Sunday, 18 September 2016

Home from hospital!

I guess it's time for an update! 
After 8 long, incredibly painful days in hospital, on Wednesday, at 12:50, I was discharged and driven home by my Dad, exactly to the day and 10minute slot that I was put under the anaesthetic the week before. So much has happened in the past week, most of which I would rather forget forever and big chunks I already have. 

I wanted to try and go through the week for you guys, but everything feels so hard to pin down to exact times, days and feelings. It all feels like quite an overwhelming blur so I've decided to go for a more general post about the whole experience, bear with me. 

On Wednesday 7th September, the morning of the surgery, Mum and I headed to my hospital. The day before had been pretty awful as I hadn't been allowed to eat anything. I just had to drink juice and water to ensure my bowel was clear for the surgery. Luckily due to already having Margaret I didn't need to drink the stomach turning bowel prep, but having had my last meal on Monday (5th) evening, I found it a pretty tough day. 

Before the surgery, I wasn't THAT nervous, aside from a 15 minute wobble in the waiting room, where my heart felt like it was going to burst through my chest and I might burst in to tears at any moment. I met with various surgical people who explained everything, again, and put my Mum and I massively at ease. At 12:45ish I gave Mum the biggest hug and followed the nurse to the operating theatre. 

Before the op!

My surgery lasted 6 hours. Quite a lot longer than the 3-4 average and the 1.5 hours it can ideally take. I woke up with the following:

- 3 key hole wounds, one on the left of my tummy, one on the right and one about two inches above my belly button. 
- A drain sticking out of my left side which collected in to a clear pouch making sure any nasty fluid that built up came out of me. 
- A bag attached over Margaret (where she had always been), on my right. 
- Unfortunately, I also have a roughly 3-4inch line from my bikini line up to about an inch below my belly button. 
- A tail end wound site (A line of stitching where my bum hole used to be).

All the wounds had been painted over in this lilac, waterproof glue. It's safe to say, my tummy looked a complete mess and was hugely swollen. Although disappointed it couldn't all be done key hole, the longer incision was SO much smaller than it could have ended up being. My surgeon has stitched the wound, from the inside. Yup, that's right, from the inside. It blows my mind. I have no staples, clips or visible stitches, just a scabby line which should ultimately be very neat. The recovery nurse commented that it was more like a plastic surgery wound, which is just fantastic. 
One thing that has become incredibly obvious is the amount of time, care and huge thought my surgeon has gone to throughout my op. As well as minimal stitching to prevent obvious scarring, he has lined up the top of my scar with the top of Margaret so neither should ever show. The scar is also cut at a very slight curve that goes around where my bag lies, meaning the sticky bit doesn't go on top of the wound but the actual bag covers most of it. He's also had to re stitch Margaret in place as she has changed shape, but these stitches are not visible either. He has done everything he can to make the healing, ultimate appearance of my tummy and life going forward as positive as possible. I am incredibly lucky to have him and can't thank him enough. 
After the op he explained that key hole had worked for the majority of the operation but when he tried to remove the bottom end (rectum etc) it was "like cement". If you imagine it's supposed to be a very soft, quite supple area, (like the inside of your mouth), then it gives you an idea of what a bleak state I was in. This is the area that needed the longer incision and took him hours to cut away trying to ensure no damage was done to the surrounding areas. He was clearly meticulous. The state he found it in, just proves that there really was no other option than this op. Aside from the length of the operation, which makes recovering from the anaesthetic harder, everything else went to plan. He did an amazing job. 

My battered tummy

Right from the recovery area, after the operation was over, Mum & Dad were there for hours and hours, every single day. Throughout the whole experience Mum was like an anchor. When I felt confused or overwhelmed with the medications, nausea and pain, I felt safer because she was there. She stayed with me overnight on the first night which helped so much & was there for 12+ hours in the early days. 
The nursing staff were also absolutely amazing, three of them especially, went above and beyond and really stood out. I was, as I normally am, the youngest of all the patients they had on the 34 person ward, with most being quite elderly. At various moments, throughout my 8 day stay, having the nurses, my own age,  to talk to, made a big difference. 

The first few days after the operation are a mess in my mind. I remember certain big moments and little insignificant details but can't easily put them in the right order. Some of what I remember is probably not accurate considering the drugs I was on and some of it is just a feeling rather than the memory of an event. I could try to piece it all together but it was a very tough time, I'd honestly rather not. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through and at times I felt so out of control and overwhelmed, I honestly couldn't see how I was going to get through the next 30 seconds. I remember pleading with my mum that they just make me unconscious again, because I just didn't think I could do it. The best thing for recovery after an op, regardless of wounds, pain or tubes coming out of you at all angles, is to be sat up and ideally out of bed. This was drummed in to me and took several attempts over several days, with the help of mum and nurses to make it happen. It felt completely impossible but I did it! 
The incredible thing is, despite every hour seeming just as hard as the last, 24 go by and you can see an improvement and by a week you're in a totally different place. For example, on Day 1, I needed help moving my feet a few inches across the bed and by Day 4 I was able to make my way to the bathroom, very slowly, but on my own. The progress has felt incredibly slow but in reality has been so fast. 

