For those very, very few of you that are following me right now, you might know that I had surgery last week for my endometriosis. This was my 4th laparoscopy in 4 years. Since the age of 26, I have had 5 surgeries & 2 babies. Surgery is no joke, but I honestly went into this one naively thinking it would be a breeze.
For my past laps, I would go in, get quickly medicated, and have not a care in the world as to what was about to happen. An undertermined amount of time later, I would wake up in the recovery room (more often than not, asking for my “mommy” as this seems to be my knee jerk response to anesthesia recovery) and head home in a matter of an hour or two, thinking I was Superwoman ready to take on the world for the remainder of the day. Maybe its my age, but this was not the case this time around.
To give you a little insight into the disease itself & the procedures to find & correct it, here’s a quick lesson. Endometriosis is a disease where the tissues that normally line the inside of the uterus somehow make their way outside and attach themselves to the outside of your uterus & eventually spread to other organs. It is very painful, depending on the severity of the case, and in most cases is incurable. There are different procedures and medication that can be taken to help ease the symptoms, but in general, nothing can be done to stop the disease. I do not personally buy into the myth that a hysterectomy or simply stopping your monthly frienemy can cure it. If the cells have attached themselves to other organs, simply removing one part, will not solve the crisis. I remember a very graphic episode of “House” where this was exactly the case. Although a far fetched story line, it was forever seared into my memory whenever the word “hysterectomy” would get brought up in medical conversations.
The most common procedure to diagnose the disease and ease the symptoms is laser ablation of the cell sites using laparoscopic surgery. This form of surgery involves “tiny” incisions throughout the abdomen, where the doctor uses a small camera to aid in the procedure. CO2 is used to “blow up” the abdomen to aid the surgeon in their discovery/resolution process.
As stated earlier, I have had four of these procedures. The last two, prior to last week’s fun, were less than a month apart. Each time, I had my share of minor issues, but in general, I came home from the hospital and could easily function on my own. This time was drastically different. I don’t know if it was because I was under the care of a new surgeon at a new hospital, a reaction to different medications used in anesthesia, the fact that they didn’t give me those amazing anti-nausea patches, who knows, but I had a very rough time recovering.
The reaction I have to having a breathing tube, albeit for a very short amount of time, is comparable to the worst case of bronchitis ever. This is super fun to deal with after abdominal surgery. Coughing is your worst enemy when your diaphragm, lungs, and abdomen have just been stretched to their max capacity & are now as sore as if you had just done 1000 sit ups after not working out for 12 years. I don’t know how to describe the taste of the oxygen used in a breathing tube, but it is something that is forever seared into my memory & something I will stay far away from as much as I can help it. Just thinking about it now makes me cringe.
The nausea was debilitating to say the least. I woke up from recovery and immediately thought either I am going to die from coughing or from nausea. I hadn’t eaten solid food in well over 24 hours, but the thought of putting anything into my stomach made me cry. Literally. I blame the lack of those amazing little behind the ear anti-nausea patches, but had my sensible neighbor not told me to force feed myself some Saltines at 7:00pm, I am pretty sure I would have had my mom drive me back to the hospital that night.
Oh, did I not mention that I had to beg my mom to come back to my house that evening to take care of me? Yeah, that happened. My 32 year old self called my mother, crying like a toddler, to come help me because I couldn’t handle being home alone. Ryan had a gig that night and based on my past experiences, I thought I would be perfectly capable of taking care of myself 12 hours after the procedure. I was wrong. After eating about 5 crackers in the course of an hour, I was now sane enough to relieve my mother, take my pain meds, & go the f to sleep.
The super fun part of lap recovery is the bloat. I warned of this in an earlier post, the CO2 takes some time to get out of your system. If you Google it, most cites will lead you to believe this is a 1-3 day term. They are all stupid liars. You might see some change in the bloat after 3 days, but it is by no means resolved. You might wake up in the morning & think, “beyond those ugly incisions & bruises, at least my girlish figure is back.” Ha! Fast forward 30 mins after you have taken your 1st bite of food, assuming you can eat, or hell, even had 1 cup of coffee, & your stomach is back to looking like you are at best, 4-5 months pregnant. Think I am joking? Take a look at these, the 1st picture is the morning of my surgery, the second is the following morning.
(I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post these as I am in a journey to lose some weight, but I was actually pretty impressed with my stomach pre-surgery based on my struggles these past couple years. Anyway, as you can see, I look like I am 5-6 months pregnant in picture #2.)
In addition to the bloat, you also experience gas pains. These are not what you are thinking, they are sharp pains in your shoulders and chest from the CO2 that occur generally when you lay down, move too quickly, cough, etc. When recovering from surgery, it is a double edged sword to prevent a person from laying down. I am a stomach sleeper, always have been, always will be. I learned to adjust to side sleeping with the aid of special pillows while pregnant, but the second those baby bumps were gone, I was back on my stomach again. After abdominal surgery, you can’t sleep on your stomach for at least a week, so I tried my very best to adjust to sleeping like I did when I was pregnant, but every damn time I would get into position, the gas pains would start. Some of these I could suffer through until they passed, others caused me to sit up & forgo my date with the sandman for a little while longer. This occurred nearly every time I rolled over. I had a nice system with pillows on both of my sides (as I had long gotten rid of that magical Snoogle) for support when I rolled over from one side to the next. However, almost each & every time I did this, I got the gosh darn pain in my shoulders. Needless to say, I did not having a fun time trying to get the rest I needed.
(You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned any setbacks because of having to take care of my two amazing little boys during this time. Thankfully, they were able to stay with their grandparents pretty much the entire week, and the one night they were home in the mix, my sister came to help.)
The absolute worst part of this whole ordeal is what the doctor found peeking in my insides last Thursday, or didn’t for that matter. No new endo sites at all. Yep, that’s right, I had surgery to help ease the pain that was essentially caused by a disease that had NOT in fact come back after having two babies. This time instead of 2-3 incision sites, I had 6. All to find out that there is nothing that can be done, because all my pain is apparently coming from scar tissue from the last three surgeries I had in 2009-2010. Imagine my excitement.
Needless to say, I am less than enthused with my last experience. Thinking positively though, I am relatively healthy & disease free for the 1st time in several years, I can deal with the pain (assuming this last surgery doesn’t make it worse) when it comes. I had my last child voluntarily au natural, so if I can do that, I can do anything!
I would love to hear from anyone (in general, but staying on topic) who has had a similar experience or suffers from this biotch of a disease. We can start a support group, or at least self medicate together.