Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Recovery: A later perspective.

I had written about recovery at home back on February 19, 2007. I had been home approximately five week and was just starting to feel like sitting at my computer and writing about my first month's experience. I am sure everyone's experience is different, but I imagine there are a lot of similarities also. I am going to attempt to further document recovery. However, this is difficult. Much of what I am going to write about we do not discuss in polite company. It is hard to know what to expect from bowel resection when there does not seem to be much written about what happens some time after surgery. I think it is a very private experience and not discussed much. If that assumption is true, then there needs to be a lot of information put out, so let me do my part.

It has now been five months since surgery. I am still recovering. Oh, I am up and around. I'm back to work and active around the home. I walk for exercise quite often, I have many good days. However, my system reminds me from time to time that it is not happy about having my intestinal equipment cut apart and sewn back together.

After six weeks I saw the surgeon for follow-up. He told my wife, my color was looking good, I seemed to get around fairly good, and I was released to resume normal activities. HUH? I felt like shit. I did return to work in late February, but hell I shuffled around the college campus I am employed at like a little old man. I got tired after a little while and had to stop and rest a moment, or sit and rest. If I got gas, which I do quite often my area around my rectum would ache, then I would pass gas and it would go away, only to repeat as the gas built up again.

I was having bowel movements, but they weren't regular, still aren't. I went through about one week where I would have to go #2, and I would have to go 4, 5 and even 6 times within the space of a couple of hours. The consistency of the bowel changed from firm to diarrhea. My rectum would sting with what my surgeon described as an exquisite pain. I now know what exquisite pain is. It is a real sharp, piercing pain right around your anus one best described as an exquisite pain. It still happens, just not as often.

I felt sick to my stomach every morning at about week six. That eventually passed as I made sure I drank plenty of water. I would use the water bottles from a store, I'd just refill them with tap water. Food still did not taste good, it didn't taste bad, it was just blah! I was on a diet and didn't even realize it, food tasting so blah just was not to exciting to eat, so I ate just enough and would stop.

After eating, many times gas would form and I could not expel it very well which left me with a very bloated feeling and was actually quite painful. It would pass, but not before making me feel like eating wasn't a good thing. I would sleep fitfully, until I'd get up tight and take a Zanex. I recommend something like that, what I have are 0.5 mg tablets, I can take two if I want, but only as needed. I try to stay away from them, but I did have some nights where I was simply anxious, worried if I was going to recover and they helped provide me with a good night's rest.

The main difficulty I had was with my intestines. I would have a bowel movement for a day to a day and a half. Then it seemed like my system said, OK boy, we're going to get rid of all of it now. I would have sometimes half a dozen "BM's" in the space of a hour and a half. By the time I got to the 5th and 6th encore I was experiencing that "exquisite pain" and even tore some tissue and bled slightly from the opening as I cleaned myself. I did try to put Preparation H on my sore rectum, it helped relieve the itching or the pain, but I had a disappearing hemorrhoid that would appear at this time and add to the discomfort. Many a time I waddled out from the bathroom with a fairly strong pain around my behind.

Once I ate about 4 oz. of cashews in a twenty-four hour period and my system really rebelled. I went so often and my stools turned to diarrhea. It really hurt, and I have not touched cashews since. I also have not had a repeat episode like that since.

There were some days I felt absolutely pain free and at ease. I treasured those days, they did not last long and for the first three months I never had two of the days in a row.

One odd thing that happens, even today although not as bad, is after I had cleaned out my system I would get a feeling of having to go, but when I sat on the commode I might get what came to be known as my "rabbit turd." I would have some small movements and they would be accompanied by some light, feathery mucous. Nothing hurt, it just looked different.

One funny thing I have developed is what I call the "noseeum turds." The bowel would be so shaped that when it hit the water of the commode it would pass go and not look back. Many a time I wanted to see what event had transpired only to see nothing. The bowel had slid through the water in the commode and went down into the trap out of sight. I knew I had gone, but had no proof to examine.

One of the other frustrating things is after a "clean out," I would experience the sensation like I had to go. Yet, when I sat on the commode nothing would come. This was also the times I might experience the "rabbit turd" effect, but my system was sure telling me I had to go, when I couldn't. I might go a little but the rest of the bowel wouldn't come and then when finally cleaned myself and got up it would retract up the colon and sit there as a reminder of my failure, plus making me feel like I had to go right away again.

Hope this isn't disgusting you, I do not know how to say it politely. I just know that recovery is long. I still do not have what I consider to be my normal stamina, or I have days when I tire easily. I will tell you this, I feel much better than I have for years. Several things I think, account for that. First, the operation was a success. Second, I have built my lack of appetite into a diet and have lost 46 pounds since surgery. I have actually lost 69 pounds from my heaviest all time weight which was just three and a half years ago. I am much more limber, I can bend with ease and when I work under my truck I don't look like a beached whale trying to right itself.

I have had a couple of negatives. Just after two months my heart decided to have an atrial fibrillation episode, otherwise known as an "A-fib" episode. I was in the hospital for two days as they got my heart under control. I had taken the medication digoxin (Lanoxicaps) for almost eighteen years for that very reason. I had an A-fib attack back about 1989-90. The cardiologist felt that probably the heavy load of stress I was carrying from surgery was the primary contributing factor. It did really unsettle my morale and had me quite fearful for a while. However, I have no underlying heart defects, I experience PVC's (premature ventricular contractions) but so do a lot of people. PVC's are not life threatening issues, in fact neither is heart arrhythmia unless it is brought on by a heart attack, then it is often fatal. Needless to say, I spent many a night, in the dark, with my fingers checking the regularity of my pulse at my neck.

The other set back has nothing to do with either bowel resection or heart, but I pinched my sciatic nerve going down my left leg that had me in some very heavy pain for about two weeks. I am taking prescription doses of Ibuprofen (3-200mg) three times a day. It took a while, but it does seem to have helped. I did have an MRI that indicated I have a bulging disc and some scare tissue from a previous back surgery some thirty years ago might be impinging on the nerve. I will see a neurosurgeon next month to discuss treatment alternatives. And yes, I did read the article about back problems going away on their own within three months and too many Americans are having back surgery when they don't need it.

I also had to fight through some survivor's problems. This is common I've come to learn in cancer victims. Its like, a flaw was found in an otherwise sound system and will it come back, and when. I was told by an oncologist that I am back at the normal risk for a person who did not have colon cancer, that is how early the polyp was removed. I do from time to time dwell on the fact that I have fewer days in front of me than behind me, but I've been in that situation since I turned 50 twelve years ago.

I am much better after five months. I do recognize, however, that I am not completely well. My digestive system reminds me from time to time, and I do experience some pain. There are times that when I urinate I get a painful feeling at the rectum/anus. It's like that whole muscle structure is tied together somehow and wants me to know it isn't happy yet. Sometime urinating is very painful, like my penis hurts, but most of the time the sensation is normal. That pain also seems to be coming less frequently.

Must of my discomfort revolves around having a bowel movement. Many times nothing happens, however if a day and a half elapse without some sort of bowel movement I can expect an episode. Those to seem to be lighter.

I do not know if this helped anyone. I doubt anyone will ever read it. It is out in the public forum though just in case someone stumbles on this blog looking for information. I intend to be patient, I believe that most discomfort I experience is associated with healing and getting back into sync. I think in another six months I will be reporting that I am functioned pretty much back to normal. If not, I will accept the situation as being the best I can hope for. Good luck to you and yours.

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