It wasn't until Sunday evening, when my catheter was removed and I got over an ability to wee/retention nightmare ordeal, that I started to feel a bit more together and it was by Monday night, once my drain had been removed and the antibiotics had stopped, that I felt a little more like a human being. The combination of the pain itself, pain relief, antibiotics & anaesthetic effects had me feeling sick, a lot of the time. One of the anti sickness made me throw up, every time (apparently it's one of the side effects!...) I tell you, being sick with 6 different wounds in your tummy is not a pleasant experience. 

On Tuesday evening, 8 days since my last meal, once most of these meds had stopped, the sickness disappeared and I was finally allowed to eat & chew something. I had been told that morning that I would be allowed to go home and then at the last minute my blood test came back with a low potassium reading. This can ultimately be very serious for your heart but is also not unheard of with people with an ostomy. It did, however, mean I had to stay in hospital. I was heartbroken & really didn't cope well, I was so desperate to get home. After only consuming liquids for 8 days, Margaret's output was pure water, meaning I wasn't absorbing anything. I knew that all I needed was food to thicken up Margarets output, to then absorb nutrients and my potassium would go back to normal. The Drs also put me on supplements to try and raise it, before re checking.  
I felt horrendous from not eating and was very weak and shaky, my body would shake after standing for 5 minutes, because my muscles were struggling to keep holding me up, I'd lost 11lbs in total. The Drs need to take it slowly, after a bowel op, to make sure everything is working okay, which of course makes complete sense but is hugely frustrating. 
When they did give the 'normal food' go ahead, I asked Mum for a whole Nandos meal (obviously). She wisely said that probably wasn't a great idea and took me down to the hospital restaurant where I nibbled at some soft chips, a few spoonfuls of baked beans and a couple mouthfuls of chicken. It was incredible, I can't tell you how amazing that first tiny mouthful of normal food was. I also ate half a ham sandwich, half a packet of crisps, a banana and some toast. The output, as I knew it would, thickened right up and my potassium levels shot up (almost too far thanks to the extra supplements I was also taking) and I was allowed to go home as long as the potassium was re checked three days later. I arrived back home, very tired, sore & bruised, with arms that resembled a pin cushion. 

At home with Toby

Two days on and I'm happy to report that, in true Gabi style, I'm pretty much back to eating everything I want. I have to chew very well and drink a lot of water, but I'm once again loving all of my food. I feel really fortunate that I had an ostomy for three years before this op. It's one less thing to get my head around or worry about as I already know what to expect. Margaret and I have an understanding, I know what to eat and when & she has rarely let me down in digesting all the foods I love. 
Since coming home my mood is better, I no longer look so unwell and I'm not a shaky mess. Things are starting to feel a little more normal and little by little I'm improving. The first night was horrendous as I couldn't lie comfortably in bed but I'm now set up downstairs on the sofa and have been able to get some sleep. I am still very, very sore and on painkillers throughout the day, I am slow at everything but every day am able to do a little bit more than the last. 

Things I can't do that are very annoying:
Sit down straight on my bottom 
Lie fully on my back, side or tummy 
Pick up Toby 
Bend or squat down 
Open car doors
Open drawers 
Sit at a table to eat 
Straighten properly or twist my back/body/shoulders 
Sit in a car 
Get in and out of the shower 

Things I can do on my own!:
Fully bend my knees 
Get myself from standing to lying on the sofa and back up (80% of the time) 
Walk/shuffle short distances round the ground floor of the house
Go up and down stairs (with someone watching)
Go to the loo
Stand up for 5-8minutes 
Pull my body up the bed or sofa with my arms
Brush my hair 

The surgery has meant that my knees have gone down, fully back to normal, which is amazing. I am now also 100% free of all Crohn's medication for the first time since I was 16. The surgeon chopped out every diseased part so there is currently no need for it. This, of course, may change as Crohn's can spread elsewhere and the surgery was never a cure, but for now I am so relieved to be off the high doses of hardcore and potentially harmful drugs I've been on for years. 

