“What the hell did I get myself into?”. These words played in my head many times during the weeks after I had gone under the knife. I was advised that the staples would have to come out on the 5th of November. 25 days. I obviously did research on staple care. For complicated incisions, like being cut vertically, staples had to stay in for 21 days. They were really good at keeping me from moving incorrectly because they would gouge me like they were angry prison guards and I would scream. Really loudly. I cringe at the thought of what my neighbours thought was happening at my place!
The first week was a haze. I spent the first week in la-la land. Sitting and drifting off to sleep throughout the day. I didn’t have much of an appetite but hubby was taking up this cooking challenge! I had to take a massive dose of anti-inflammatories every day for the first week. I attempted to watch t.v but I found myself in so much pain and so out of it that I lay there like a limp chip for a week – no idea what time of day it was or even what day of the week it was. It was kind of blissful after suffering a really bad bout of insomnia and non-restorative sleep in the weeks prior to surgery.
Healing was crucial for the next 6 weeks, especially the first 25 days until my staples were removed. I needed to put my pride in my pocket and succumb to being at Hubby’s mercy. I literally couldn’t even reach for things on the couch next to me. I eventually got kitchen tongs to help me reach for things that were incredibly stupid to call my husband for, like my lip balm. One has to get creative.
My mobility was sort of non-existent. Let’s just say I really learned how to engage my core a lot more! For everything else there was hubby. He was very concerned during the first week. I struggle with sleep, yet here I was sleeping for most of the day. Not really interacting with him. Being grabbed by those staples made me inadvertently scream. This freaked him out. I wish I could control it but this was beyond my control. I could not go and lay in bed. I literally had to sit and sleep. I would wake up in pain; the incision sites were throbbing, and laying out straight felt like the skin around the incisions were “tearing”. So by week 2 when I was finally conscious, I was getting out of bed, gently making my way to the couch, aware of each movement I was making. If I dropped anything, well tough luck. I would have to wait for hubby to come to my rescue. I cannot explain how much I misunderstood the impact of having surgery on my lower back. Let me tell you, I took my lower back for granted! I didn’t realise that you rely on your lower back so much!
I was so inflamed. This is to be expected and something I needed to just push through. By day 8 I was finally more lucid. I let hubby help with everything but I drew the line when he suggested giving me “bed baths”. Um no! I appreciated that he wanted to do it, but there was something about not even being able to wash yourself that my rebellious spirit bucked against. I also felt like that this would mean he was my caretaker. No, he was my husband.
I would slowly make my way to the bathroom looking like the Crypt Keeper – something out of a horror movie. Hell, I wouldn’t want to wake up with me standing next to the bed! I have never experienced such a lack of self-care ever! Hair, nails, face care routine – none of that was even a thought. I did however think about women who did not have access to the level of self-care we have with all our face masks and things. I’m guilty. I love all the body and face lotions and potions! I realised how important self care was. What a difference having those luxuries and doing those amazing things does for one’s mood. Uplifting, soothing, whatever self care means to you, appreciate it! We are privilaged to have that. I have self-care rituals and man it was not great to not have it! I looked like a homeless, mountain man, who had been asleep for 3000 years, buried in a pillow fort.
I decided this would just not do! I needed some semblance of decency! I had to find creative ways to wash. I was not allowed to shower or bath. The op-site plasters had to stay on for the 25 days too, to keep it sterile. So I did my best, although, admittedly, leaving water and stuff I had used all over the bathroom for hubby to pick up because that was just impossible. I couldn’t believe how much washing myself using a basin would take out of me. I would be so tired after. Hell 3 weeks on and it’s still tough no matter how creative I try to get and I end up hurting myself with these shenanigans. This really upsets hubby. Oopsie. I won’t even comment on the rest of my appearance other than to say my eyebrows look like 2 hairy worms standing in a fighting stance. Thank God for dry shampoo but bloody hell I realllllly want to wash my hair! With water!
Week two proved to be much worse than week one. My lack of sleep had come back and it was intolerable. I healed nicely during the first week but during the second week I was missing out on all the restorative sleep I had been getting. I have found in my illnesses, sleeping is a great healer. It gives your body time to regenerate. Now I found myself awake at 5/6 am and up till 12 am without really having any sleep during the day! I became exhausted. Not only was I in excruciating pain and immobile, I was now completely sleep deprived. I was physically drained but now I was mentally drained as well. I noticed as the week progressed that my healing had stalled/slowed down.
