It's now 10 days since I waddled out of Ward 24 into my father-in-law's car and home to my lovely wife and I can honestly say that I have made significant, if steady, progress in my recovery. Today I'd like to share a few of my feelings and experiences since returning home.
Recovery - pains and emotions
Firstly I'd say I grossly underestimated the impact this surgery would have on my body. Despite my best efforts to prepare, the physical trauma has been far worse than I thought it would be. Although I have a chequered medical history I generally think of myself as being quite fit and otherwise healthy; I had it in my head that I'd be able to bounce back quickly. The weakness associated with the loss of muscle mass is the thing that is most difficult for me to deal with - I have very little strength and stamina to carry out daily tasks, let alone to do any extra exercise (I really want to golf and swim sometime soon). However, day-by-day things improve a little. Perhaps I won't take the afternoon nap which seems to have become necessary since the surgery, or maybe I'll walk a little further than I did yesterday. The best adjective I can think of to describe my recovery is 'incremental'. If you are going to be undergoing this type of surgery, I'd highly recommend you prepare yourself for a slow (but steady) recovery. And don't try to push yourself too hard, the frustration has to be secondary in your mind behind allowing yourself time to heal.
Regarding my aches and pains: when I left hospital I was scared to cough or sneeze due to the shooting pains it would send through my abdominal wound. My wife found it quite funny that I had developed a technique by where if I felt a tickle at the back of my throat I'd make a noise that she described as a "distressed sea-lion". I found that rasping my vocal chords could often negate the necessity to cough thus avoiding the stabbing pain. Sneezing, however, is a different matter; if you need to sneeze you need to sneeze and I can tell you it hurts! One day though, about 17 or 18 days after surgery, I realised that when I sneezed there was no longer a stabbing pain and it is now just a bit of muscular abdominal discomfort which lasts a few seconds. Regarding my "tail-end" scar it is healing well all things considered. I can now sit comfortably, even on a hard wooden stool for reasonable lengths of time. It feels weird and a little tender when washing but hopefully in another few weeks it will be healed to an extent where I might even be able to sit on a bike saddle.
Emotionally I have yet to get to a place where I feel it has all been worth it and I'm hoping this time will come soon. This said, yesterday I did notice myself thinking that I no longer have to rush to the toilet like I did for years before the surgery.
Practicalities and mishaps...
This section will probably interest fellow ostomates (or ostomates-to-be) more than the "regular" readers!
I have been pleased that my stoma output (I find it funny that 'poo' becomes 'output' once you have a stoma!) has been really quite thick. I spoke to the stoma nurse and she said that this is a really promising sign that things are working as they should.
This said, I have had a few mishaps including a bag leak in the middle of the night which coincided with a boiler breakdown meaning no hot water to clean up the resulting mess...it was one of those Murphy's law moments! However my wife helped me through and we eventually got the boiler fixed after 36 hours, by which time the house was freezing (it also coincided with one of the coldest days of the year so far...). The reason for the leak was due to liquid output (diarrhoea) filling the bag to bursting point while I slept. I'm not sure there would be much I could do about this if it happened again, apart from perhaps a larger bag to wear at night. I had indulged myself with a chinese meal the night before, but I could not say whether or not this was the cause.
The aforementioned calamity aside, I have found myself settling down into my new 'normal' lifestyle. Obviously I have a fair way to go since I'm not back to work yet and I want to be doing more activities. But on a practical level, managing Alf is becoming less of a daunting lifestyle change and more of something I 'just do'.