July 2018 Surgery Recovery

Photograph of Dr. Mel Kurtulus and Lisa Howard before surgery, titled Resilience; photo taken by Brandy Sebastian
Dr. Mel Kurtulus and I before heading in. Photo courtesy of Brandy Sebastian

As you may know, I like to take extensive notes during my recovery from my Endo surgeries. This helps me better be prepared in case I have another one – just to get a sense of what was normal and what I can expect next time. And who knows – it may help you…or someone you know.

A good friend of mine, Brandie, typed up my chicken-scratch notes. (Thank you BRANDIE!) BUT, the “cliff notes” version is below:

DAY ONE (July 18, 2018, took 1 Percocet, 1 Zofran, 2 Gas-X)

We got home from the hospital around 7:00 p.m. I don’t remember any of the ride home, which is probably good because it was freeway rush hour and probably wasn’t very pleasant. The first thing I did inside was pop a throat lozenge. My poor throat was sooore and tender. Then had a bowl of bone broth. My lower stomach pain was a 3 out of 10, and my belly button incision pain was a 5 out of 10.

At around 8pm, I tried to sit down for the first time. That tell-tale shoulder pain began to creep up with a vengeance (7 out of 10) and I only sat for 3 minutes. Well, that was a waste. I needed help getting up and down. I knew I’d have to sit again or lay down…but not yet. I popped a Percocet, a Zofran, and a Gas-X.

By 8:30, I had my first pee since I got home. It hurt soooooo much (9/10), but I figured that pain was likely because my bits were still tender from the catheter. By 9pm, I tried sitting on the couch again: no luck. Shoulder pain was a 9/10 and gave up and walked for the next 20 minutes. Then tried to lay down (propped up on pillows), but the shoulder pain flew back up to a 9 out of 10. Did a lot of walking and breathing. By this time, my incision pain was a 2/10 and my lower back pain was a 1/10. I just wanted to sleep, though…

By 9:35, we tried laying down again propped up by even more pillows. The discomfort was minimal. By 10:15pm, I was awake and had to walk around for an hour. I had to pee before going back to bed (again, urination pain 9/10), then I was overcome by nausea. Mom helped me on my hands and knees and I vomited (pain 2/10). I believe my Percocet pill from 2 hours earlier was still floating around in my stomach because my puke was a beautiful shade of blue. At 11:45pm, mom helped me back into bed, but I couldn’t fall asleep until 12:20-ish.

DAY TWO (Fiber; took 2 Gas-X)

Incision pain 2 – 6/10 (10/10 when struggled to get out of bed)

Shoulder/CO2 Gas pain 3 – 10/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 9/10

Lower rib pain 1 – 4/10

Lower back 1 – 4/10

Lower ab pain near right hip 2 – 8/10

Pain while urinating 1 – 6/10

Woke up nearly every hour still…poor Jim and Mom. And needed help getting on and off the toilet.

Was still passing some clots throughout the day.

Nothing to eat except bone broth and crackers.

Memorable Moments:

At 1:20am, I woke back up stiff and needing to walk. Dragged my husband out of bed to help me get out of bed and proceeded to walk around the house for an hour. Jim went back to bed. And Mom was in and out of sleep as I cruised around the living room using the walker. When I went to go back to bed, the shoulder pain came back a 10/10. Mom and Jim had to help me (panicked) out of bed and I had to calm down before we tried to reposition and go back to sleep. At 2:40am, we did just that. I slept off and on until 7:15am.

At 3:55pm, my first FART!

At 4:37pm, I can lift my leg higher than the bah tub rim!! I couldn’t do that earlier!

DAY THREE (Purelax; took 1 Gas-X; 1 Naproxen Sodium)

Incision pain 2 – 3/10

Lower abdominal pain 3 – 9/10

Lower back 1 – 8/10

Pain while urinating 1/10

Pain while farting 1/10

Was able to sleep for a few hours in a row before waking up throughout the night.

Ate soup and crackers. Snacked on a pickle. Small bowl of ice cream (I mean…like 2 small spoonfuls)

No shoulder/gas pain today!

Memorable moments:

7:20am, my first poop!!!!!

8:50am, although I still need help getting on and off the toilet, I was able to (carefully) pull up my panties by myself today!