I have Toby and Flynn by my side constantly and my family have all been incredible. I am beyond happy to back to Dads cooking and my brothers have cheered me up a lot. Mum, especially, has been there through everything and I honestly couldn't have gotten through it without her. The recovery process has only just begun and it's going to be months of baby steps but right now I'm just happy to be home. The support, love and messages from people have made it all a lot easier. I can't thank everyone enough for how lovely you've been. Big, life changing events, like this, truly highlight who and what is important and what frankly really doesn't matter. You get to know who really cares and the amazing kindness and thoughtfulness from friends, family and strangers has been unbelievable. This kind of thing is like a catalyst to clear up everything else in your life. It's a fresh start for a lot of things and I'm surrounded by the most brilliant people for it. 

Onwards & upwards! 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Knees Strike Back

With three days to go until my surgery the past two weeks have been pretty awful, which is why I've not been updated the blog at all.

Around 12 days ago my knees started to swell up, as they've done many times before. My swelling joints are linked to the Crohn's. When my tummy is swollen, some of my joints like to join in and swell up too - share that inflammation around. I had thought it was weird that for the past two months, through everything my knees had been okay. It seems, they were in fact, lulling me in to a false sense of security until I thought I'd gotten away with it, before  BAM, they make their presence known. Once all the nasty swollen bit is cut out, I've been told my knees won't swell up anymore, which is great but doesn't help the situation I'm in right now.

After my knees had swelled up enough that they were getting pretty sore and very stiff I rang the flare clinic. In the past, this is what I've been told to do, it allows me to speak directly with a nurse from the rheumatology department who can then advise what I do next. I didn't hear back from them on the Friday and unfortunately it was then Bank Holiday weekend, meaning I wouldn't hear anything until at least the Tuesday. By Sunday morning my knees were huge, I think the biggest they have ever been. My left knee especially, which is normally the 'good' knee, was incredibly painful. I was being kept awake at night and was no longer able to really walk or even roll over in bed. I really wasn't sure what to do, with my op still 10 days away I was very worried that the state of my knees and inability to move would impact on my surgery. Without too many gory details, during the surgery they do need to move your body in to different positions to gain access to all the right areas. The fact my legs couldn't bend at all, was really worrying me. My Mum had spoken to a Pre-op nurse the week before who suggested I speak to the surgeon, which in reality is pretty impossible to do. We decided on Sunday morning to ring 111 for some advice after a truly horrendous night. It's always tricky with this service as they are not medical professionals on the other end of the phone and are just following a computer system which after lots of questions gives them the advice to give. This of course means that most of what they ask you is irrelevant and if you aren't then 'norm', its quite hard for them to do anything. In the end he sent me to an Out of Hours Dr service at the local hospital, I was in absolute agony and had to be wheel chaired in.

The Dr I saw was really lovely and tried his best to help but of course, the whole situation I'm in is so complicated, it's very difficult for anyone to come in and able to do something. He gave me some more strong painkillers, and told me what worsening symptoms to look out for. The next couple of days were awful and I felt very, very poorly, with my temperature spiking at 39. My Dad got really worried and contacted my surgeon who asked for me to go in to hospital later in the week to see the surgical and medical team. I panicked at this, really concerned the op would be postponed or that they'd admit me there and then, I hate staying in hospital so couldn't imaging anything worse. I spent the next three days in a constant state of anxiety as well as feeling very unwell. Although the swelling in my knees was starting to go down and weren't so painful, I felt like I was getting more and more unwell.

So Friday I travelled up to the hospital, with my Mum, where I saw a member of my surgeon's team, another Gastro consultant and the pre-op nurses. We were there for hours but I was seen by pretty much everyone there was to see. The good news is, I am fit enough for surgery. My knees have continued to go down on their own a bit and I'm able to at least walk better. The surgical team decided that because of this, from their perspective, surgery is okay to go. The consultant I saw is not my normal Dr and I've never met him before but he was fantastic. After listening to me speak, he asked whether I was a Dr myself, because of how well I articulated what was happening and pronounced everything, ha! I obviously thought this was brilliant!
He also showed me the report from my MRI, which I've never seen before. This showed that I have in his words, "a big abscess", or ball of infection. Although thats not great, in a way it was a relief to actually know why I'm feeling so poorly and in so much pain. Due to the amount of pain I'm in and how unwell I am, he prescribed me some antibiotics to try and get the infection under some control before the op. The abscess will be cut out during the operation as it's in the same area as the bad bit of bowel.

I've now been on the antibiotics for 48hours and they've definitely made a big difference to how I'm feeling, although still sick I don't feel nearly as awful as I did. This hopefully means I'll go in to the op in a better state than I might have done a few days ago.

So the surgery is just three sleeps away! I won't really be allowed to eat from Monday night, apart from something light before 7am on Tuesday, which will suck but my appetite isn't huge so I won't suffer too much. I obviously won't eat Wednesday and probably not Thursday so it's a good few days of no food at all. Mentally I think I'm as ready for the op as I can be. The next couple of days, I'll be taking it very easy and finalising everything Chroma wise before having a couple weeks off!
For now I'm just relieved the op is going ahead as planned and I'm not feeling so dreadful.

