For those of you who are still on the edge of their seat waiting to hear about what’s been happening with my endo journey, here goes.
To recap, back in February I asked to see my Gyn because Orilissa was eliciting dark suicidal thoughts (not tendencies, thank goodness). At that time they told me to absolutely discontinue and not to worry about withdrawal effects. I had made it to 13 weeks anyways so in my mind I checked off that box. At the same time I finally gave the green light for surgery which prompted a lot of paperwork to sign for the OR and a visit with the Thoracic surgeon just to ensure he and I had a chance to pow-wow about the expectations. That went well with one minor little ahem. So I asked him about the heart/lung issues Ive been having and he clearly dismissed endo being the culprit which in turn opened up Pandora’s box – in a good way – that inevitably delayed my surgery but helped all parties involved get clarity on any ‘other’ factors influencing my thoracic cavity.
And then then pandemic hit.
I will say though that within DAYS I had 6 or 7 appointments booked – for September nevertheless – to examine my lung strength, my heart beat patterns, load on the system, etc. With Covid however, this meant the hospitals were shut down especially for those with breathing issues until they had the green light from Ford to reopen or to at least tread with caution. Back then, in March, they told me if the pandemic lifts by the summer feel free to call for an earlier appointment. Funny to think that was where the bar was set back then on this ever-looming pandemic. The months went by very quickly despite all the pain, and before you knew it August had arrived. I had a holter monitor booked for the end of August which went well. No abnormalities. (Spoiler alert: all the tests came back ‘unremarkable’). I had a breathing test that almost looked like I had asthma but was temporarily ruled out for the time being. More extensive tests will be done in the upcoming months. All in all, I was cleared for surgery (but, the cardiologist was not convinced my problems were due to endo and would see me in a few months).
By mid September, all the tests done, and the pain becoming very unbearable, I called the doc and asked if he could please push my surgery up from February. He (re)assured me he would do everything he could. And just like that, I got a call to confirm a surgery date of Oct 9th.
OK fast forward. I had a prep done a week before the surgery to check all my vitals and go through the pre-op procedures. They talked to me about all the possibilities like a catheter if the abdomen incisions need to be bigger, or a chest tube only if the thoracic involvement is greater than predicted. They went through the fasting process. Days leading up to the surgery were the worst, with the combination of trepidation, anxiety (*doc called to tell me the rise in COVID cases was causing some overnight surgeries to be canceled, so to hold tight), and lots of pain. The one other thing is that I was scheduled to have an Entyvio infusion (for my UC) the day before the surgery but because it could compromise my immune system they delayed it by two whole weeks!!!
The fam jam arrived the night before my surgery to settle me in. We had a great meal – no alcohol due to the fasting rules – and a good night’s sleep. In the morning Greg took me to the hospital and was only allowed to drop me off which I know was a game changer for him. It caused intense anxiety so I told mom to make sure he was calm while they waited for any updates. I was there for hours before the surgery but time really did go quickly. They asked me for a urine sample to check for any pregnancy. They make you wait a long time just to get in the room but then once on the stretcher they made me so comfortable with a blowup hot blanket and warm clothes, booties, and nurse with a lovely demeanour. We talked about what happens if someone is pregnant (I assured her I was NOT) and we laughed about some medical surprises. I was cool as a cucumber and I remember asking myself why I wasn’t nervous at all. I think the reality was I had had a surgery like this before so knew what to expect + I just knew I needed this so badly. They finally wheeled me outside the OR where I met my surgeon and his team, along with the anaesthesiology group. Within a few short minutes I was taken into the OR, laying me down on the bed, my arm out for the IV to be hooked up to the good stuff. They put an oxygen mask on my face like they do in the movies and then I was out.
As I was waking up from surgery, my brain was still very foggy but I knew where I was. Sort of. I knew I was in recovery. It was so quiet, maybe due to limited staff and patients impacted by Covid rules, but it was calming in a way. I didn’t know it at the time but the extent to which they had to involve the thoracic cavity was fairly limited so I was able to go home as soon as I was able to pee. When the nurse helped me up from the stretcher one of my incisions started to bleed. She cleaned me up and helped me to the bathroom, very very slowly. I sat there with running water on to help me pee. But I just couldn’t. I wasnt ready yet.
I went all the way back to my bed so I could relax a bit, wake up a bit and then tried again. Success! I was able to pee, call my fiancé and go home.
The first night I was pretty much completely out of it. I woke up from time to time as I wanted to shift my positioning but it hurt too much. The most comfortable position was slouching with pillows behind me. I was bloated and uncomfortable but I was happy. The medications they gave me at the hospital had not worn off yet so I was able to get a pretty good sleep despite everything.
My surgeon called me the next day just to check up on me and make sure he had an opportunity to go over the surgery while I was a bit more coherent. What he told me was that they went in through the belly button and examined the uterus first. They took one spot off the right pelvic side, and one spot from the left. The left ovary however, was fused by adhesions to my rectosigmoid colon which was fused to the abdominal wall. This was where they spend the majority of the time slowly removing the adhesions and then removing any new lesions that had formed underneath. They then reverted the cameras and went in where the liver is situated. They took a few spots from the right diaphragm but no endo was visible on the left, which was what the surgeon was expecting. A lot of theories went through my head after that, and I was just so thankful I went ahead with the surgery.
I guess that first week was the most important, and I was so so lucky to have my family with me. Between Greg, my parents and my sister, I was able to rest as much as I needed to without having to get up. Mind you, it was important to be able to move around in those first few days to avoid any adhesions, to expand my lungs and mostly to be able to reduce the air trapped inside of me. That first day I remember I was depending on the hydromorphone to bring down the swelling and prevent me from feeling anything outrageous. But as the days went on I really didn’t need the strong medications. I was mostly switching between Tylenol and Advil (Advil to a lesser degree due to my UC). But by the third day I was walking around, holding on to my belly to protect it I think, and I’d sit for longer periods of time rather than lying down. My back was starting to hurt from only being able to lay in that one position all night. That’s when I brought out the body pillow. While the first few days it was great to use it to prop me up, the body pillow became my lifeline to prop my my knees for a few days and then from the first week onward the pillow allowed me to roll slightly on the left or the right while propping myself up with the pillow as I straddled it. Being able to move around a bit more in bed really helped to squeeze out that air, and give me that confidence that while yes I was sore, I wasn’t going to damage anything. The thing that bothered me the most was the itching from the tape. By day 4 I was taking Benadryl to stop the itching and to help me sleep because of the itching.
I hit a low. I had not given myself the chance to absorb the surgery before it happened, but mentally I worked though it a few days later.
This is something I want to spend some time on as I think we go into the surgery confident that this is what we need, and that no matter what, you’re going to be ok. These are all true statements, but the gravity of the surgery may not hit you until it’s over. As it did with me. It wasn’t depressing. It was more like pride. Joy. Exhilaration that the whole thing was over. I cried for a bit, in a state of bewilderment, and then it was over. That’s all I needed. But if you are going to be having an excision, know that this is a big decision and there is no right or wrong answer whether this is the appropriate next step for you.
By day 5 I was dying of itch, and kinda working my way though the pain. It wasn‘t bad enough to warrant narcotics but it was not going to be touched by Advil, so I ate candy and watched Emily in Paris lol. I also started taking restoralax by day 6, to help even out the see-saw between constipation and diarrhea.
After ten days my family left because I was mostly able to get out of bed, walk around and make tea for myself. It was sad to see them go but I continued to be utterly spoiled by Greg.
And then something weird started to happen.
To be continued…