12:58pm, was able to get off of the toilet by myself! But I still needed help getting down onto it.

1:01pm…oh dear god…the Enema Story. TEAM POOP! Rosie and Erin helped me. And let’s just say by sheer force of necessity, I was able to get myself onto and off of the toilet by myself…Needed the enema due to severe and constant lower ab cramping and figured it was poop. Yep…there was LOTS of poop. Throughout the day, continued to get on and off the toilet by myself! PROGRESS!

4:50pm, was able to slowly and gently walk down the stairs to check the mail with Rosie and Erin! One step at a time.

DAY FOUR (Purelax; 1 Naproxen Sodium)

Incision pain 1 – 6/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 6/10

Lower ab pain near left hip 7 – 9/10

Pain while urinating 1 – 2/10

Pain while farting 3/10

Still needed help getting in and out of bed.

Ate soup with crackers. Snacked on cracker. Nachos for dinner!

Memorable Moments:

10:10am, got into the shower by myself!!! FREEDOM!

4:00pm, getting better with the steps outside! Still one at a time, though.

10:00pm, FINALLY laid down flat to sleep. YES!! No pain. Although I did get myself out of bed alone…don’t do that again. Not yet.

DAY FIVE (Purelax)

Incision pain 2 – 6/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 5/10

Lower ab pain near right hip 2/10

Ate tomato soup with crackers. Snacked on watermelon, blueberries, dolma, and pickle. Chicken balti pie for dinner.

Memorable moments:

12:55am, got up out of bed alone to go pee! Kind of waddle around like a turtle on its back, but it works.

10:10am, got dressed in REAL clothes! Skirt, tank top, and brushed my hair!

6:50pm, Jim and I went for a walk around our mobile home park for a few blocks. It was marvelous to get out of the house. Slow going. Didn’t get far.

8:50pm, pooped again! No enema needed! And no pain!

DAY SIX (Started my period! Fiber; 2 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 2 – 3/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 7/10

Lower back pain 3 – 5/10

Ate miso broth. Snacked on watermelon, popcorn, apple with peanut butter, pickles, tortillas. Dinner was a pork and (very little) cheese. Yep, my appetite is BACK!

Memorable Moments:

5:26am, woke up thinking I peed the bed. Nope, just started my Ninja Period.

6:20am, BIG poop with no pain! Yep, I’m back, baby!

9:00pm, another short walk around the park with my husband.

DAY SEVEN (Fiber)

Incision pain 2 – 6/10

Lower abdominal pain 3 – 6/10

Lower ab pain near right hip 3 – 6/10

Pain while urinating 1/10

Pain while farting

Pain while pooping 5/10

Ate broth and soup. Snacked on popcorn. Dinner was fettuccine alfredo with shrimp.

Memorable moments:

I can bend over!!!

Lower left window band-aid came off! Steri-strips still in place. Looks good!

7:00pm, rode in car to go to dinner. Speed bumps and potholes hurt my lower stomach and incisions (4/10). Had to walk around the restaurant while waiting for dinner since sitting too long hurt.

DAY EIGHT (Fiber; 2 Ibuprofen): – it’s been one week since surgery!

Incision pain 2 – 8/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 7/10

Lower ab pain near right hip 5 – 7/10

Ate miso broth and leftover pasta. Snacked on popcorn, dried apricots, tortillas.

Memorable Moments:

6:50am, Baku walked on my stomach. Damn cat. All incision pain 7/10.

2:15pm, I can get in and out of bed easier by myself.

11:30pm, right incision pain was an 8 out of 10 and kept me awake until 1:00 a.m.

DAY NINE (Fiber; 2 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 2 – 3/10

Lower ab pain near right hip 2 – 3/10

Pain under left rib 2/10

Ate soup & crackers, baked beans. Snacked on Hershey Kisses. Orange chicken for dinner.

Memorable Moments:

6:12pm, can still only sit upright for 10 minutes before incision pain is a 6 – 8 out of 10.

8:10pm, went for a 20 minute walk around the park with Jim. No pain!