Onwards & upwards

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Date

Hey everyone,

On Monday morning, as promised by my surgeon, his secretary emailed me with my surgery date, 7th September 2016. Just two weeks tomorrow. I'm really, really relieved to finally have a date which I can work towards. The only downside of that particular day, is it's on a Wednesday, the same day as The Bake Off, so I'll definitely be missing an episode but I guess you can't win them all.

The anxiety of not knowing has gone and been replaced with a two week wait for it to happen and the overwhelming thought of the whole surgery itself and the recovery and life afterwards. I think really it's too overwhelming to even contemplate. The moment it enters my head, my heart feels like it drops out of my body and I feel a little bit sick. It's a big surgery with a fair few uncertainties in regards to the op and recovery. No one can know exactly what is going to happen, which bothers me 'cos I don't really do the whole 'lets wait and see, go with the flow' thing so well. The rest of my life after the op is also way too big to think about. Even now, three years on from having Margaret put in place I still have the same one day at a time attitude. As I may have said before, aside from having kids and other medical issues, there are very few things in life which are 100% forever, with absolutely no going back or way to opt out if you change your mind. Of course there could be a medical breakthrough in 30 years time which allows me to grow a new large bowel but as it stands, this is forever and no new Crohn's treatment or cure which comes out will be an option. It'll be too late for my poor old colon. It's pretty big when you think about it too much and makes me feel weirdly claustrophobic.

All in all, I'm very glad it's happening soon. I think I'd drive myself mad if I had to wait any longer. I've already had too long to think about it and I'm already itching to be getting through recovery and back to functioning like a 'normal' person. I still have a bunch of questions about the actual op but as I understand, it should be a bit like this.

I go in to hospital on the morning of the operation or potentially (although unlikely I think) the afternoon before. I get all set up, do all the things you do before an op, chat to all the right people, sign a consent form and get taken to surgery. When I wake up I will have around 5 different tubes sticking out of me.

- a catheter (so they can look at your wee, weird)
- a tube in my arm for fluids
- potentially a tube through my nose in to my stomach, to stop me feeling sick. (I didn't have one of these last time so although listed, I don't know if I will) 
- a drain in my side/groin (to make sure all the nasty fluid comes out of my body rather than collecting inside it)
- a tube providing pain relief (for this there are two options, a patient controlled morphine drip and an epidural in my back. I'm not sure how I feel about an epidural, especially if it has to be there for more than a day. A patient controlled drip is much more up my control freak street, so I'm going to ask if I can go for that one)

I'll have various wounds as well as Margaret still being there. Both me and my surgeon are hoping it'll be done key hole, which would leave me with 2-3 little coin shaped scars rather than the two other more invasive options, one of which would leave a scar from my belly button down to my bikini line (not by any means the end of the world, but not something I'd opt for). I'll also have a wound where yes, as many have asked and I'm sure more have wanted to but felt they couldn't, they'll sew up my bum-hole. There will be nothing there for it to connect to so it will be sewn closed, the people in the business call it a Barbie Butt. This bit does make my toes curl a little and it is the wound which apparently can have a really hard time healing, fab news all round.

Once the surgery is complete (4ish hours later) I will be taken to post op, where they keep a very close eye on you straight after surgery one-on-one, for a while before either going to straight to the ward or High Dependency Unit, depending on how I do. Considering I am a non smoking, young, 'fairly' fit and otherwise healthy 24 year old with no other medical issues to worry about, I should go straight to the ward. There I will stay for aprox 7-10 days until they send me on my merry way and I can return home. There are so many variables on this but I hope it all goes swimmingly and to plan. Once home it's around a 6-8 recovery with some people taking many more months to fully heal.

I found this pretty good diagram of what exactly my anatomy will look like after the surgery. I know for many, it's hard to quite imagine whats being cut out of where so I thought this might help. On the left is a 'normal' person and me currently (minus Margaret who is sticking out my tummy right before my large bowel or the big chunky, pale pink, brain looking bit starts, even though both my small and large bowel are intact and sitting there). On the right is what I will then look like.

Talk about losing some inches off your waist eh! In fact, a silver lining is, I'll lose a couple pounds just from having that bit cut out (around 4lbs according to Google). A pretty drastic way to get down to my goal weight but I won't be complaining.

My constant, cuddly companion Toby

So the next two weeks are going to suck a bit, luckily I have lots of films & box sets ready to watch, my gorgeous dogs to keep me company whilst friends and family are at work and I'm still running Chroma Stationery, which is keeping me distracted with new product launches.
The countdown begins!


