Not really. I’m on Day 4 of surgery recovery, and I think I’m doing quite well. I’ve kept a detailed journal of everything I’ve been up to since the surgery, and it seems like my healing trajectory is quite good. It was two steps forward and one step back the other day, but that’s part of the process.
There are so many things I’m thankful for that I did either this year or very recently for this surgery. I got in shape. This means that I can move/support my entire body weight with one arm or squat and maneuver with my legs easily. My appetite isn’t out of control because I no longer eat when I’m bored. The slew of questions I asked my doctor before the surgery came in handy when planning my toiletries and medicine baskets for my bed station (it’s got everything). A lot of what is recommended is to minimize pain. The hard rules she gave for recovery were (1) no baths, (2) no gym, and (3) nothing inside the vagina or sexual contact in general. I didn’t need an abdominal binder or heating pad or special underwear. She said that those things help many people, but it’s all personal preference. Baggy sweats and too-big leggings work just fine. And I have a My Neighbor Totoro pillow to press against my belly for support. It’s so easy to be drawn in by people with pretty lists, but I didn’t need any of the crap people recommended. Sorry. I’m rambling.
Here’s how it happened:
The morning of the surgery, I got up at 3:55. We had to be at the hospital at 5am because my surgery was at 7am, and I had a few tasks to complete beforehand. I washed my face and brushed my teeth (no moisturizers or deodorant) then washed from the neck down (sans genitals) with a super strong medical wash. I also had to pee in a cup to make sure of no last-minute pregnancy (not possible anyway) and hydrate. I had some water and clear Gatorade. Once we left the house, no more liquids were allowed. My stepdad was up and around the whole time for emotional support. Took a picture of me in my special hysterectomy shirt. My mom got ready, and we were off.
The surgery took fewer than three hours, and they texted my mom (who drove me and was waiting) updates every step of the way between when they wheeled me out of my room with her to when she could come see me in my new room after recovery. I was texting messages and pictures to my husband and best friend (who offered lots of emotional support in return) until I had to part from my mom, who took my phone. Every member of staff that worked on me introduced themselves, offered to answer any questions I had, and generally offered warmth and comfort. I was really impressed. The surgery was a full hysterectomy (sans ovaries), which means my uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes were all removed. I will still ovulate as normal until menopause, but the egg will just be absorbed into my body since there will be nowhere for it to go. In my room, I ate a couple graham crackers and sipped water. I could feel a little nausea trying to peek out, but they gave me meds for that. As soon as it was allowed, they removed the catheter and let me go urinate. Apparently, it was surprising how well I moved on my own. Cool. I mean, I certainly wasn’t zooming anywhere, but I wasn’t doubled over either. They let me go home shortly after I successfully went to the bathroom. Upon arriving at home, I almost vomited. I am susceptible to car sickness, and it’s common for some people when coming out of anesthesia. Fortunately, no puke. I rested in a recliner while my mom filled the prescriptions for my pain and nausea meds. When she returned, she gave me my meds then helped me up the stairs and to bed. Note: I asked my doctor way in advance if it was all right for me to tackle the stairs immediately after surgery. She said it was all right, that most doctors don’t recommend it because it doesn’t feel nice, and I’ll be disoriented. I was well assisted. No problem.
I woke up at 9pm with a dire need to urinate. It was very stop-and-go. Like trying to pee right after having an orgasm. Takes some effort. I ate a Fiber One bar and a couple little cookies from my food bag (I’ll go through the contents of my recovery station at some point) and drank a good bit of water. I felt on top of the moon. Recovery was going to be simple. I felt mostly fine. I couldn’t sleep on my right side because of gas pain, but even that wasn’t bad. It was going to be smooth sailing! I texted my friend and husband to update them then went back to sleep. Fool.
At 4am I went to the bathroom to pee. The pain from the gas they pumped into me for surgery (the worst part of my two previous laparoscopic surgeries) fully manifest in my body, and nausea slammed into me like a truck. I got stuck kneeling and hanging on the sink. Tried calling out to my mom for assistance, but I couldn’t raise my voice. It was just a sort of pathetic moan. “Mom… Mooom.” Very muted. She didn’t hear me. Fortunately, my stepdad did from downstairs, and he raised the alarm. Good ears because I know my voice wasn’t carrying. I was stabilized and assisted back to bed. The pain pooled mainly in my back, general right side, and right shoulder. Even touching them was agony. Still, I managed to fall asleep once more.
