Hi everyone, if you're still here.
Firstly, I want to apologise for the complete lack of posts on Neeny's Wishlist for the past good few months. Many people blog because they find it fun, relaxing and a way to show their own creativity and personal style and I'm no different. I pretty much made this blog as an outlet for myself to write about what I like - I am not and never have been the type of blogger who posts to a time scale to suit anybody else. However, in this post, I feel like I want to explain why I've been pretty much completely MIA since the beginning of the year or so. I have a LOT more followers than I thought I'd ever have, so as a gesture of thanks for not unfollowing me whilst I've not been regularly posting, I wanted to tell you my story. I also wanted to log my experience on the internet for other girls who may be going through the same thing. I know the first thing I do when I need advice is to log on to the internet and google away; so I hope I help at least one person with this post.
Please brace yourself and maybe get a cuppa or two, it's a long one!
So, where to begin, I'm not quite sure myself. It's hard to pinpoint when exactly, but since around the beginning of the year I've started to feel a little bit, well, just not quite normal myself. I began to notice a feeling of constant heaviness in my tummy and constantly feeling vaguely unwell. Being a natural worrier though, I just put it down to the stresses of daily life. I had a job I hated (my weekend retail job turned full-time) a degree gone to waste because I was still working in the same place I had since I was 16; a long term relationship which we wanted to progress into finding a house/flat but couldn't due to certain circumstances; a close friend with a troubled relationship, etc. etc. etc.
With all this and more going round in my head daily, I began to just try go with the flow. I started looking for a new job, not really having a clue what I wanted to do, just knowing I wanted to get out of where I was. For a few months life just went on. I began to feel more and more tired, people started to say I was looking pale and unwell. I think it was just through stress and not being able to sleep but I got dark bags under my eyes and lost my appetite.
Even though for a while I was super stressed and lost a little bit of weight, I would look at myself in the mirror every day and think, why is my tummy sticking out so much? I've always been pretty slim and I've always been relatively happy with my body, but when I looked at myself I couldn't understand why I thought I looked so different, but my boyfriend and parents thought I looked exactly the same. I then started to think, "I know my own body." I knew that something was different, which then began the extreme stress that I was pregnant.
I had CONVINCED myself that I was, which at this moment in time is my worst nightmare. I went through the whole palaver of thinking that even though I use different forms of contraception, somehow I'd slipped through the net and got caught. I agonisingly waited until I was due my period. It came, perfectly on time, as usual. "I must be one of those people who you read about in magazines who have periods still and then they find out they're six months pregnant, oh my God!" I took test after test after test - all negative. I still couldn't get it into my head, I believed all the tests were wrong and that I must be pregnant. So I agonisingly waited for my next cycle - which came perfectly on time, as usual....
"I must be one of those people who you read about in magazines who have periods still and then they find out they're six months pregnant, oh my God!" Test after test after test. And repeat.
This went on and on for a good few months. I told my best friend, who tried in vain to tell me gently and in the nicest way possible that I was being a complete moron and there was no way that I could be pregnant, AT ALL. I put the relationship with my boyfriend under a lot of strain, too because he felt as helpless as I did and obviously thought I was going insane. I told my parents my worries, and since I'd had an spell similar to this the previous year (albeit slightly less intense!), all they could say were the facts - you're not pregnant. We then began to talk about anxiety and depression.
As I mentioned before, I'm a natural worrier. I always have been. I can worry myself sick, literally. I slowly tried to put the whole pregnancy thing to the back of my mind. I tried relaxation techniques: talking about my feelings, I downloaded a Relaxation app on my phone which you play at night and it helps send you off to sleep. Nothing really worked and in the past month I'd been back and forth to the Walk In Centre who had just sent me out to get some Gaviscon for "Acid Reflux". Not happy, I made an appointment with my GP to talk about things and to hopefully find out what was wrong with me. I knew something was up, but I just didn't know what. Long story short, the GP sent me away with a pregnancy test kit, anti anxiety pills and a depression survey and told me to forget about it, basically.
The pills didn't do anything, but I was sick of pissing everybody off and thinking I was insane, so I took the pills and pretended they worked and got on with my job. To rule anything and everything out, I organised an appointment with my local GUM Clinic for a Sexual Health Screening. Not a pleasant thing to do, but I wanted to make sure that there was nothing untoward going on "down there" which could be causing me to feel the way I was. Everything came back clear but the Gynaecologist mentioned that I had a slightly retroverted uterus, which means it is tipped slightly. Not a massive issue, and relatively common - nothing which would cause me to feel anything other than the odd twinge now and again whilst "in the bedroom".