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Finally a bit more news.

Hey everyone,

I had planned to write this post on Friday eve but really there wasn't much to update at all. We then had a mad hour on Saturday morning and I finally have a bit more news. 

I spent all of last week waiting to hear a date. I knew my notes had been on my surgeons desk for a week already and thought that at any minute I would have a phone call or email with a surgery date. By Monday afternoon I hadn't heard anything, so I emailed his secretary to see if she had any news. I was gutted when she didn't. My notes were still there and she wasn't sure when he would next be in as he was incredibly busy & on call. I did have a bit of a wobble that although my health hadn't gotten any better the urgency and momentum behind my surgery had gone flat. I emailed some of the nurses but they were either not able to help or didn't respond. I felt pretty helpless and had no one left to ask for information. 

The rest of the week went by & on Thursday I decided to give it another go and emailed again. My surgeon's secretary got back to me straight away, which was fab, but again my notes were on his desk, although she thought he'd be in that afternoon. Friday I heard nothing. 

On Saturday morning as I was catching up on the Olympics, I got a package come through the post. The package contained a letter booking me in for a 'capsule endoscopy' at my OLD hospital. The one I am no longer under the care of. It's safe to say, I couldn't believe my eyes. I literally, did not know what to think. The capsule endoscopy appointment I had booked at my NEW hospital had already been cancelled as they no longer deemed it necessary, & here I had been booked in at my OLD hospital for one. The package also came with some bowel prep, which I don't need to take with an existing ileostomy & really wouldn't do me much good if I did. 
My parents and I were dumbfounded with what the hell was going on. Eventually we decided to try and get in touch directly with my surgeon who 5 minutes late confirmed that he had booked a date for my surgery 'as soon as possible' but he was going to be away for the coming week. I should hear on Monday, from his secretary, exactly when that date it, but I'm assuming it's soon. What my old hospital is doing booking me into procedures when they no longer run my care/treatment is beyond me and I've lost the energy to try and work it out. 

So finally I have some kind of progress. Although not ideal, delays aren't necessarily an issue. If Drs had looked at my notes & test results, decided I'm not as ill as they first thought & delayed things. Then that's absolutely fine. What's scary is having delays when my health is no different, my notes haven't been looked at & I was previously being treated with a level of urgency, which then seemingly stopped. I really felt like I'd slipped through the net and no one was able to help. Evidently this hasn't happened, but the lack of communication meant I was left in the dark, which is scary. My surgeon is brilliant and got back to us on his weekend, it's just such a shame that we felt that was the only option we had left to get any kind of news. 

I've learnt from the past that, unfortunately, you do have to get in touch or remind the teams behind the medics that you are there to get results. I now 100% manage my own care and treatment, I never leave it to others to just handle it, just because they say they will. They all probably think I'm a complete nightmare, but there have been enough times when there have been delays, admin errors and miscommunications that I now don't worry if I'm annoying, I follow every last thing up until it's done. It's definitely caused a huge lack of trust. Fortunately, none of this has anything to do with the actual care I receive. The majority of Dr's, surgeons, nurses & health care assistants I have had contact with have provided excellent treatment and care. I really do trust the judgment of my surgeon, new consultant and old consultant and have complete confidence in them. It's just such a shame that behind the scenes, things don't always run so smoothly. I'm sure this is not always the case and that there are brilliant people, working very hard, over stretched jobs, behind the medics, perhaps I've just been unfortunate. 

The stress and anxiety of waiting for that phone call, has definitely taken it's toll. I'm sleeping really poorly, with me sat wide awake most nights until 3 or 4am. The emotional roller coaster of having to go through this kind of surgery and life changing process is hard enough, let alone with the worry of getting your voice heard in the system. I've also had to deal with other seriously stressful stuff, the death of Harry dog & a housing deposit dispute from my old Cardiff house, which really haven't helped. Finally, this weekend, with a date set and questions answered, I feel I can take a breath and focus on getting through the surgery itself. 

Flowers from my Dad 

The week hasn't all been doom and gloom. Some incredible friends and wonderful family have really been there for me. Emily & Cara sent gifts, flowers, chocolate & activities to keep me entertained in hospital and I got out the house for an evening to see Cara & Wyn, who took the time to check in before heading on their holiday, which was so nice. I don't think they realise how much I appreciate it. My parents are also, as always, amazing. 
The Olympics has also kept me distracted and entertained, I've watched coverage pretty much 24/7 and loved every minute of it. The inspirational come back stories, showing sportspeople fight injury and illness to get back to Olympic level fit, has really spurred me on, to recover fully and quickly from this surgery. The likes of Siobhan-Marie O'Connor who won a silver medal in the swimming, despite having Ulcerative Colitis is incredible. I've found it so motivating and it has really boosted my mood each day. really don't know what I'm going to do with myself now that it's over. 

