Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Road to Recovery

So this post is very much post surgery related and probably won't be overly interesting to the general public but it could come in handy for anyone in my position who has had, or is going to have a total or partial gastrechtomy (surgical removal of the stomach). However, if it interests you, read away!

In the couple of weeks leading up to my surgery, I came across a small community of bloggers who had either already had the same surgery or were waiting to it done. I found reading through their posts and asking questions about their experiences to be extremely helpful so if my post can at least help one person, then it'll be worthwhile. 

Going in for surgery
I had to be at the hospital really early the morning of my surgery and luckily didn't have to wait around too long. My friend Mara kindly dropped my Dad and I off and was also met by another friend Kristy so I had a whole entourage with me in the pre-surgery waiting room. The nurse had even taped Happy Birthday balloons to my bed as it was the  day after my birthday. Here is a pic of me in my lovely surgery outfit (very fashionable). 

It wasn't long before I was taken in to be given anesthetic and also an epidural (yes, the same as what pregnant women have when giving birth) and the next 7 hours were a complete blank. 

Post surgery - Hospital
I won't really include any details of the day after surgery as it's all a bit of a blur.. I can say that my operation took about 7 hours and my surgeon was able to do my surgery laparoscopically (key hole surgery) which means instead of having a giant cut down my belly, I have 6 tiny little cuts. This will mean less scarring and will also lessen my recovery time. 

All of the days in hospital after the surgery all kind of melded in to 1 long week and it's a little hard to separate one day from another. The first few days were very much focused on getting my pain under control and resting and I wasn't allowed to have any fluids including water. 

I think it was on Wednesday, my 3rd day after surgery that I was allowed to start having a few ice blocks followed by small sips of water. I was then extremely excited the following day when they told me I could have some apple juice and some soup for lunch and dinner.

On Friday, I was given a high energy, high protein drink called Ensure to try and get me started on the types of drinks I'd have to have when I was able to go home. It wasn't so bad to begin with but later on made me really sick and I wasn't able to tolerate any more of these drinks so had to find an alternative. I now have a fruit cordial type drink called Resource which still isn't amazing but is much easier for me to tolerate. 

Throughout my time in hospital, I started out not really being able to move much at all and had to have a lot of help from the nurses (who were amazing). I also had an IV which I had to take with my anywhere I went. By Wednesday, I had a visit from physio and had to start to try and walk around a little bit. I somehow had an injured foot from surgery (something to do with stirrups they had my feet in during surgery).. so this made walking quite difficult. Physio managed to get me some crutches so I went on a lap around the ward with the help of my Dad who wheeled my IV around for me. 

My foot started to get better so on Thursday I did a total of 7 laps around the ward without crutches (but still with Dad's help) which I was pretty impressed with. 

I also had a visit from Channel 7 on Thursday who are going to do an interview with me once I'm feeling a little bit better. This created quite a bit of excitement in my room and had my Dad and a couple of the doctors running for cover so they didn't have to be on camera. 

I was very lucky to have lots of visitors during my time in hospital and so many kind messages from family and friends. I also received quite a lot of flowers and a number of other really nice gifts. I couldn't be more grateful for all of the support I've received.

Below is probably the worst photo I've ever taken, but I was so excited to receive a teddy bear from my little nephews who also drew kisses on there for me to help me get better (super cute.. they're only 2 and 3). 

Yesterday was my final day in hospital and while I still have a long way to go, I was ready to come home. 

Home sweet home
My friends Kristy and Joe picked me up from the hospital at about midday yesterday and I was able to go home. Although a week in hospital might not seem like long, when you're there the time goes very slowly so it seemed to me like the longest week ever and I couldn't be happier to be home. 

I'm on a liquid diet for the next 2 weeks and after that will move on to a puree (baby food) diet for another couple of weeks. My housemate Sophie made me a couple of really nice soups and some jelly to have over the next 2 weeks. She also cleaned my room for me in time for my return (for anyone who knows me.. it's quite rare to see my room looking so nice). All of my flowers and cards certainly didn't hurt. 

Current issues
The biggest issues I'm finding currently are:

1. Being able to eat (drink) enough - I'm meant to have 4 of my Resource drinks a day but have so far only been able to drink a quarter at a time every couple of hours which makes this extremely difficult. They also aren't the most appealing drink so I need to work on this

2. Not drinking so much that I make myself sick - I've had a few spells of nausea which really aren't fun and completely use up all of my energy and leave me feeling terrible. I've found this is when I try to force myself to keep going with one of my drinks so once I start to feel full, I have to stop

3. Mobility - I'm not very useful around the house at all at the moment and have to have most things done for me as I can't really lift anything or bend around too much

4. Swelling - I'm still quite swollen in my stomach which is slowly going down but I have to remember this when trying to sleep a certain way or move to pick something up

5. Energy - Given I'm not able to actually eat at the moment and can only keep down so many liquids, it makes sense I don't have a lot of energy. A walk about 20 metres down the road is about all I can handle at the moment which also means my legs are very shaky when coming up and down the stairs. My muscles are very quickly shrinking!  

Anyway, that's about all for now. I really hope this might help be helpful for anybody who has to go through the same thing. 


  1. Glad to hear you are on the road to recovery. Now you no longer have to worry about getting diffuse gastric cancer! Yahoo!!!
    It's nice you were able to have laproscopic surgery. The oncologists have recommended open surgery for me so I'll have a nice battle scar. Thanks for keeping us all posted!!

    1. Thanks so much!! It's definitely a relief although it'll be a fairly long recovery. But definitely worth it and no longer having to worry about that terrible cancer!!
      I would have been happy with battle scars had I had to have them but it turned out quite lucky they could do it this way. Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading more of your posts :)

  2. Congratulations to you! The worst is behind you! Don't beat yourself up too much on the volume you're able to take in these first few weeks-- the more you heal, the better your intake will get. You sound like you're doing really well considering all you've been through.

    Keep up the good work :)

    1. Thanks Rachel :) Definitely feel like the worst is behind me. And I'm just having as much as I can at the moment.. getting sick is not worth it! Hope you're still going really well :)

  3. So happy that your surgery went well! Thanks for all the good advice! I'll be going in 11 days.

  4. Thanks Steve! Oh wow so soon which is great! Eat a much food as you can beforehand :) Look forward to hearing how your recovery goes as it's so close to mine

  5. Congrats on getting through surgery. I was sooo ready to leave the hospital! Not it's just taking it one step at a sip, one bite, lots of chewing! But you've got this! Keep it up! Very excellent blog post too!

    1. Thanks Marne! Has definitely been great to get out of hospital.. not a fun place to be! My biggest struggle now is learning my portion sizes and what I can tolerate.. turns out sugar isn't so great! But it's all a learning curve and I'll get there :) Thanks for the comment

  6. Congrats on your progress. Just keep sipping that's my advice. I had similar surgery last July and although I still have a small stomach, it's not so difficult once you get your head around what you can and can't eat. Little and often is my advice!

    1. Thanks very much :) I'm learning more each day on what my body can and can't tolerate. Thanks for the advice! And great to hear you're going well after surgery

  7. Your a brave girl but life is a one off thing and you've given yourself the best chance of a long and healthy one. INSPIRING. Take care, get well and enjoy life. Don't know you but you deserve this. HHHHHHUUUUUUGGGGGG