It was a very emotional homecoming yesterday – being able to physically hug Trend and the children and Bonzo was better than I could have imagined. I didn’t realise until I got home just how hard this last op and particularly the last week has been psychologically. The op was a partial success – they managed to fully remove the tumour under my stoma that was protruding from my abdomen and they have repaired the abdominal wall with mesh which will take a few months to fully bed down. The other tumour, however, in my lower left pelvis, could only be partially removed. Any further removal would have impacted my bladder and bowel and would have had a significant impact on my quality of life/ability to function. As a result, I still have some of the uncomfortable symptoms that I went in with, and I have a very swollen left leg due to tumours near the lymph nodes. It’s slowly coming down and I think with physio and gentle exercise it will eventually return to normal.
Despite these things, I’m physically much stronger than I was after the last op. I haven’t lost any weight and my surgeon continues to be impressed with my ability to heal and to bounce back. I also haven’t needed as much pain relief as I did with the previous ops.
Mentally, however, I think I’m a bit traumatised by the whole thing. It’s hard to explain, but part of it is of course the fact that I’ve been in the hospital for two weeks without Trend by my side every day as with the previous surgeries. The other part is knowing that this op was a temporary fix and that we have no idea how fast it will grow again – hopefully, we are talking about years, but we just don’t know. What we do know is that the next round is likely going to be harder, so I do need to build up my health and fitness and mental resilience again. The cliché of it being a marathon and not a sprint couldn’t be more true in this case, so I’m going to be very disciplined about building in sufficient recovery time to the ‘training plan’.
I’m also conscious that I don’t just write this blog for me but for others who are also going through cancer or other serious illnesses, so I think it’s important to talk about appearances versus reality. I am a very glass half full person, I go through life convinced that smiling and putting on a brave face will make things better, and I hate being weak or feeling vulnerable. As a result, I regularly have people say to me that they were surprised to hear I was unwell as I ‘looked great’ or that they assumed that I had been ‘cured’ or am in ‘remission’. The reality is that this disease is not going away and that no matter how great I may appear on the outside, and no matter how cheerful my disposition, I’m often struggling on the inside – I just hate to show it.
Finally, as I like to end these blogs on a positive note, I want to pay a huge tribute to the wonderful staff at the Hampshire Clinic who have looked after me so well over the past couple of weeks. I can’t say enough about the surgeons who operated on me so skilfully (they spent 5 hours just untangling my organs before they could start the procedure), the anaesthetist who kept me pain-free, and the others who all worked on the surgery. However, I am in awe of all of the nursing staff who looked after me 24/7 with such kindness, care and empathy. They bathed me and washed my hair when I was unable to do it for myself, held my hands when I took my first shaky steps from the bed to the chair, cleaned me up when I was sick, were so very very gentle in removing the tubes and drains and cannulas and also in taking endless amounts of blood, and they made me smile when I was in floods of tears. It wouldn’t be right to say that I was in hospital all on my own for those two weeks – I wasn’t. I had a group of amazing people looking after me and I am so very grateful to each and every one of them.