DAY 10 (Fiber; 2 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 2 – 7/10

Lower abdominal pain 1 – 4/10

Pain while urinating 1 – 2/10

Pain while farting 2/10

Pain while pooping 2/10

Ate scrambled eggs with cheese, soup, leftover orange chicken. Snacked on kettle corn.

Memorable Moments:

8:15am, Able to wash my calves for the first time in the shower! And I was able to blow-dry my hair! Lost left incision band-aid in the shower. Steri-strips are in place. And my belly is much less bloated!

9:00am, still can only sit upright for 10 minutes without pain.

7:00pm, walked around the grocery store for an hour with Jim. He did all the heavy lifting, but I’m exhausted.

DAY 11 (Fiber; 4 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 2 – 6/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 6/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 2 – 5/10

Pain while urinating 2/10

Pain while pooping 2/10

Ate eggs, corn beef hash, toast. Snacked on a plout and cherries. Snacked on kettle corn.

DAY 12

Incision pain 2 – 6/10

Lower abdominal pain 2 – 5/10

Pain while urinating 8/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 2/10

Ate rolled tacos.

Memorable moments:

Went thrift store shopping with Jim. Exhausted and napped for 2.5 hours afterward.

DAY 13 (2 Ibuprofen)

Lower abdominal pain 1 – 5/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 5 – 9/10

Pain while pooping 1/10

Ate fried egg sandwich. Snacked on cherries, a pluot, watermelon, and cherry tomatoes. Dinner was cauliflower, beans, corn & cheese burrito with salsa.

Memorable Moments:

Spent 2.5 hours at the library. Too much sitting on hard chairs caused a lot of pain! And the Lyft ride was brutally bumpy.

DAY 14 (Fiber)

Incision pain 2/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 1 – 3/10

Ate nachos (with very little cheese). Snacked on an apple with peanut butter. Dinner was yellow curry with chicken and rice, golden shrimp, and crab rangoons.

Memorable Moments:

Only woke up once during the night to go pee!

DAY 15

Incision pain 2 – 7/10

Lower abdominal pain 3/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 1 – 3/10

Lower back pain 1/10

Ate sushi.

DAY 16

Incision pain 2/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 1 – 3/10

Ate 2 eggs, french toast, and bacon. Lunch was a baked potato with sour cream and chives.

Memorable Moments:

Lost a few Steri-Strips today! Looks good.
Ran errands with brother in law: Trader Joe’s and Sprouts and Smart&Final. Minimal discomfort but exhausted. I didn’t do any heavy lifting.

Drank 3 glasses of pomegranate champagne. My first alcohol since 2 weeks before surgery!

Jim and I enjoyed a little bit of foreplay and “just the tip.” Didn’t penetrate too much and it was a lot of fun. No pain!!

DAY 17 (2 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 1 – 4/10

Lower abdominal pain 3/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip 2 – 4/10

Pain while pooping 3/10

Lower back pain 1/10

Lower right rib pain 4/10

Ate leftover yellow curry. Snacked on a pluot. Dinner was a chicken breast sandwich.

Memorable Moments:

Vacuumed, did laundry, and changed the cat litter. It was exhausting, but I took it slow and easy and didn’t overdo anything. But…by looking at the cumulative pain scores above, I can tell I overdid it. Crap.

DAY 18 (2 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 2/10

Lower abdominal pain 2/10

Ate two waffles with fake butter and real maple syrup.

Ate Indian food for dinner.

Memorable moments:

Enjoyed 3 glasses of white wine. And it looks like my body recovered well from yesterday’s chores.

DAY 19 (Took 2 Ibuprofen)

Incision pain 3/10

Lower abdominal pain 3 – 8/10

Pain by right lower ab near hip

Pain while pooping

Lower back pain 3/10

Ate 2 waffles, drank three glasses (small) sangria, 1 glass wine, lots of water. Bean guacamole chips, chicken sandwich, pickles, chocolate chip cookie, lentil salad.

Memorable Moments:

Today was our Endo Support Appreciation BBQ! It was WONDERFUL to see everyone, to meet their support, and enjoy their company. I’m tired, though!

Lost another Steri-Strip!

And on DAY 20: August 6, 2018, I returned to work. It was my first time driving since surgery. And it was tough. I also had my post-op appointment that day. Dr. Kurtulus removed all of my Steri-strips and everything continues to heal well.