Hopefully, the ball is now rolling (a little faster) and I can get this surgery over and done with. 
Will of course, update soon. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Waiting Game

Hey guys,

Thought it was time for an update!

So, at my last post I had just met with my surgeon who revamped my tests plan & aimed for my surgery to be in August. A week after that appointment at 7:30am  Mum and I arrived at the hospital ready for my investigation under sedation. The previous day, I had spent hours emailing and calling many different departments as my name was not on the surgery list for the following day. I was told it wouldn't be going ahead but fought my corner and chased it up enough that by 6pm they were able to confirm it would be going ahead after all. It turned out my notes had not been given to the correct people and no appointment had been made. I've grown to learn, unfortunately through far too many bad experiences, that you often have to fight and stay on top every aspect of treatment/referrals/admin tasks. Although this time it ended well, it definitely causes a huge amount of stress at a time when my anxiety is high and I'm feeling pretty rubbish.

Upon arrival the nurse couldn't quite work out who was having the procedure, me or Mum. When I popped my hand up, she looked a tad confused before asking my age. When I told her I was 24, she looked relieved, and replied "Oh good, because we don't do under 16's in here". Brilliant!

The area you wait in before the surgery was having building work, meaning that no friends or family were allowed in with you, whilst you waited to go through to the operating area. For me, this wasn't too bad. I wasn't particularly nervous, as no actual op was occurring, I knew exactly what to expect and sedations don't really scare me. For others going in, however, you could tell it was a really big deal. Some of them were having big surgeries and clearly needed their loved ones their before hand. I found it quite hard watching and listening to people try and keep calm, on their own. Once there and on my tod, I had to change in to a gown and have my obs done (blood pressure etc.), the anethetist popped in to go though the 'keeping me asleep' plan followed by one of my surgeons fellows who went through what the procedure would look like. I was only having an 'investigation' so there was nothing too complicated to go through.
I was the first one going in to the operating theatre, so I luckily didn't have long to wait. In the anesthetic room, I chatted away to the nurse who was shocked at how small my hands are and laughed at the nurse thinking I was maximum 16 years old, reassuring me that yes I look young, but definitely not that young.

The next thing I knew, I was awake and in recovery, lying on my side. I had my painkillers topped up, which I enjoyed a little too much and stayed there for around an hour before being wheeled back on to the day surgery ward. Here they like to make sure you can wee, check the op/investigation site to make sure any bleeding has stopped and generally make sure you're back on your feet and ready to go home. At this point I was super sleepy but ready to go, my surgeon was still in theatre so I wasn't able to speak to him but I was told everything had gone to plan, biopsies were taken and he got all the info he needed. A few hours later they set me free and I was able to meet Mum at the ward entrance again. I left a little confused at what the plan would be going forward, the nurse mentioned an appointment with a different surgeon, who I had never heard of, but they couldn't tell me much else. Recovering from the procedure I couldn't believe they originally going to do it with sedation rather than general anesthetic, I am still so incredibly happy that this decision was made.

In recovery, loving the painkillers

The following day, still not being able to drive following the general anesthetic, it was Dad's turn to drive me back up to the hospital for my pelvic MRI. For the second day in a row my eating was limited, so I was starving and grumpy but not phased by my millionth MRI. That, again, all went to plan!

Nearly two weeks on from this, not much has changed. My temperature goes up and down but doesn't seem to be peaking too high, which is good. I'm very tired, all the time, and have good and bad days in regards to pain. I seem to gradually be losing weight and my appetite is a little lower but I'm definitely still eating (nothing can stop my love of food). TMI Crohn's symptoms are the same, painful and horrible. Mood wise, I think I've got my head around it, I get frustrated and angry with the delays, lack of communication and admin errors but I'm doing okay. The surgery has meant I've had to cancel a trip to the Caribbean in October, which is truly gutting but I've started making lists (obviously) of things to do when I'm back on my feet.

I now just want it to happen, get it over and done with, playing the waiting game is not much fun but at the same time it feels really odd to be wishing for such a nasty, life changing, hardcore surgery to happen. I don't want it and want it, at the same time. There has been a lot of hassle trying to get answers about what is happening next and getting to speak to the right people, but on my last update, this morning, I was told that my surgeon had all the results on his desk and a plan was going to be made. For me, this is one of the worst bits, I hate the not knowing. He had previously said it would be August, but we are well in to the month and I've not had any news, so I'm not 100% sure yet when it is going to take place. Hopefully I will be told more in the next couple of days.
In the mean time, I'm sleeping, trying to keep on top of work and generally taking it very easy. I think it's hard for others to understand the on going, seemingly never ending process of this waiting. I'm not feeling better & it'll be months before I'm back to my old (hopefully better) self. I feel like a complete drag when people ask how I am and the response is no different to the last time, having no news is so annoying.

