obviously helped hugely by the lactose they seem to infect every antibiotic and painkiller with.

So I had all these hopes for Yorkshire, to go to Haworth and Bronte it up while we were there.  What world was I living in?!  Ah, the folly of youth (moving toward middle age). Our days consisted of medication and meal timings – don’t ever try and take Diclofenac or codeine on any empty stomach, kids – and actually, looking back, this regimentation is what kept me going.  Small steps and all that.  The flat off of Airbnb was brilliant and cheaper than Premier Inn and we had a ruddy living room and kitchen, sort it out Lenny.

Sleeping proved a challenge and I was terrified of knocking the buttons or somehow doing more damage.  Couldn’t bear the thought of having to return to hospital.  There were many dark moments and I frequently wondered if I’d done the right thing.  How can anything be worth this much pain? I had a car accident this year where I thought I was going to die, the pain from this operation was about 24 of those car crashes.  Ah, they say there’s a lesson to be learnt from all experiences, clearly from my car accident mine was: THERE IS MUCH WORSE TO COME.

But then I remembered the life-dragging lethargy pre-operation and contemplated the possible lightness that hopefully will ensue post-operation, in fact it has already begun.  This is the longest I’ve gone without cystitis or a UTI in about 5 years – hey, lovely normal people, is this what life feels like?

We spent 5 days in our wee flat in Huddersfield and we were sorry to say goodbye to it, it had looked after us well.  The less said about the journey home the better, I’ve blanked most of it out (and not just because my road rage dad was driving).  There was part of me that was glad to be home, but another part that was terrified of being so far from the hospital that had looked after me.  How do you keep your head down and your chin up?  I dunno, but I’m trying.

I am so grateful for the visits from my sister + family, mum and dad, Sula, Lauren, Emily and Steph T.  Thank you.  If there was one thing that cheered me up more than anything it was this note from my niece Suzie and her little gift; I wondered why she wanted the sellotape.

Here you go, take it:

Loom bandage

Loom bandage

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