This Wednesday (26th June) I will be having my bowel cancer surgery, if all goes to plan.
I can’t describe the sheer terror I am feeling. My mind keeps going to dark places and I find myself trying to frantically reel in the bad thoughts. I don’t want to think about the possibility of this operation not going to plan.
I accept that I need to have this operation. If I don’t…..I will die. However, I find myself worrying that something will go wrong in the operating theatre. What if they cut me open and find I am riddled with cancer? What If I end up with a permanent stoma? Even worse, what if I don’t wake up?
I don’t want to sound bleak
These outpourings might seem bleak or impossibly dark but it’s completely normal to feel this way and I’m not going to hide it. I am mostly positive, I’m hoping for the best but it’s also okay to admit that you are feeling sh*t scared. Another emotion I’m feeling is anger.
I’m angry that I have found myself in this situation because as a result I have spent my weekend checking that everything is written on the calendar, that Mr C knows what birthday parties the girls are supposed to be attending, when, and which presents to buy. Also, that he has noted down sports day, school trips and the dentist.
I’m angry at what it’s doing to my family
I’m angry that I am being forced to spend two weeks away from my family in hospital which means I have had to spend the last week gently preparing the girls. I’ve bought them little presents to try and make it easier for them. I hope they will be okay but I’m worrying about them. Will Oldest remember to do her homework, will Youngest remember to learn her spellings? Youngest has also become a little clingy. This morning, as I gently tried to rouse her from sleep, she demanded lots of hugs whilst whispering in my ear that she had woken up in the night crying. “Why?” I asked her. “Because I wanted a hug from you”, she replied looking downcast before burying her face into my neck. I felt my heart breaking. I bundled her up and carried her downstairs where I tucked her up on the sofa. She shuffled down under the blanket, her face hidden under a messy mass of blonde hair.
I’m angry that cancer is making my family scared but I have no choice. I have to have this operation. Hopefully, it will save my life. Hopefully, it will mean I am cancer free.
3 stages of pre-op prep
I have gone through three stages of preparation for the operation. Firstly, denial, the stage that I inhabited the longest. I spent this stage cracking jokes, reassuring everyone that I am fine. I asked my specialist nurse if they can arrange for my scars to look like a smiley face. I already have a c-section scar that looks like a lopsided smile. All I need is two eyes to go above my belly button, then I will be beach ready when I whip those bikinis on.
The second stage is anxiety/anger/depression. I yo-yo between these hormones with an alarming swing. One minute I’m fine, the next I’m feeling anger towards everyone, the next I am breaking down in tears and sobbing on my husband’s shoulder as I admit how scared I feel. Ten minutes later I’m fine again. It’s like I have PMT, but it’s not a period I am waiting for, it’s an operation.
Finally, quiet acceptance. This is when I go quiet and retreat into myself. I get ready for the op, I practise feeling calm. My family recognise that I need space and become a little scared of the steely determined look in my eyes. I’m ready for it. I’m ready to say goodbye to Phyllis.
What to pack?
I am at a loss as to what I should back in my suitcase. What exactly do you pack for a fortnight in hospital? It’s not as if I’m going on a spa break. What will I be able to wear over my stoma bag? Can I take in my own pillow? Is a wheeled suitcase too much? Is 8 books too many? At times like this I think of my Grandad and how he must have felt going into hospital to have his operation. He was 75 years old when he had his rectum removed and ended up with a permanent stoma bag. I can’t imagine how challenging that must have felt for him to be dealing with that at an age when he should have been kicking back and enjoying his retirement. I wonder if he was scared before his operation too. He must have been. However, my grandad was a man who was very stoic and I don’t ever really remember him complaining or moaning.
Preparing for the operation
Today I have started preparing for the operation. My last meal was breakfast and now the bowel preparation has started. As I type this I am sipping on my first concoction. At first it tastes mildly fruity but as you swallow you are hit by an overwhelming salty taste. It immediately makes me want to retch and twice I have had to clamp my mouth shut, covering it with my hands and willing myself not to be sick. I will basically take this delightful concoction twice today, which will cause me to spend rather a lot of time in the toilet. You don’t need me to go into detail, you get the gist.
I will also be drinking carbohydrates drinks to help prepare my body for the operation. As the nurse explained, if you were running a marathon you would carb load because your body is going to need all of that extra energy to keep you going. However, I am unable to eat a big plate of pasta before my operation, so those carb drinks will give me a little extra helping hand. I’ve been told I probably won’t want to eat once I come out of my operation. However, I was also told that I may lose my appetite and weight during chemo. Nope, not me, I love my food. So there is a chance that I may come round demanding a banquet 😉 .
On the day of the operation
I will need to be on the ward by 11am and wait to be called down for my operation. I have been told that the operation will last 2 1/2 to 4 hours. I will wake up with my stoma bag but I am lucky in that this should be temporary as it is hoped to reverse mine in a groundbreaking 9 days. This will be the first time that a stoma reversal has been completed this quickly on the island. Evidently, I won’t be a pretty sight when I come round from the operation. I will have all manner of wires and drips coming out of me and, as a result, I’ve been told that it will probably be too distressing for the children to see me like that.
I will be in hospital for about 2 weeks. In that time I will be taught how to empty my stoma bag; I will probably just get my head around it all when it’s time to say goodbye to my bag. I’m really hoping that’s the case anyway. Recovering from the operation won’t be easy but it’s the next step in becoming cancer free. They will be sending my tumour off to test for Lynch Syndrome and I will then find out if I need further chemo as the tumour will be staged.
So that’s me then, for now. I may be quiet on here for a while. You will still be able to see my progress over on my Instagram as I’m hoping to share my recovery over there.
Wish me luck. Let’s crack on with evicting Phyllis.