People could see I still wasn't myself and it had now gotten to the point that when I lay down, I felt like my tummy was protruding so much that I was going to pop. I showed my mum and she then started to believe something definitely wasn't right at this point. So, I made another appointment to go and see my GP and this time I asked my dad to come along with me. Dad could see how worried I was, so (again long story short) after a few stiff words with the Doctor, my dad managed to get him to refer me for an Ultrasound Pelvic Scan. In three weeks time. Ugh.
A week later, I got up early one morning and went to the loo. As I stood up from the toilet I doubled over in excruciating pain in my abdomen. I was lay on the floor for around quarter/half an hour before I could move to get back into bed. It was very early morning and no one in the house was awake, so I just crawled back into bed and tried to sleep - thinking I'd pulled a funny muscle or trapped a nerve. I got up a couple of hours later, still in agony and unable to stand straight so got taken to A&E by my parents. We got seen to pretty fast and the Doctor examined my tummy and took a urine sample (first time any doctor I'd seen that had actually done a sample, may I add!) It came back that I had traces of red blood cells and leucocytes in my pee, which normally suggests infection. She said my abdomen felt quite inflamed but, with it being a Friday, they couldn't get any infection results back from the lab until early in the next week. Long story short...again... I was sent away with antibiotics which may or may not work for my could-be-might-be-guessing-it's-a-bladder infection. While we were there, we were refused an Ultrasound Scan because we already had an appointment for one in the next couple of weeks. So, I took my antibiotics and after a while the discomfort settled and I got back to "normal". My results came back in the next week telling me that there was no bladder infection found.
Finally the day of my Ultrasound Pelvic Scan came. I was so scared, secretly because in the back of my mind I thought that I was going to go in and there would be a baby looking back at me. Turned out there wasn't, thank goodness. There was, however, something a little more sinister. The Specialist noticed as soon as I lay down that my stomach as protruding and after scanning my abdomen, kidneys and everything else that's inside, she revealed to me the cause of my "illness"....finally I had an answer. She had found a "massive" cyst on my ovary. This could have been the reason for my previously mentioned retroversion of the uterus and could quite possibly have caused the pain that sent me to a&e. We aren't sure of this, but it's pretty damn likely.
Everything from then on progressed relatively quickly. The nurse made an urgent referral to the hospital as she told me that the cyst was at a size where it needed surgery to remove it. I had no more information given to me than that. Mainly because I was in shock and didn't ask the questions I should have, ie. what is it filled with? does it look cancerous? what type of surgery will it need? what is the exact size? So I then had the agonising wait until my next appointment with the Consultant at the hospital before I found out the likelihood that it was anything nasty.
The next week I felt both relief and more worry. The Consultant was very nice and explained to me that the cyst showed all the signs of being benign (none cancerous). It was thin walled and fluid filled, which is a "good" thing. Some cysts can be more solid, or filled with tissue or other bits and bobs including hair and teeth (Dermoid Cyst, google it ;))!! My cyst was also showing as being "multiloculated", which means that it was split up into different sections within one big mass. Unfortunately, due to this and the size (think watermelon!) I was told it was unlikely that I would be able to have Laparoscopic surgery to remove it. Laparoscopy is basically keyhole surgery which therefore means it has a relatively quick recovery time. I had my blood taken to double check for anything cancerous and another appointment was made for the next week to discuss my surgery date.
It was around this time when I'd also found out that I'd managed to bag myself a dream new job! Typical.
A week or so later I went back to the same Consultant after the hospital had reviewed my case and bloods - everything came back clear, phew. After initial happiness, I was then told the news I was dreading to hear...that I definitely had to have a major abdominal surgery procedure called a Laparotomy. This is a large incision made through the abdomen and the incision line was to be vertical - from the pubic area to a few inches above my belly button! The Consultants had reviewed my Ultrasound Scan and were unable to determine which of my ovaries the cyst originated from, but all they knew was that it was around the size of a watermelon and reached all the way to above my belly button. The fact that it was so large meant that the Doctors had decided that the ovary itself and one of my fallopian tubes needed to be completely removed, too in a procedure called an Oophorectomy. I was asked to sign a waiver saying that I was happy to have the surgery and I was aware of all the potential things that could go wrong during the operation.
