How do you feel post surgery?
I honestly, feel pretty great. Of course, following surgery I was in a HUGE amount of pain. I am by no means invincible, I definitely struggled at the start. There were days that I thought the pain was never going to end, or the recovery was going to take me longer than 6 weeks. There were days all I wanted was to be alone, and days where I have felt great socialising. You just have to listen to your body. That is the biggest piece of advice I can give any of you who are recovering.
Are you satisfied with the results? Would you change anything, if so – what?
I am pretty satisfied with the results. I really can’t complain. So far for the most part things have gone to ‘plan’.. well as ‘planned’ as requiring a surgery can go. If there was anything that I would change it would opting for an alternate surgeon so I could have the surgery laparoscopically. In saying this, I love my scar, and my surgeon was AH-MAZING. Scars show the battle you’ve won, they make you a stronger person and they made you better – I have always looked at in a positive way and I feel that has helped me massively throughout this recovery.
How is my current digestion?
My current digestion is… weird! I haven’t quite got my head around it all just yet. You might be thinking .. 6 weeks? Really? But my stomach appears to be reacting to some foods and not others, some foods I can digest others I feel like I blow up immediately. I have an app on my phone where I write all of the food I have for each day which has helped massively in finding out which foods are causing my digestion to suffer. Some days I digest food in what feels like a matter of minutes, other days it takes much longer and can be quite uncomfortable.
How many bowel movements per day do you have?
It varies, between 2 and 7 usually.
I talk more about this in my Life after an IRA Surgery blog.
Are you incontinent or have random urges and need the toilet rapidly?
I am not incontinent; however, have had the urge to go to the toilet rapidly quite frequently. However; I have no trouble getting to the toilet in time. Incontinence and urges can vary from person to person with this surgery and one person’s experience can not confidently reflect your own. Keep this in mind when agreeing to the surgery as it is one of the main risks.
Do you still get constipated?
I have unfortunately experienced some days where my bowels are just not working, though the number of times have been somewhat limited. I have put this down to various foods that my body just is not accepting at this stage as opposed to my slow-transit bowel moving to my small bowel – this is possibility with my condition.
Can you pass wind?
Mostly, though very infrequent. Mainly because I get scared I’ll poo my pants 🙂
Am I in pain around my adhesion’s, if so how do you manage this?
I have had quite a bit of pain with my adhesion. Definitely at the start post surgery but that is a given – not exactly a small surgery. However, I then was not in much pain weeks two – four. Though I then began to experience some pain around my wound. This was resolved relatively quickly – you can read more about this here. I can get away with panadol during these times.
What is your diet like, do you have to restrict foods or can you eat most things?
My diet has been a complete shambles to be honest. My diet currently is following a ketogenic diet – high fat, low carb as I was struggling to stay full and felt like I was eating an entire house on a regular basis. I highly recommend speaking with your health care professional if you are looking at transitioning to this diet as it may affect you and your condition differently. However, I can not rave enough about it. I talked about it in my latest ‘What Can I eat’ blog.
How long post – surgery did it take for you to gain weight?
I lost a great deal of weight post surgery. I went into hospital weight 57kg with quite a bit of muscle due to my fitness regime. However, due to the pain prior to surgery, then the post surgery ‘fluid diet’ I lost a significant amount of weight. I dropped to 51kg. For some this may not seem like a great deal; however, whilst being quite small to begin with it was very evident. I looked incredibly scrawny and just felt horrendous – like I was going to break any second. I looked sick. As soon as I could begin eating food, I ensured that I was trying my best with every meal to get the calories in because I wanted to put weight on. I don’t like feeling scrawny and weak it was not a nice feeling. When I got home and I had control of my food I found that it was quite easy to begin to put on weight just based on eating regular foods at regular times as opposed to a very light, no carb, no fat, no anything too fantastic hospital diet. My advice is try and return to as ‘normal’ diet as you can as soon as you can. It has helped me massively in terms of weight gain.
Are you at a regular weight now?
I am lighter than I was prior to surgery but I have obviously lost all of my muscle so that is a given. Muscle weighs more than fat of course! I am not 54kg and look relatively normal I would say.
How did you deal with putting weight back on?
At first, I was so excited to eat food I did not even care. I was so weak and scrawny I was like FOOD – GIMME! But, when the novelty wore off I did become quite conscious of what I was looking like. This may sound strange, but you become accustomed to feeling ‘weak’ and ‘small’, so then putting back on the weight actually made me feel quite big to begin with. I thought ‘omg I am so fat’, when in reality I was underweight, and I had put on much needed weight in order to look ‘well’. This is something I am still dealing with. It is more a mental game than anything else. I think because I was such a fitness fanatic prior to surgery and quite toned.. seeing weight adding up on the scales was overwhelming because I knew it was not muscle. However, I have just reminded myself of what my body has gone through and in time I will look like my toned self again soon enough 🙂
What tests did you have prior to the surgery?
I had a colonoscopy, multiple x-rays, anaorectal manometry and a slow-transit bowel study. I think that was it.. but I forget!
What is the difference between your surgery (Ileorectal Anastomosis) and a Jpouch?
An Ileorectal Anastomosis is where a total colectomy is done and the small bowel is connected to the rectum. A jpouch is where the small bowel is reformed to create a pouch for excretion. The small bowel is then connected to the anus, as the rectum is removed.
How have you exercised through recovery, did it not hurt?
Exercise to me, is getting into an intense sweat and walking away feeling elated. In that sense – I have not exercised. I have however; been on daily walks (usually) throughout the entire time I have been home. I came home week 2 of surgery at this stage I was able to walk extremely slowly. I used this is motivation to gain my energy back. Each day I went for a small walk down the street to start, then around the block, then the bigger block, so on so forth. I increased the distance slightly over time. It has been only recently (5-6 weeks) that I have been able to walk 3-4km without being exhausted. Please don’t feel deflated if you can not do this yet, remember everyone has a different recovery rate. BUT I do highly recommend short walks each day as this has helped me massively.
What exercise are you doing now?
I am going to be doing another blog on this soon as many have asked for more in-depth detail on my exercise regime. I joined a gym about 3 weeks ago – to get back into a routine mainly. I just did my daily walks and found this beneficial if I had a random urge for the toilet. Since week 6 struck a few days back I have slightly increased my exercise with the introduction to some body weight exercises and some light weights. Again, please don’t do this until you have been cleared by your health care professional – I am no surgeon and you may recover differently to myself. I will share more of my exercise regime with you over the next couple of weeks.
How do you keep such a positive outlook?
Honestly, I am really not sure! I have amazed myself to be honest. I said to myself prior to surgery that whatever happened – whether I came out with a bag, or I got a bowel obstruction, or I got sepsis I would take it in my stride and kick the surgery in the butt. Whenever I am having a bad day – trust me I have had them, I reflect on how far I have come and remind myself that what is happening can not actually be changed. It is how you look at the situation that can be changed.
If I am feeling sad I think of something good that has happened in the day, if something hasn’t gone to plan or I am in pain and miss out on plans etc, I remind myself what my body has been through and be grateful for how well it is doing in the bigger picture. It is so easy to get swallowed up in feeling sad and sorrowful, but my advice to you is look at the bigger picture. A bad day isn’t the end of the world, its just a stepping stone in the recovery back to health. If you didn’t have a bad day – you wouldn’t be normal 🙂
I also made sure I kept myself busy in one way or another. Have a read here for more details.
If you have anymore questions please feel free to send me an email below. I try to reply ASAP. You don’t have to put your name if you are feeling shy 🙂
Thanks for reading,