Abdominal Surgery Recovery: Lizzie’s Story
Now, this is a little hard to write as it is personal stuff but here it goes…
We wanted to share our own experiences with you so you can see we have been there ourselves and we have come out the other side. Today is my turn, so for all of you ladies post-surgery whether that be a c-section, hysterectomy or other abdominal surgery don’t worry there is a recovery plan.
OK, a little about me
I found out I had a fibroid when I was pregnant with my first son. Nothing could be done at the time and I was told it should shrink after pregnancy which it did. It then grew again in my second pregnancy but then due to it shrinking the first time, nothing further was done, which was fine.
I didn’t think much of it the years following, it didn’t really affect my periods which is what the most common symptom is. I just felt uncomfortable a lot of the time and was often needing the loo as it was pressing on my bladder but being busy raising kids you kind of put yourself on the back burner, right?
It was only when I went for a routine cervical screening test when they couldn’t find my cervix and couldn’t move things that should move that they sent me for a scan.
Like I said, I hadn’t noticed much. Just discomfort if I sat for a while then stood up, I would get a stitch like pain. It was becoming increasingly difficult to do hypopressives and I just felt heavy and was going to the toilet a good five times in the night, it felt just like being pregnant again when I think about it now.
I found out my fibroid had grown to 13cm in length to 8cm in depth so a bit like being 5 months pregnant, no wonder I was feeling the way I did.
I opted to have a myomectomy where they do an incision a bit like a c-section (after 2 natural births this was a bit upsetting) moved the abdominals apart (again, like a c-section) and removed the fibroid. This is considered major abdominal surgery as is a c-section which we often forget.
This was in April 2018, I had lost quite a bit of blood so struggled to get out of bed when they first suggested I should, but as soon as I could I started moving around. I am a strong believer in this, so I started a little bit of walking around the ward with my husband and then I braved it on my own building it up slowly. I also started to do gentle diaphragmatic breathing whilst still in the hospital to help get things moving and decrease the abdominal pressure.
When I got home, I continued to move as often as possible as well as deep breathing without the apnoea for about two weeks.
After about a fortnight I started to introduce the apnoea and rib flare gently. Listening to my body the whole time, which made me feel better instantly, feeling like I was doing something to help myself and gave me something to focus on.
I was up to full standing and posture work three weeks post-op and had been taking vitamin E and putting Aloe gel on my scar. All in all, I was feeling a lot more like me although there is another side of surgery recovery that I hadn’t expected as I have been under the knife many a time in my life and hadn’t experienced this the same way as now.
Fear, sadness and insecurity.
Fear: never had I been worried before about surgery, maybe it was because I was that much older and now had a family, I am not sure but I was worried.
Sadness: I felt so weak and so sorry for myself and just hated feeling vulnerable and helpless it really kickstarted my mindset into staying fit and healthy to reduce the chances of going back in.
Insecurity: The scar was so much bigger than I or they expected as they had to cut more to one side due to the position of the fibroid, this means it starts from my left hip bone all the way across to the start of my appendix scar which I had out at 13 years old so my whole stomach has a big scar smile line across it from hip to hip which was a real issue to me.
I know this is not a “real problem” but to me, it mattered as I felt my stomach was one of what I considered my better assets so I found it really hard to now have a massive scar all across and it was so swollen and it stuck out so much I just didn’t recognise my body.
I found I would often cover myself up around my husband as I didn’t want him to see it and started to feel bad about myself which caused upset on both parties.
I am so lucky to have a supportive husband who tells me I am beautiful no matter what but it has taken a lot of mindset work to accept that this is just the way it is and to be honest it still makes me tear up a bit and wonder if I made the right decision (which I know I did as I couldn’t have left it).
This is why recovery does take so long physically and mentally and I would say it took me a good year to feel back to myself.
Having the right support, advice and encouragement really is key to helping your recovery I believe.
I believe the work I did in the early days, truly helped keep things moving and improved my leaking symptoms that had developed due to the weight of the fibroid causing a mild prolapse, I don’t feel a “pull” when I move due to scar tissue I feel I can move freely, I feel strong and confident in who I am now and I want to help others feel the same and feel they can talk.
I practice hypopressives now a couple of times a week just to stay on track and because I feel better for doing it, if you can put the right steps in place early on you too can have a stronger recovery and less post-op complications.
I hope my story can help at least one other women know she is ok to feel this way and it will get better.
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