A few days later I received my appointment for my pre-operative assessment. Here, I saw a Nurse Practitioner who went through a booklet asking questions about my medical history and current state of health. She also checked my breathing, blood pressure and I then went on to have my height, weight, urine sample, blood sample and swabs taken to check for MRSA. A week later was my operation date.
Before the operation you have to make sure you refrain from eating and drinking during the fasting period before you are administered your anaesthetic. I was due to book myself in the hospital at 7am, so I was told that I wasn't to eat or drink after 12 midnight the night before. It turned out that my appointment got moved back until 11am, but I still fasted from 12 midnight anyway, even though the nurse said I could have had a small breakfast before 7am.
So anyway, we booked in and I was taken for a meeting with a Nurse who took a urine sample and went through a similar booklet of questions to the one that I had filled out in my pre-operative assessment.
Tick tock, tick tock.
I then went to see a doctor who asked me a couple more questions and filled in another booklet about my medical history.
Tick tock, tick tock.
Next I was called in to speak to the Anaesthetist who would be putting me to sleep before the operation and we discussed the best way for me to be sent to sleep.
Tick tock, tick tock.
After that I saw the Registrar Doctor who discussed what was going to happen in the theatre and here I had chance to ask any questions.
Tick tock, tick tock.
Then I was called in to speak to the Surgeon, who was absolutely lovely. The Surgeon re-iterated what was going to go on in the operation and reassured me that she would do her absolute best to make the incision as small as possible. As I mentioned before, my Consultant told me that my incision would be vertical, however, my Surgeon said she would do everything possible to try and make sure I had a horizontal cut.
Tick tock, tick tock.
Lastly, around 4pm I was asked to get changed into my fetching hospital gown and surgical stockings.
I said my goodbyes to my parents and got taken through the door behind me to the operating theatre. I was met by a lovely nurse who discussed with me the steps of administering the anaesthetic. She inserted the cannula (little tube) into the back of my hand ready for any medication I would need. I opted to have an epidural rather than morphine as my pain relief, so I was asked to sit on the edge of the bed and was given a small amount of anaesthetic into my hand before the anaesthetist performed the epidural (needle into spine, eek!) I then lay on the bed and felt my legs go warm, tingly and heavy. The anaesthetist then put me to sleep.
I don't know how long it felt to me - maybe a couple of minutes - but in reality it was two hours later when I remember waking up in a large room on my own with a couple of nurses buzzing about in the background. Everything is quite vague but I remember asking for a drink because my mouth was so dry. I also remember a couple of nurses and my anaesthetist coming to speak to me but I have no idea what was said. It was then I was wheeled through to the post-op recovery ward. I was rolled onto another bed because I couldn't move my legs which were still numb from the epidural. Again, everything is quite vague but I was hooked up to an oxygen mask which made my nose itch uncontrollably and I was also retching to be sick, which I think was caused by the anaesthetic wearing off. After that I think I just slept through the night.
For the next 24 hours I wasn't in much pain at all, but that's because the epidural offers pain relief for 24 hours after it is administered. I wasn't able to move out of bed, but it didn't matter as I had a catheter in place to empty my bladder - which wasn't half as bad as I'd thought. So as the anaesthetic was still wearing off I got some waves of sickness but was given some anti nausea pills as well as being given something or other through a drip. Nothing much happened until about 24 hours after when I started to become a little more uncomfortable. I was given Paracetamol and Codine to help with pain relief, which worked to an extent. It was by no means excruciating but to be honest, I hadn't moved much really. My catheter was removed in the early hours of the next morning as well as being given an injection in my tummy to thin my blood. Then later on the physiotherapist came to see me about getting myself up and about for the first time.
The first time I got out of bed was pretty rough. I managed to pull myself up with the help of the physiotherapist and hobble to the toilet and then round to the chair at the side of the bed. As I'd been lying down for such a long time I started to get a bit woozy and my blood pressure went down very low so I was put back on a drip and spent the rest of the day and night on and off asleep. It was this night where it was getting uncomfortable to sleep so the next day I was knackered. However, it was also the night where I could feel my insides starting to work again. This may be a little too much information but if you're about to go through a similar thing to this, I want to tell you all the details. One of the determinate factors of whether you'll be allowed home or not is if your bowels start to "get going" again. With abdominal surgery and anaesthetic your insides go into a state of spasm and it takes a while for things to get working properly again. When I felt some bubbling in my tummy in the middle of the night I assumed that I'd be soon feeling the effects of trapped wind (I'd read up online that a lot of people suffered from it post-op) but, lets just say that mine wasn't so trapped. Fabulous! I managed to get up and about the next day, and managed to 'you know what' when I went to the loo, which was great because I thought this meant I'd definitely be allowed home!
