I knew it was coming so waking up in Cornwall the last day of our stay there it was the first thing on my mind. This was the date of my operation in 2010. I had been rushed into Addenbrookes 10 days previously and the doctors had spent that time trying to settle my blood chemistry ready for major surgery. The morning I was nil by mouth and had to wash and dress in a revealing hospital robe. My mum arrived early and sat through an agonisingly long wait. Eventually I was wheeled away in my bed while the other ladies on the ward all wished their luck. It was crunch time.
In the small antiroom to theatre the anaesthetist took two attempts to insert a epidural line into my spine that should later be used for pain control. I was completely emotionally shut down as I sat on the edge of the bed and lent my head on my mum's chest as this was done. I didn't feel anything; no fear, no reaction to pain; nothing. Wheeled into theatre I shuffled on to the narrow, hard operating table ignoring the nurses whizzing around making preparations. The anaesthetist then gave me an injection through the PICC line in my arm and all went black.
Five hours later everything was still black but the world had some sound; an unfamiliar voice was saying my name. Then the burn, myabdomen was on fire, my side splitting and I passed out. When I came around again it was slower, I was morphined up to the eyeballs to prevent the pain the epidural had failed to mask and I mostly felt slow, slurred and confused. My parents came in, various doctors visited but I have little recollection of anything said and I didn't really feel anything. I had an oxygen mask over face which makes talking difficult, my arms were full of canulas and lines, there was a large central line in my neck and a drainage tube in my side.
I would spend the next 48 hours in intensive care before being moved to a surgical ward. Slowly I lost the lines and was encouraged to start to test the muscles of my abdomen; the nurses helping me sit, stand and gradually start to shuffle about. I still bare a large red scar from the bottom of my ribs to my navel and around my left side. The skin alone took months to heal properly, for me to walk upright rather than crouched and it was mid December when I took my first running step, and despite it being two years the muscle weakness in my core is still evident running or riding today. This kind of surgery will never truly heal.
The purpose of this was to remove a large but single tumour from my left adrenal gland; the only true hope of a cure. For just over a year the scans and blood work remained clean and last August was a celebration of survival. We spent the day on the beach and then went to a spa, we ate my favourite carbonara and had a giant iced cookie cake. I had made a year, the odds of a reoccurrence were dropping! This wasn't just about the surgery either, I had been to hell and back, lost everything and started over, I had clawed my way back into life and it was good.
Just weeks later I was in the car when I received the call and results showing a mass in my side. In seconds I knew for sure that life would never be the same, I would never be the same girl as before I got sick. So for me the 17th of August is like a birthday; I feel that is when life as "me" started, before that is like a past life. I was different, made different choices and had different aspirations.
I don't write this to feel sorry for myself or to wish any change it is just as a reflection. This year I only discussed the date with my husband and we didn't do anything specific to acknowledge it. I would have felt bizarre celebrating such an event however I want to remember it and use it to measure how far I have come through trial and tribulation.
|Before I got sick.. I don't have any photos of me the summer I was in hospital; I was too vain.|
|Fynn and I on the Beach Aug 17th 2011|