Today is August 27, 2018, and it still hurts to sit at the computer for too long. I have to get up and stretch/walk several times during the work day.

My advice if you’ve got a surgery recovery to look forward to? Take one day at a time. ASK FOR HELP! And listen to your body.

(Updated March 28, 2019)

Tips for Surgery Day & Recovery

Teddy bear wearing bandages

Have an Endometriosis surgery scheduled?  Here’s a list of things a few of my EndoSisters and I recommend having handy!!  If you’d like to add something, please leave a comment below. 🙂

In Your Purse:

Chapstick

Lozenges (to soothe that post-surgery throat)

Snacks for afterward, especially if you have any food allergies or intolerances.

Have ready in the car for that drive home:

Blankets

Bottle of water

Chewing gum (it has helped some gals with nausea on the drive home)

Ice packs

Overnight bag with clothes, toiletries, etc (just in case you have to stay in the hospital overnight)

Pillows

Sleep Mask (one of those eye covers; you may get ill with all of the movement of passing cars and landscape)

Travel pillow (for stuffing between your stomach and your seatbelt!)

Vomit bag

For Home:

A friend or family member (seriously for like the first 3 days…don’t be alone. You don’t know what your body can and can’t do…and you should be resting)

Comfy clothes. Nothing that binds. Think giant t-shirt, moomoo, or even naked!

Fiber!! (oh man…you need to keep poopin’)

Footstool (to help get in and out of bed)

Gas-X (helps break up the surgery gas that’s floating around inside your body still)

Grabby-stick-thingy (you know, that old people use to get stuff off of the top shelf)

Heating Pad

Ice Packs

Pads (yep…you may be bleeding afterward

Pillow with armrests (keeps you propped up, while lounging, and keeps pressure off your abs.)

Pre-made, easy meals (soups, crackers, etc.)

Prescriptions (painkillers AND anti-nausea medication)

Stool softener!!!!!

Squatty-Potty or something similar

Tape your cell phone charger to your headboard (you don’t want to bend down to get it!)

Walker (yeah, with tennis balls and everything – seriously helps you get around…not to mention sit/stand)

What recovering from laparoscopic surgery was like for me

recovery

So, September 21, 2016, was my second Endometriosis excision surgery.  It was done by robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery.  What does that mean?  My surgeon sat at the controls of console and directed teeny tiny robot hands inside my belly.  I had forgotten a lot of the recovery process from my 2014 surgery, so decided to take notes every day…so that way if I ever go back in, I sort of know a timeline!

I meant to publish this a long time ago…but, well…the dog ate my homework?

A “brief” little note – I tracked my pain, symptoms, diet, milestones, and whatever for a week, but as of today (8/16/17) I could not find the rest of my notes.  So, we get four days.  And I’m most certainly going to refer to this if I ever have to go back in for another surgery…

 

Day One: Wed, 9/21/16

Shortly after getting home, I was helped into bed on an incline of pillows.  Had immediate right and left shooting shoulder pain (10 out of 10).  Did a little bit of screaming.  Removed the pillows to see if lying flat would help…made it worse.  Did a little bit more screaming (still not as bad as my 2014 surgery).  Mom and Jim danced around the house trying to find the best solution for my sleeping arrangements and it turned out to be the tall-back computer chair, a pillow on the seat, a pillow on the back, the ottoman pulled close, a pillow on the ottoman.  Once I was seated, another pillow behind my head, and a pillow tucked underneath my legs (between the ottoman and the seat) to support my knees.  Quite the plushy palace…little did I know it would be my bed for the next three days.

6:15pm, Percocet.

6:20pm, GasX

9:05pm, vomited (clear bile) in the toilet on all fours.  Not an easy feat. Note: cool washcloth on bare back is heaven when hurling.