Day 1 of Recovery: When I woke, I got dressed and made my bed. This sounds like an overachiever move, but it’s really not. My comforter is a sleek microfiber that is really easy to slide around on, and I knew I’d be on my bed most of the day. This was for maneuverability. Practical. I then went to the bathroom to wash up like any other day. Keeping a normal morning routine helps put my mind in a forward-moving direction. We’re not stagnating just because we’re healing. I still need fresh clothes and clean skin. My mom brought me some breakfast, which I ate while I watched an episode of Taskmaster on YouTube. Side note: They actually put entire episodes and series of the show on YouTube. How cool is that? Two other things I’m thankful for are my diet and supplements. Yogurt, fruit/berries, and fiber/protein bars are staples, so prepping meals was no chore at all. Also, I was already taking a probiotic and a multivitamin with iron, which worked out great because the doctor recommended I start taking both during recovery. Score! I texted a bit with my friend and husband then got up for my first of many walks.
Ok, this is the part that is an overachiever move, but I’d argue not really. Since day 1, I walk every hour that I’m up. Not long or far or fast, but I do it. I maneuver my way out of bed, hug my Totoro pillow to my belly, and walk laps around the upstairs. The doctor emphasized this helps with healing and with working the gas out of the body. Everything I read also confirmed this. I don’t want to do it. It’s not fun. Sometimes it’s super uncomfortable. But I do it every hour. I am committed to healing well.
The rest of the day consisted of reading a ton and taking notes, chatting with my parents, texting with loved ones, playing a little Sudoku, eating, and walking laps. I ended the evening with a cup of peppermint tea. I couldn’t sleep during the day. I tried. The gas pain in my back and shoulder was just too strong. It was a trial getting to sleep that night.
Day 2: I braved the shower and washed my hair. This day was mainly playing World of Warcraft (until a thunderstorm knocked out the internet around 3pm) and Sudoku. I texted loved ones, walked, toyed with some notes, and diddled. Slept very badly this night because the gas pain extended to the other side, and I was stuck uncomfortably on my back. Quick note about my detailed journal: I tracked my walking times (and by extension how often I urinated), medication, and pad changing (because it’s common to bleed after surgery).
Day 3: Flipped through magazines for a while this day. Pooped finally. Also Warcraft, Taskmaster, texting, and wrote a grocery list. I felt pretty morose this day, partially due to poor sleep and pain. Showered. Had a brief voice chat with my husband, but I was feeling too wretched to be fully present.
Day 4: Today, I tackled the stairs. Again, with help. My mom made pancakes with blueberries. An excellent start to any day. And coffee. Finally, coffee! I hadn’t had it since before the surgery. I spent hours chatted with my mom and stepdad downstairs. Other than that, I played Warcraft, had a good voice chat session with my husband, texted loved ones, diddled in my journal, and tinkered with story ideas. Oh, yeah! And I wrote and posted an entry for my blog.
Recovery isn’t a one-and-done. It takes time. I feel like I’m doing pretty well because of things I put in place even before the surgery. More and more I’ve been thinking of myself at different times as different people. For example: I am exceedingly grateful to Past Alicia (my pseudo-ancestor) for preparing so many things to make my life easier now. I often do favors for Future Alicia, who is sort of my child, and I want to see her thrive. By setting her up for success, I know I will go far in life.
Here are this week’s suggestions for fun and enriching activities:
- Relaxing Music: “The Cradle” by George Winston. You can listen to it here or find the album Forest on Amazon* or streaming.
- Soothing Sounds: “Afternoon at the Herbologist’s Greenhouse” by Goodnight Moon.
- Puzzle: Jeopardy. You can find the game here along with everything you need to know about how to play.
- Movie: The Emperor’s New Groove (2000). You can find it on Amazon* or on a streaming service.
- Creative Prompt (write, draw, paint, sculpt, photograph, or collage something based on this subject): rain
- Mythology Lesson: Themis. Read about her here, and do a little further research if the mood takes you!
- Short Reading: “Story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.” You can read it here, or you can listen to it here.
Try one per day or everything every day, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a more vibrant daily round.
*These are Amazon Affiliate links.
I know this is a rambling post, but it may help someone to know my recovery process. Next time, I’ll describe my recovery station and surgery prep that have really set me up for an easier recovery.