Out the Otherside

Jun 23, 2016

It's been two weeks and five days since my surgery.

I had my operation in The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, North West London. If you are having a tricky orthopaedic operation, you want to be in the best place, with the best equipment, and the best surgical team. I had that. Even if the hospital is a bit wonky with sloped corridors.

The official name for my op was: “Combined anterior vertebrectomy with posterior fusion and instrumentation”. In other words: Remove some of the vertebrae that had collapsed into bits, fix it into place with cement, wire, metal and screws to the vertebrae above and below. A big operation. However, no one told me how awful I would feel afterwards. It took them a while, (and some tense words with a doctor) to get my pain under control, and in that time, I regretted everything. I wish I hadn’t agreed to the op. I was crying in the night as I was in so much pain, but the nurse wouldn’t believe I was in pain and I couldn’t move to get comfortable. The op was on the Saturday, I was in HDU until Monday, when I got moved to the regular ward.

I was in hospital for 6 days. Considering the surgery could have potentially left me paralysed below the waist, or with no bladder or bowel function, I think 6 days just shows how good the surgical team was and how determined I was to get home to my babies and Ross. The hospital was 30 miles away from home, and on a good run would take 45 minutes. Ross visited every day, but always made sure he left at a time when he wouldn’t get caught in A1/M25 traffic. My Dad and the bairns visited too, but they found it boring, so it wouldn’t be long before they were taken home. The hospital was a world away from the Garden House Hospice, which not only gave the kids things to do, but it was less than 5 minutes away, so friends and family could just pop in for as little or as long as they could. They could even take me out of the Hospice for a little while, which was an absolute no-no in the hospital.

At times, in the hospital, I found myself a bit lonely. In general, I quite like my own company, I like pottering. Unfortunately, I was unable to potter, as I was tied my bed, literally, with a catheter bag. I was given various physiotherapy tasks that I had to do before I could be set free so I made sure I worked hard to get them right. Once I was free, I had to do the Stair assessment, which made sure I was safe to go up and down stairs. By 11am on Friday, I was all packed ready to come home.

In order for me to heal properly I have to be careful that I don’t bend down at the waist too far. For example, I can’t bend in the middle to put my own socks and shoes on. I have a grabber to help me pick things up from the floor. I have to have a raised loo seat (sorry, to much information), and I have an Old Lady Chair, which we have borrowed from the British Red Cross. The sofa’s in our front room are too low for me to sit on without causing damage to my newly cemented spine, and whilst the surgeon assured me, I couldn’t do any damage to his handiwork, I’d hate to think I could. By the way, the Old Lady Chair doesn’t smell of wee. Phew!

So, I’m home, I get tired easily, but I enjoy having visitors, as long as they don’t mind making their own tea. I’m also enjoying online shopping, although Ross will be pleased to know I am trying to reign it in, so as not to bankrupt us. Although, he’s giving it as good go himself with his new Bonsai obsession. (That needs a whole post to itself!)

So we’re just waiting for the histology of the tissue taken from my spine now, which will dictate what happens next. If the tissue is benign, then my treatment remains the same: Herceptin and Zometa infusions every 3 weeks, and hormone blockers in the form of an injection every 4 weeks, and daily tablets. (There’s talk of surgery to remove my one remaining ovary, but I’ve asked for that to be put on hold for a bit first.) If the tissue is not benign (therefore cancerous), then my infusions will change to, most likely, contain some form of chemotherapy - goodbye hair - again.

I can’t walk too far, as it hurts, but I’m not allowed to use a walking stick, unless I know we are going for a long walk, then it is necessary. Progress is slow, but we’ll do what we have to: keep on, keeping on.