9:26pm, lower ab pain (3 out of 10) and lower back pain (5 out of 10)

9:40pm, crackers

9:45pm, Naproxen Sodium

10:20pm, lower rib pain (3 out of 10)

10:45pm, lower rib pain (2 out of 10)

10:55pm, nausea, but no vomiting

11:15pm, GasX

I didn’t make any records of sleeping.  I know we did a lot of walking around that first day.  I also remember it not being as horrific as my first surgery.  And all but two of the notes are in my own handwriting, so couldn’t have been that wonky…

 

Day Two: Thurs. 9/22/16

1:20am, walked around

5:30am, incision pain (7 out of 10) woke me up, walked around, took Percocet

5:35pm, GasX

6:25am, walked around

6:50am nausea, but didn’t vomit

7:05am, ginger turmeric tea to help with nausea, took a stool softener

7:45am, vomited (bile) in toilet on all fours

7:46am, vomited (green liquid) in toilet on all fours

8:30am, ate small portion of scrambled eggs

8:35am, right lower rib pain (3 out of 10), lower back pain (4 out of 10)

8:37am, ate butternut squash soup

11:37am, GasX

12:00pm, nausea without vomiting

3:15pm, ate a few raspberries

3:25pm, ate crackers, belly button pain (2 out of 10), right lower back pain (4 out of 10), right lower rib pain (3 out of 10)

4:35pm, right hip pain (6 out of 10)

6:05pm, right hip pain (8 out of 10), left hip pain (5 out of 10), lower rib pain (6 out of 10)

7:10pm, Zofran and ate tomato soup

7:40pm, Percocet

7:42pm, GasX

9:15pm-11:45pm, good sleep

Day Three: Friday, 9/23/16

1:30am, left hip pain (7 out of 10)

1:45-3:00am, sleeping

3:30-5:05am, sleeping

5:10am, belly button pain (5 out of 10), left hip pain (5 out of 10), deep breaths and  yawning hurt lower ribs (5 out of 10)

6:55am, lower rib pain (6 out of 10)

7:00am, GasX, stool softener

7:05am, ginger tea with honey and coconut oil

7:30am, left hip pain (8 out of 10)

9:00am, ate 2 scrambled eggs

9:10am, ate handful of blueberries

9:25am, Naproxen

11:05am, right hip pain (7 out of 10), upper back pain (4 out of 10)

11:30am, ate soup

12:20pm, ate crackers

1:00pm, GasX

2:00pm, lower ab pain (3 out of 10). Shifty gas or poo?

2:15pm-4:30pm, nap

4:45pm, ate a few blueberries

5:00pm, my first fart (no pain)!

6:10pm, ate tomato soup with crackers

6:35pm, stool softener and GasX

7:00pm, lightning bolt pain at belly button (9 out of 10)

7:50pm, lower right rib pain (6 out of 10)

7:55pm, left shoulder pain (5 out of 10)

8:20pm, lower rib and side pain (8 out of 10)

8:30pm, ate crackers

9:30pm, right hip pain (9 out of 10), but had to pee

9:40pm-2:30am, sleep

Milestones: Able to sit and stand alone.  Able to fart!  Able to lay flat!!

 

Day Four: Saturday, 9/24

2:30am, woke to (do something?)

2:30-4:45am, sleep

4:45am, woke up with cat walking on belly button (10 out of 10)

5:00am, Naproxen Sodium

5:25am, GasX

6:00am, ate crackers

6:40am, farted with no pain

6:45am, stool softener

7:30am-9:05am, nap

9:10am, farted with no pain

9:20am-11:00am, nap

11:25am, lower ab pain (4 out of 10)

11:45am, ginger tea with honey.  Lower ab pain (2 out of 10)

12:10pm, ate tomato soup with crackers.  Took GasX.

12:15pm, right ab pain (6 out of 10)

12:25pm, farted with no pain

12:35pm, lower right ab pain (4 out of 10)

1:05pm, lower right ab pain (6 out of 10), farted with pain (6 out of 10)

1:07pm, Naproxen Sodium, ate crackers

2:00pm, lower right hip pain (5 out of 10)

2:10pm, belly button pain (8 out of 10)

3:10pm, left ab/incision pain (8 out of 10)

3:15pm, GasX

3:47pm, left lower hip pain (8 out of 10)

3:50pm, left ab pain (8 out of 10), lower back pain (6 out of 10)

Milestones: Showered alone.

