So, it’s over a week since my operation, and mostly I have been sleeping, sleeping, sleeping, a bit of TV, quite a bit of reading, and a lot of sleeping, interspersed by short visits from a few friends, and Pokewalks around the block… Anyway … bit of a ramble coming up, may be TMI for some people (but might help others going through same procedure later), and warning, is a pic of what I think my op looked like….
My mum arrived Tuesday evening, whilst I was still racing to finish bits of work (carried over into Wednesday morning), we made sure I got plenty of fresh air, we did a little run to Morrisons, and then went for dinner at the lovely A Tavola:
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Lovely food in this cosy restaurant as ever .. no idea why my food pics just haven’t worked at all. Had 2 x mock tails. Some arancine, lamb shank and a small bit of gelato to finish off. Hopefully that’ll keep me going til whatever time i next get food #sicilianfood #delicious
That was an early meal, before heading home, parking my car up (as not allowed to drive for around 2 weeks, as surgery is across the stomach, but once I’m safe to do an emergency stop again, I’m good), had a shower with the anti-infection stuff (Hibiclens), and then realised I’d never read the leaflets I’d been given in the pre-op:
Unlike for my mastectomy, when I was going entirely into the unknown, this time I had a much better idea of what to expect. I hadn’t just been given horrific news 2 weeks before, it was not my first general anaesthetic, I’ve had many other procedures since then, I was on the same ward, and this operation is designed to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading further/faster (my tumour is fed by oestrogen, and ovaries are the big producer of that, so let’s get rid)….
So 5am I had to ring the Jasmine Ward at Stepping Hill Hospital, that there’d been no ‘big rush’ on the ward, and my operation was still going ahead (more nervous about possibility of cancellation, than of the operation itself). By 5.30am we were in the car, and by 6am we’re all checked in, and my mum has already been sent home. I was told that I was the only one on the list, so would be down first thing, and my mum could check back around 12noon to see if I was back up again.
I made sure I had taken with me my overnight bag, with flip-flops, dressing gown, long-lead chargers for my phone, iPad for reading (in expectation of a possible long wait), PJs, bedsocks, comfy homegoing clothes, some biscuits in case of nausea, some spare change, toothpaste/toothbrush, some tissues, some wash stuff/travel towel, and all my tablets, plus some ibuprofen (as the leaflet said to take your own).
After all the normal checks for blood pressure, etc. and chats to check that I knew what operation I was in for (got to check they’ve got the right person), checking the forms (possible side effect, death, as ever), a chat with the anaesthetist as my last operation I threw up all night afterwards – so he promised to go and see if he could sort that, and putting on the lovely anti-DVT socks:
Then it was time to walk across the hospital, flip-flops and dressing gown on, down to the theatre, where I was checked into the waiting area, and given a 4 day old Metro to read (to be honest, I didn’t really want to know that day’s election progress), with some more checks from the anaesthetist. The surgeon popped into see me as somewhere they seemed to think that I’d said that I had a tumour on my ovary, which might have messed a few things up – and they went off to decide if they were going to remove my ovaries through my belly button or vaginally…
After about half hour it was time to head into the anaesthetists room, with 3 of them all prepared with the UV to try and find my dodgy veins … we chatted about my books, and New Zealand, and well, I don’t know a great deal more after that point, but looking online (and at the scars I have), I reckon it looked something like this (no, this is not me)… and they sucked ovaries/fallopian tubes out via my belly button:
After the Op
My mum rang about 12.20pm, and apparently I wasn’t up, but by 1.20pm apparently I was on my way back up. I don’t even remember a great deal about being wheeled back up to the ward (to my little side room), but I would have been conscious by that point! Then I had to shuffle across to the bed, where I was left with an IV line in (not my foot this time, but 2 cannulas in my hand), and the oxygen mask on…. as my body now seems to be reacting to hospital dressings, everything was put together with glue (and possibly some dissolvable stitches), so, so long as I can keep any infections away, I don’t even need to go back for a check up?!