I became a miserable cow prone to crying over stupid crap. Admittedly I became a big cry baby! I was emotional. I was angry. The deed was done and could not be undone. I had to come to terms with that. I had to have a lot of meetings with myself. I have to remind myself that I am actually human and this battle with chronic pain was 14+ years of hell. I had gone through and put myself through so many really scary/painful/invasive things. I allowed myself to feel a little sorry for myself. I had gone through something hectic and in my mind, I totally had a reason to feel sorry for myself but things had to change. Healing was not going to happen with me being in that space.
During the first week I had zero sensation around my lower back and thighs. During the second week it started returning and with it came the side-effect of being horribly bruised. New pain to deal with. Great! I told myself that the sensation returning was a good thing. The bruising would be normal. Sticking cameras down the incisions and prodding around in there to cut tissue/muscle was inevitably going to cause pain. Also, I’m not sure if I’m the only one who does this, but, I tend to look at the surgeon’s hands who are going to work on me. I know, weird. I had already assessed this doctor’s hands and commented to my husband that he had hands like a farmer (no offense to farmers!). So I expected that it might be a bit more painful because he didn’t have ‘dainty’ hands. One really picks up weird habits when you are chronically ill! If you have any weird habits you’ve picked up please share by commenting!
Week 2 also saw me trying to be more brave. To my own detriment of course. Hubby offered to help but I was convinced I could do this. I still couldn’t reach my feet and lower legs so he had to help me with that but I also did get creative. I didn’t want to call hubby to come put some cream on my feet, I mean really, the man was busy. I lay on my back with my feet up. Voila! I could moisturise my feet! All this bravery turned out to be really stupid. On top of everything else the meds had completely messed up my stomach!
I easily develop peptic ulcers and anti-inflammatories, especially a high dose was a looking for trouble. So now, on top of everything else I couldn’t finish my anti-inflammatories or the pain meds I was given because my peptic ulcer was angry. Very angry. The problem was that I was still very inflammed and in alot of pain. We decided to see a GP and get some kind of alternative. Getting into the car was a mission in itself. I had to hold on to hubby as I slowly shuffled. I couldn’t walk. It was making the pain worse!
So hubs had to get a wheelchair at the clinic. Oh man. I hate attention. How I wish I could be wearing my sunglasses with my mask! It was so embarrasing. People were staring and obviously wondering what was wrong with this young woman. I saw the doctor and he agreed that the healing should have progressed alot more than it had at this point. Well done bravery. Another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into Tracey! The nurse gave me an injection and I got a script to sort out my peptic ulcer. The injection really seemed to work. We got home and I sank into my pillow fort, completely drained. I had to change. I love the way the universe always finds a way to speak to me. I read this :
Pain can serve as one of life’s great teachers, but it’s vital to move through it and not become stuck.DailyOHM
Something had to give and that something was me. My healing had stalled and this was counterproductive. I need to pull myself towards myself and remind myself that I had battled for so long with pain, what was 6 weeks out of my life. What had happened to the Tracey that kicked ass no matter how bad things were? I realised that I was also being too hard on myself. I had to give myself some grace. I had gone through a pretty traumatic event (you can read about the actual surgery in my previous post) and I was in pain that I had never experienced before and I was more immobile than I had ever been.
It was time to strike a balance. Maybe bravery meant having the strength to stick to the healing timeline and not try and fight to do it my way. This time was different and it called for a different approach. I needed to find a balance between understanding and accepting my situation, including needing to ask for help and still being a warrior woman. It was time for some real introspection. It started with a new mantra “this will all be worth it at the end”.
I’ve decided to turn some of my posts into podcasts because some of them are too lengthy to read for some people. Some people prefer podcasts. It’s something I’ve wanted to do. I will be converting this to a podcast so you can either choose to listen to me reading this blog post or read it yourself. It’s always nice to have choices. Feedback on this idea would be great! I always appreciate the feedback. It’s important for self-improvement. It’s like families who let their kids go on Idols knowing full well the poor kid can’t hold a note! I always wonder how you could do that to a loved one. I would lovingly explain to the kid in some way that perhaps they need to seek out a new venture! So please, feel free to message me with your input.
My staples have finally been removed! A whole new part of the saga awaits! I can’t wait to get it out because my posts have been rather grim of late.
Sending you all light and love!
Stay safe everyone!