 

So at least I know these things:

  1.  Expect that shoulder pain when I lay down flat (this happened with my first surgery, too)
  2. Eat things nice and easy.
  3. Don’t expect a lot of sleep.  It may take three days before I can lay down flat.
  4. And I DO remember this – it was seven days before I pooped…and needed the assistance of a doctor-commanded enema.  All the stool softeners and easy diet and lots of water weren’t enough to combat the constipation-inducing meds…*sigh*
  5. And most importantly: don’t be alone for the first three days in case I can’t sit/stand by myself.  This includes using the bathroom *double sigh*

What did you learn from your past recoveries?

 

 

 

My 2nd Endo Surgery : Recap & Comparison

my-insides
Yes, I’m an artist!

Well, here I am, alive and doing well!  Surgery was on September 21, 2016, and today is my 3-week surgiversary.

In a nutshell : my Endometriosis had returned, bringing with it a leaking cyst and a bunch of adhesions.  Endo had also decided to now grow on my bowel (the outer layer of my sigmoid colon) and my ureter (the tube that carries stuff from kidneys to bladder – he had to detach my ureter, clean it up, and reattach it).  AND it disappeared from my liver (doc couldn’t find any there this time).  He was able to cut out all of my Endometriosis, except for a lesion that is on my diaphragm.  He cut away all of my adhesions and put my organs back where they belong.  I’ve still got both my ovaries and fallopian tubes.  My uterus was stuck to my bowel, my ovaries and tubes were a rat’s nest, and my uterus was also stuck to the right side of my pelvic wall.  It just sounds like such a mess…But, he did confirm that my bladder’s exterior AND interior were completely healthy and Endo-free.

For those who enjoy reading medical mumbo jumbo, an excerpt from my Op Report:

op-report-2016

Here’s a little comparison chart of what was found (and done) in 2014 and 2016…as well as the difference in COSTS from the two surgeries.  Don’t get me started on the inflated costs of medical care in the U.S…

compare-surgeries

costs-surgeryThis recovery was SO much easier than my 2014 surgery.  I was far less bloated, hardly had any residual pain from the CO2 gas, and felt a lot better both physically and mentally.  Don’t get me wrong; it was still hard (I’ll save that for another blog entry), but it truly was night and day, comparatively. And it’s still rough…I can only sit, stand, or walk for a small amount of time before having to switch it up a bit because of the pain that creeps in around my incisions and abdominal muscles.  And I’m still severely restricted until early November on what I can do…and I’m sure I’ll be building up my strength and endurance for a while after that.

BUT : I haven’t had any recurrent Endo pain since my surgery (other than those associated with surgery).  Wonderful news.

Below is a little .gif I put together so you could see the difference between 2014 & 2016 for the first nine days after surgery.  When I asked my surgeon what he did differently from 2014, he let me know that he let out as much of the CO2 gas as he possibly could.

output_5saoxf1

And here I am now (well, October 4, 2016):

14355653_10208722291987139_3312204182574191727_n

If you’d like to see photographs of my insides and the teeny surgical tools, click here 🙂

So, now that I’m all freed-up of 99.9% of my visible Endometriosis, the adhesions have been cut away, and my “anatomy has been restored,” as Dr. Kurtulus so eloquently wrote, what’s the plan?  I’m giving up birth control pills since they didn’t do anything to keep my Endometriosis from returning (I hate the side effects so much).  I’ve already had one period since surgery – it lasted a whopping 3 days and the pain was so minimal on Day One that it was handled with two Ibuprofen.  I’m also monitoring my pain levels and diet daily (made easier via Google Slides).  I’ll go back to see Dr. Kurtulus in April for my annual exam and pap.  BUT if I notice any horrible return of pain before then, I’ll make an earlier appointment.  And, at the advice of my physician, I’ll continue my efforts to “eat healthy, drink healthy, and exercise.”

I am so grateful to my gyno/surgeon, his staff, the hospital, the surgical team, my wonderful Man, my Mum, and my Rosie.  And to all of you who sent me care packages, you’re awesome – they were used well. ❤

Here’s to hoping recurrence is a thing of the past…

Yours,

Lisa

And, if you made it all the way down to the bottom, yes…that is a poop with a corn in it. What better way to illustrate those are my guts? 😉

cpn-poopy-corn-copy
Cap’n Poopy Corn