The afternoon was a bit of a blur – I could hear my phone buzzing away in the security box – and my mum turned up at some point whilst I drifted in and out of a doze, and various obs were done on me. Mid-afternoon they said if I was eating, walking and weeing, I’d be allowed to go home the same day if I wanted …
The toilet was in the 4-bed ward across the way, so learnt to shuffle my way across there … nurse wanted to weigh the first wee – that was a bit unexpected! And despite them saying no, there was some bleeding… Meantime, I’d ordered 4 different mealtimes, but only was in for one meal – and didn’t get what I ordered … but it was enough to get me home. So around 9pm the cannulas were removed, final obs were done, and I got given my drugs for the rest of the week and was allowed to go:
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Very glad to get home, as, although I had a side-room – hospital was very hot, and would have got lots of obs done. My poor mum had come in for what she thought was a brief visit, and ended up waiting all afternoon for me (thankful that have a hospital parking permit at the moment)! I went home in my pyjamas, and with my anti-DVT socks on (they said to take them off after 24 hours, then can use again on my flight to New Zealand), and with a huge pile of syringes….
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The syringes were full of Clexane, to be injected into the stomach 9am and 10pm for 7 days, in order to reduce the chance of blood clots/DVT (my treatment, and weight, leave me at a higher risk of this) – she had warned me that the retraction on these wasn’t great, and I don’t think a single one did retract – was thankful once the last one was done as left extra bruises all over the stomach:
The other thing is that cavities have been filled with carbon dioxide leading to swelling of the stomach … I was recommended that peppermint tea, liquorice and Colpermin peppermint capsules would help with that… of course anaesthetic blocks you up, but by Sunday was into recovery mode. Was fascinated to look at how little damage had been done considering (5 holes across the stomach, to add to all the mastectomy scars):
My Mum disappeared on the Monday, and I’ve had friends visiting me most days this week (I’m spending Christmas/boxing day on my own, let me know if you fancy popping in). I’ve been making sure that I get out for my Pokemon walk every day (always easier when someone to walk with) to get my anti-DVT leg stretching in, as well as some fresh air. Other than that I’m sleeping a huge amount (not having to worry about work helps), reading fiction, doing a bit of a jigsaw, and just exhausted… it’s been a very long 2.5 years… so am not returning to work til 10th Feb – trying to follow this:
I thought that I would spend the first half of my recovery in front of Netflix (whichI have done some of), in pain, clearing out files on my computer, etc., but surprisingly little pain, just no concentration, etc… anyway, will continue to get better, should be able to drive again by next weekend (honestly, feel like I could now, but anyway…), getting to have mini breaks in the Lake District (the marvellous Rosie’s Barn, courtesy of Suzanne), and to see my parents. I’m not planning on running all over the place – this is all about rest and recuperation, so fit for New Zealand, and hopefully back to some kind of ‘normality’ for work for next academic year – though I’m going down to 80%, at least for next year .. taking Fridays off… and we’ll see what that does to my energy levels, concentration, and just general wellbeing – physical and mental.
The oophorectomy means that I no longer need to have Zoladex injections (which temporarily suppress ovaries) every 28 days. Everything else continues as before though … targeted treatments Herceptin and Perjeta via infusion every 3 weeks (including tomorrow) which takes about half-day to do (I normally take some form of work with me, but not tomorrow), Denosomab injections every 6 weeks (to strengthen my bones, had that last time), with Exemestane tablets every day (aromatase inhibitor), and calcium/vitamin D twice a day, plus citalopram 20mg (anti-depressent), and a range of anti-histamine/herbal type meds to manage side-effects…. with Doxycycline antibiotic seeming to keep all the horrific skin reactions under control at present… and lymphedema glove/sleeve to keep the skin swelling down.
So, there we are, hopefully not too much to report on this cancer category on the blog for a while, as I’ve got check-ups with oncologist (20 Jan), lymphedema specialist (early Feb), then should be having next scans in late May/June – if they continue being NEAD, every 6 months. Hoping to speak to managers and occupational health in February to sort out what ‘reasonable adjustments’ need to be made for work for next academic year, and how much research/teaching I end up with…
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.