When I first arrived home from the hospital, I didn’t feel that bad. It may be because the journey home had been so uncomfortable ; speed humps feel like medieval torture devices after abdominal surgery. You feel every small bump in the road, your driver is lucky if they reach 10mph without you verbally abusing them. However, I have found after every op I’ve had that once I’m home, I have a day or two with little pain and a positive outlook. I personally think it’s something to do with either the general anaesthetic or the meds they give you in the hospital. But by day three… *boom* it’s a different story.
My recovery from my first laparoscopy was the worst I remember. I don’t know whether it was because it was the first I experienced, and therefore, it all seemed so heightened, and perhaps once your used to the process you don’t think about it so much? It may also be because I had a high incision made 2 inches to the left of my belly button. When I had my follow up consultation, the surgeon apologised for this, so I’m guessing there must be a reason they avoid it. Perhaps it’s just related to scarring? It remains the most noticeable scar I have.
I remember finding the night times incredibly uncomfortable. It’s easy in the hospital; you can just press a switch and the bed practically helps you to stand. At home, I was propped up by pillows yet still found the process of standing agony. It was at this stage that my other half became intuitively aware of my pain. Each time I tried to get out of bed a hand would appear on my back which would take my weight as I tried to get up, thus, removing most of the pain. It became some sort of weird sixth sense; his arm would appear to support me even when at times he was still snoring, and the next day he’d have no recollection. Like some weird sleepy super hero! Baffling!
On day three I suddenly reached that pain wall. It was as if I’d taken all the pain I possibly could and I just couldn’t take any more. There I was, clinging to the sofa arm, trying to get up, whilst sobbing like a weirdo. Luckily, my other half was soon at hand to witness my patheticness and help me up. This was also the first time he developed the “I will hug you and allow you to cry whilst sympathetically rubbing and patting you on the back” routine. I swear this is better than anything my doctors have prescribed. Although I often wonder if the boundaries between sympathising and patronising have become blurred “there there dear” *pat pat pat*. Either way, it works a treat and always puts a smile on my face 😁
It was about this time, that a few other things started to occur. I still hadn’t been for a number two yet, and I’m normally a sure thing in that department, so I suspected I should probably mention it to the doc. Perhaps it was normal after an op, but better safe than sorry. The other things happening were dressing related. Firstly, I’d been told to keep my bulky dressings on and not to shower for 5 days. Not only did I desperately want to shower, I also wanted a sneak peak of the action sites. By day three these wishes came true, in the worst way possible. Like an evil fairy Godmother, that makes the process of attaining your wishes so horrific that you wish you’d never contemplated them. (This next bit may be TMI – read on with caution)!
I noticed that my incision sites were starting to feel a bit warm and tight by day two. Again, as with everything, I pondered whether this was normal. By day three, it was evident it wasn’t. They were itching and they felt like they were on fire. A quick call to the GP and we were off in the car to subject me to more road bump torture, which would all seem very insignificant when the following happened!! After a few questions the doctor helped me onto the bed and started to look at the skin around my dressings. At this point he explained that I appeared to have an allergic reaction to the dressings. He said that there was no choice, they were going to have to come off. He described how my skin may just be red and inflamed , which would make removal sore but tolerable. OR my skin may have blistered, which would be a lot more painful, but either way, the dressings had to come off.
“Are you ready for me to proceed?”
I grabbed the sides of the bed, gave a small head nod, and braced myself. As my GP began to peel back the first dressing the pain was immense.
“I’m afraid your skin has blistered quite badly. What this means is that as I pull the dressing away, not only is it going to be painful, but the blisters will most likely pop, causing more discomfort. However, once the dressings are off, things should start to feel much better quite quickly. Do you reckon you can cope if we continue?”
Another head nod and we were back in action. I was gripping the bed on both sides, biting my lip, and my eyes were watering. The doctor clearly hated every minute of it too (perhaps their experience was easier than mine however 🤔) but he did spend the entire time grimacing and apologising. I could feel the popping followed by hot liquid trickling down my stomach. It was foul.
Once that ordeal was over, a quick clean up and things instantly felt better. The heat and itching was already subsiding. I then explained the number two situation to the doc, who said as I was on codeine, the hospital should have prescribed a laxative, which clearly they hadn’t. Prescription in hand, I collected my poo drugs on the way home, as well as some dressing pads and micropore tape in place of self adhesive dressings, and was ready for more recovery.
Once the toilet and dressing situation had been sorted I started to feel much better. They advise only 1-2 weeks recovery time, but I had three weeks out of work. Maybe the blisters and constipation head made things worse, but I guess ultimately the physical demands of my work place were what led to this. Whilst recovering, I used the dressing pads stuck on by the tape to keep things covered and clean and only put a waterproof dressing on briefly for showering. Things started to heal nicely once some air was getting to them. I also started to get cards and gifts through the post from family and friends which was nice. I even had a card and Netflix discount through from my work colleagues. All of whom at this stage had been really supportive. It’s nice to know people are thinking of you when you are going through something like that. I don’t think people truly understand what it entails, so my advice would be to visit the person. Take an edible treat, some flowers and maybe a word search book, and show them you care. Post op recovery can be a very lonely and desperate place. Do something nice. Make them a cup of tea and bring some amazing biscuits or maybe do some housework. Above all else, don’t make any judgements on their appearance or the state of their house. They need you to unequivocally support them now more than ever before.
The blister sites recovered quickly but the scarring mess from this was ridiculous. For months afterwards you could see the small bright red incision wounds of the surgery, but it was the mass of scarring from the blisters around each one that was more noticeable. Luckily, over time this became less noticeable and a year later it was gone. The surgery incision sites were red to start with but over time they’ve faded to the usual white scar colour. In fact, the ones along my pubic bone or knicker line are barely noticeable now. The one I had that is higher up remains the most noticeable. It too has faded, but is the largest and most protruding scar I have. I consider myself lucky however, as this is still a relatively small scar.
For a while I was pretty self conscious about the scarring . I remember getting ready for a night out with some work colleagues shortly after my recovery (perhaps it was Christmas) and I could notice it slightly bulging from under my top. I felt a wave of sadness. There my work colleagues were, worrying about the volume of their hair and which dress showed off their butt the best, and here I was, wondering if I’d ever feel comfortable in my own skin again. I felt like a leopard that had only just started getting its spots. I’d always been a larger size, but I’d always had the fantasy of one day losing weight and looking glamorous in a bikini. I couldn’t help but think I’d never get to feel that elation now.
I remember going through a rough patch where I felt things were unfair ; why was I having all these experiences, why couldn’t I be the one moaning about the volume of my hair, unaware of the appearance crisis my colleague was having. After a while I dug myself out of this self pity. I didn’t beat myself up over it ; I think it’s a natural process you’re bound to go through. Now however, I just see that we all have hidden turmoils that we face, some greater than others, but all worthy of being noted. I still have times when I become frustrated by my experiences, but I no longer ponder why or feel unjustly treated by the world. Endo is a part of my world just like I’m a part of its world. I no longer feel self conscious or embarrassed by my scars, instead, I wear them as a badge of honour, like a soldier baring their battle scars.