Unfortunately, we've also had some really sad news, with one of our family labradors, Harry, having to be put down. He had a very aggressive cancer, with a tumour on his face, so we knew it was coming, but in the end, it was much quicker than expected. I feel completely devastated, right now, it's the last thing I needed and think it has effected me a lot more given everything else that is going on.

The good news is, it's all up from here! Hopefully in the next few days I will have some news, my control freak ways will be satisfied and I can start to plan moving forward! The Olympics have also been a brilliant distraction and has given me the best TV to get in to 24/7, which is great. I've also gotten out the house to see Finding Dory (which was SO good) and a couple of hours at a leaving BBQ for my friend heading to the RAF, as well as light strolls with the dog, all things which have made me feel a lot better.

Will of course, continue to update xxx

Monday, 25 July 2016

Well that escalated quickly

Hey hey hey, 
So, following the unfortunate news last week, things have developed rather quickly. Just a few days after my last post I started to feel really rather poorly, I was exhausted with a high temperature. After two and half days I decided to contact the IBD nurses at my hospital. With a series of tests already booked and with things set in motion for the next 3-4 months, I didn't expect that much would be done, with the possible exception of some antibiotics. Alarm bells did start to ring, I knew this wasn't normal and things had gotten worse. 

Whilst the email discussions went back and forth, my temperature got higher, peaking so far at 39.2 but never really dropping below 37.6/37.8, I also discovered a fistula (an abnormal or surgically made passage between a hollow or tubular organ and the body surface, or between two hollow or tubular organs.) Either way, it was nasty and caused by an abscess, clearly where an infection and why I was feeling so terrible. I updated the nurses again and an emergency appointment was made for the following day with my surgeon. Until then, I had been waiting for a routine appointment letter to come, and still didn't have all my test dates through, so things had definitely stepped up a gear. The morning of the appointment, I had gone through a good five days of feeling pretty terrible & really not sleeping well, it was safe to say I looked horrendous (a kind nurse described me as 'a bit peaky' which I could almost take as a compliment, given the state of my face).  

I went in with my Mum to see the surgeon, really not sure how it was going to turn out. Last time he offered to do the surgery that evening, so I was preparing myself for any eventuality. We went through the symptoms, the tests I had upcoming and how things had progressed in the three weeks since I'd seen my consultant. He then had a 'look' (always a pleasant experience) before sitting down to give his view. He agreed that a panproctocolectomy was needed but that before he could do it, he would need to see what he was getting himself into and have the results of a few tests. It was at that joyous moment, with bells ringing and angels singing that he cancelled my colonoscopy.
For those that don't know, following a very traumatic colonoscopy experience four years ago, all of the procedures since have been done under general anesthetic, ensuring I was completely asleep throughout. However, after moving hospitals, my new consultant decided it was best for him to complete the test himself and therefor it could only be done with sedation. Now for most sedation works wonderfully, my brother for one falls asleep straight away. I however, have never fallen asleep and remain awake, remembering and feeling everything. That alongside having very painful, inflamed perianal Crohn's makes for quite a nasty experience. Since the news that I would have to go through with the colonoscopy, I have been sick with nerves, unable to comprehend how I was going to get through it. The knock on effect of the experience four years ago has been huge and although my consultant was incredibly kind and reassuring I couldn't help but feel genuinely terrified. It may well have gone ahead with no problem at all (colonoscopies are a very routine procedure), but I wasn't sure I'd be able to stay still long enough for them to try. So when my surgeon announced this would no longer be happening, I very nearly jumped out of my chair and did a little a dance. In fact, when he did briefly leave the room, I did a little chair jig.

Instead of the colonoscopy under the sedation, due to what a state the area is in, how much pain I'm in and the fact the surgeon wants to have a look before surgery, I will be having an 'Investigation Under Anesthetic'. They'll get the info they need, whilst I'll be none the wiser. The robot tablet swallowing that I was so excited about was also cancelled, which I am disappointed about but the MRI does remain. Both of these tests are happening back to back, this Thursday and Friday. After which, he will book my surgery for August.