I hobbled about as much as possible until the physiotherapist came back to see me later on in the day. We walked slowly to the end of the ward and back and she told me that she would put on my notes that I could go home. Thank the Lord! Nobody seemed to have any sense of urgency in the ward, so as soon as I'd been told I was going home I had to unfortunately wait another 6 hours or so until a Doctor had come and checked me over and signed me off. They took a blood sample for testing and checked my dressings before I was finally wheeled out of the hospital and into the safe haven of my Dad's car.
Quick note: I'd recommend taking a cushion with you if you're getting in a car after this type of surgery. I didn't have one with me a the time but placing a cushion between the seatbelt and your stomach makes it so much more comfortable. I finally got home and napped in my own bed which was luxury. For the past week I've been taking it slowly, much to my annoyance. You're not to drive for at least 4 weeks and recovery time is suggested 6 - 8 weeks.
Here's a quick snap of my side profiles before and after removal of the cyst. I've not got all the details back from the hospital yet, but I weighed myself before and after I went in for the operation and I've lost HALF A STONE! I can't even..
Before - After
Before - After
So here's a quick summary of my recovery so far.
Day 1 - 2: I was bed ridden.
Day 3 - 5: I was able to hobble about for short (very short) walks around the house and garden but most of the time I was sat down. It's very important to keep active as to prevent any potential blood clots forming in your legs (this is why I had to wear surgical stockings!) I tried to get up and walk for 5 minutes every hour. Also, you will have been taught some deep breathing exercises which allows your lungs to reach full capacity again after your op. You will have to cough up a lot of phlegm, which isn't the most comfortable thing to do. I found it helpful to hold a cushion firmly on to your incision and lean forward with your knees to your chest if you need to cough. Showering daily and running clean water quickly over the wound, patting dry with a clean cloth and reapplying your dressing keeps infection at bay. These few days are the most important days to keep your wound clean, so make sure you wash your hands and use an antibacterial hand cleanser before you touch anywhere near your wound.
I also felt the need to have a few power naps during the day for the first few days.
Day 5 - 7: I was a little more active day by day. I had removed my stockings now after wearing them for 5 days. Sometimes found it a little hard to breathe deeply as it felt like I had trapped gas below my ribcage, but carrying on with my deep breathing exercises helped. Still coughing up clear phlegm but getting less and less each day.
Day 7 - 10: I've been having visitors and walking around most of the day without feeling like I need to sleep in the afternoons anymore. I can finally stand up straight(ish) as for the past week I've been stooping quite a lot as it feels like you're going to pop your stitches. More comfortable to cough and I experienced my first sneeze this morning, which luckily I was prepared for because I quickly grabbed a cushion to push on my stomach before I sneezed too hard!
And here's my tummy now, featuring a new scar. I know most of you probably won't want to see this, but I think it may be helpful to anybody who may be going into have a Laparotomy procedure to see what the outcome of the incision looks like. You can see the imprint of the dressing that I'd just taken off and the small bruise is from the injections I had for thinning the blood (helps to prevent blood clot formations). My surgeon was absolutely fantastic and did a very neat job and to her I am very grateful. Even the nurse couldn't see the stitches, which is testament to what a neat job she did.
I'm sorry for such a long post, but I wanted to help others and share my experience with the procedure. Having only had one ovary removed, I am still fertile and able to have babies if and when I want to have them. If you are going through anything similar and wish to ask me any questions about my experience, or you just need somebody to talk to about it, then please don't hesitate to either leave a comment or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you.
I've now got a brand new job as a Studio Photographer and Digital Artist and things are starting to look up - even though I've only worked there a week and now have to have time off sick, doh! :( I'm already starting to feel like myself again and can't wait to get back to doing outfit posts and other fun things, but for now this has been my excuse for my complete lack of blogging!
Thank you all for still following me whilst I've been MIA. I hope you're all well.
Lots of love,