Monday, 20 January 2014

The Horror Stories (hysterectomy #6)

This picture isn't relevant in any way to the post...but sometimes you just need a pretty picture
If you’re reading this before your operation…know that you are facing going through something that you probably haven’t got much choice over.

 You want to be well.  You’re trusting your surgeon and your caregivers. Choose to trust them and the Universe to take care of you.  Surround yourself with positive stories and people. You may well encounter folk like the one I’m describing below, because people are bloomin thoughtless.  They just are.  Shut your ears, and know that you’ll be OK. I was, and still am, amazed at how far surgical technique has advanced since my days as a nurse, and how easy and honest to Goddess painless my post-op period was.

“You are not going to be able to do anything after this op, for a long time. We looked after my mother’s friend after and it was awful, she was in complete agony.”

O well cheers for that.  Inexplicably (for I have been stoic before) I feel a sliding earthquake-like shifting of my centre, a sense of panic.  I’m standing in the clinic where I work, where I have waited for the last mum and baby to leave before explaining to my colleagues that I’m going to be away for a while. I struggle to respond to her words.  What does she want me to do, or say to that? Trying to sound upbeat and positive still, I say,

“My surgeon says I might be able to get keyhole, so that would be an easier recovery…”

Too late, I remember this person’s keyhole surgery stories come in a selection which she flicks through like a Roladex at any given time and recites word perfectly every time keyhole surgery comes up.  I swear I heard that thing whirring and she stopped it on the card marked ‘the worst things you can think of’, none of which were a surprise to me as I am, after all, a trained nurse.  But then she hit on the jackpot.  The horror story that fit straight into my worst horror;  waking up mid-operation.
Many, many years ago, before advances in anaesthetic drugs and technique, as part of my training I accompanied a nice woman into theatre and was allowed to watch her surgery.  It was a quick procedure and once it was over she seemed to wake, just a few seconds before we got her out of the stirrups and into recovery, she sat up and yanked out her breathing tube…it looked horrific but she didn't remember anything about it when I carefully questioned her on the ward afterwards.  It was a long time ago, but I was young, new to operating theatres, and it kinda stuck with me.

I couldn't listen to her story again. I simply got up and walked out of the room, into the other room with the coffee machine and all the health visitors.  They looked at me, puzzled, whilst I fiddled with the machine and ended up drinking water out of one of the coffee cups whilst reading a list on the wall.

It took me a while before I realised that I actually know the horror stories pertaining to this cancer and the operation I’m facing, because I lived them once. It was a long while ago and I was a young woman, pregnant with my fourth baby and full of hope and sadness.  My lovely sweet mum, my children’s nana, had this cancer, and she died.  So I know.  I know in my heart and belly and head how wrong this could go and how that might look, in fact, at the moment I’m having a hard time seeing it from any other angle.

I crumpled the cup and walked back in to clinic, where the conversation had progressed to other matters.  What can you say to someone like that?  Really, I mean I actually think she wanted a reaction so I decided to not give it to her.  I just took her little gift home, and tried my best to un-hear it all.

I spoke to my surgeon during my consultation about my fears and feelings and what I had seen.  He listened, and heard me, and urged me to speak to the booking nurse, and the anaesthetist on the day of surgery, at length, about my fears of anaesthetic. This is such a common fear, and these folk were all so lovely, amazingly reassuring and understanding of me.  The anaesthetist didn’t just brush my fears away, he really listened and spoke at length to reassure me, and later on he remembered our conversation when I met him in the anaesthetic room right before surgery.  So if you have these fears too, please, please don’t do that ‘I’m fine’ stoical thing before hand, just be honest and speak to your caregivers about it. I know my words might sound hollow to you in the middle of your fears, but my experience of vaginal hysterectomy and the surgical menopause that followed were just amazingly positive. On a work related forum, as I explained my break from doulaing, a kindly soul kept trying to get me to grieve for my loss, and maybe I'll get around to it sometime, but so far the subsequent three years since this happened have just been full of the best health I've ever enjoyed in my life so I'm busy enjoying that. 

The tale continues here
How have things been for you?

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