My surgeon gave me all of this news alongside my consultant (who was now also in the room), both gave me a sympathetic look, waiting to see how I was going to react. I, meanwhile, was beaming (with the colonoscopy news) and said something along the lines of, "To be honest, just cut it all out, as soon as possible." I think they thought I was insane and at any minute would collapse in a mass of tears but I instead left with a big smile on my face that I would never, ever again have to have a colonoscopy. The news of the op, was not new and the fact it is happening sooner, rather than later is a good thing and means I won't have to feel this poorly for too long. It's going ahead, and there is nothing I can do about it. I also strongly believe that going in to these things with a positive attitude can work wonders when you're recovering. The whole life long ostomy thing is something that will take time to get my ahead round. The operation and recovery, however, I feel a bit more ready for. The whole thing is pretty overwhelming and I have very low moments but the incredible support from my family, friends and complete strangers has been so wonderful. To those who have arranged to visit, offered to help me with Chroma or simply messaged me, thank you so much.

Onwards and upwards

G x

Monday, 18 July 2016

Not the news I wanted

At the start of the month, I spent the best seven days with my family on a lovely holiday to Cornwall. I took the whole time off of work, which I never do & it did a lot of good. We ate a whole lot of fish and chips, went on cliff top walks & I devoured four books. I needed the time to chill out after a pretty crappy week before.

Two days before we left for Cornwall, I had my first appointment with my new consultant, at my new hospital. My original greatly trusted, consultant had moved elsewhere, so I felt it was a good time to get a new perspective at one of the best hospitals. My surgery was done there and it's where my brother is treated, so it made a lot of sense. At the appointment I had a very honest but much needed conversation regarding the disease. After not much more than 10 minutes it was decided that Margaret was definitely going to be made permanent. No going back, rest of my life, permanent. Until now, I have all of my intestines, bowel etc. intact and a chunk of it has just been sat there chilling out. The goal was that the long rest would allow my intestines to clear up and I would be flare free. The ideal scenario was to eventually have Margaret reversed, allowing the bag to go and the disease to be more under control. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened. I knew, going in, that I had a 1-2 in 10 chance of having the reversal but I (like everyone) was confident I might be that small percentage. This nasty disease has other ideas.

Since my Margaret surgery, three years ago, my life has been so, so much better than before but definitely not 'normal'. The rested bowel has not remained flare free causing symptoms to get worse intermittently. These symptoms have been slight and so much easier to cope with than pre-surgery that they have been pretty easy to live with. Recently, however, these symptoms have gotten worse. The inflammation from the perianal Crohn's is bad, I have slight stomach cramps and back ache and my knees react to the inflammation every couple months. Fatigue has also been something that I have had to cope with on a daily basis, this symptom never went away but in the past few months, has gotten worse. I wake up tired, spend days recovering from a busy weekend and need to pace my day constantly. It is by far, my worst Crohn's symptom. The consultant confirmed that had I not had Margaret I would undoubtably currently be very sick indeed. Due to all of this, the fact I have run out of medication options & that despite Margaret I am still flaring, she is going to become a permanent fixture.

Despite knowing that this was probably going to happen & it really not being a shock (as always I went in guessing what the consultant was going to day) it was still a very shitty blow when it was confirmed. This is a much bigger surgery than the first one, (probably going to be a panproctocolectomy) which is the permanent removal of my colon, rectum and anal canal (how lovely). It is, clearly, irreversible. The recovery time is longer, the risks are high and the long term effects are worse. The main consideration is the potential effect on the ability to have children, when you want them. This particular surgery can create a 30% delay in having kids. The good news it doesn't effect how the reproductive system works, if it's healthy to start with it tends to remain so, but it can create a delay when trying. It doesn't effect every woman and doesn't mean 'I'll never have kids' but does mean it can take 30% longer to do so, if/when I wanted to. On the other hand, I know plenty of women who have had this op who fell pregnant straight away, with no trouble at all, having anticipated it taking a while. It's something I have no control over, is not the end of the world but equally something I'm trying no to think about. Working for myself is also a consideration, the operation will hopefully be on my terms and at a time which best suits my life and schedule.

This surgery will be different to the first. Last time, I had a three day warning. This time, I may have weeks or even months to plan it. In many ways, this is great! We all know, I love to plan (think of the lists!!!). The downside is, I have far too long to worry, stress & overthink about it. Now that I know it's happening, I'd rather it was over and done with.

My feelings on the impending surgery are mixed and ever changing, which I think is probably normal and is why I've taken a few weeks to write this. My loveliest, closest friends and wonderful family all know and have, as always, been amazing. This is a big deal, but hopefully humour and positivity will see me through some of the bad days.

The next couple weeks are, unfortunately, filled with tests, scans & appointments, allowing my consultant and surgeon to get a complete picture of how bad the disease is, where it has spread & how long I can hold off on having the surgery done. I'll ensure to document the journey, as always, including the very exciting 'tablet endoscopy' which involves me swallowing a capsule sized camera/light/transmitter device which films my insides as it makes it's way through my body. You read correctly, I AM SWALLOWING A ROBOT.

Over and out.