Monthly Archives: April 2017

Week 5 – The return of actual exercise.

It’s finally here, the last “take it easy week”. That’s the advice you get given, “take it easy for six weeks”, yeah and then what? Are you magically healed? Able to go back to doing everything you want the way you were before? Not quite! I’ve been looking forward to the six week mark like it was some kind of enchanted door leading to recovery and normality. In reality the 6 week anniversary is just another day and this journey will be continuous. I see that now. If truth be told I’ve been introducing new activities as I’ve seen fit, if it doesn’t pull or hurt or cause an adverse reaction I’ve done it. I’ve tried to listen to my body, be gentle with anything new and always err on the side of caution.

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The last week has seen me progress from nothing but walking, to walking, swimming, and cycling. Actual Physical activities! Walking regularly is still a staple. I’m a geek, I like data, primarily I like that it shows progress. Each week I’ve set an average daily steps target, this allows for bad and good days This weeks target has been 7500 and that’s been easily achieved. I’ve even gone above 10000 steps three times, how do fit and healthy adults fall below this recommended amount? Swimming a single length for the first time post-op was HUGE, not only because I’m not a big fan of water but because Swimming is actual exercise! I introduced it first using a noodle (the swimming not egg kind), then moved onto a pool buoy before going unaided, first for 5 metres then slightly further until I’d done the whole length.  Cycling wise I gingerly climbed on a stationary bike, being mindful of good maintaining good posture whilst also being aware that I have extraordinarily short legs that only just reach the pedals at the bottom despite the seat being at it’s lowest setting. I’ve worked up to a massive 2kms on the bike, ok it’s no Tour de Yorkshire but again it’s actual exercise and I actually feel like I’m on the road to the triathlon.

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This week also marked the point at which I was to reintroduce Pilates. For months prior to surgery I had been a regular at Pilates, building from very basic to more advanced movements and really feeling the difference. In the build up to the class I was anxious about the psychological side of going back. Don’t get me wrong I fully trust the instructor, Emma, who is also a good friend but this would be a real indication of how far back the surgery had knocked me. Walking into the hall and getting started was great, and even though being given alternatives  and being directed to the lowest level was frustrating and a reminder to leave the ego at the door I came out buzzing and looking forward to the next class.

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Whilst it’s been a good week physically, mentally it’s been tough. This week should have been “Peak week” for me in the Rat Race preparations so whilst introducing new activities is great, a 2km ride on a stationary bike is hardly as momentous as a 20 mile obstacle run. The Dirty Weekend was going to be a huge challenge, and the highlight of this year, it had rocketed both my own and my dads training to new levels, but it’s not to be. Not this year anyway. Unfortunately the numerous cancellations I’ve endured resulted in my surgery being just six weeks before this event. It’s hard to see the build up to this event, knowing that you should be preparing for whatever it holds when the reality is you are marking a 3 km walk as a new personal best. Keeping a training diary is helping, as is the events I have booked in for this year, although a further event is at risk of being slightly too early for me. One thing is for certain though, I will be running the dirty weekend next year, it will be epic, and I will be stronger, mentally and physically, than ever before!

 

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Reality Vs my Brain

 

I wasn’t going to share my blog this week, after all the positivity of last week this week has certainly had it’s dips. Having said that this blog is an honest account of my experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. I want to be able to look back in a few months time at the journey I’ve had, I also want to share this journey with others in the hope that they might take something from my experiences.  So here it is, warts and all, an insight into what goes on in my head, the thoughts, the feelings and the actions.

 

Last weeks’ blog really highlighted a peak in positivity, everything I did was with a purpose, I was actively seeking challenges, the future was bright and I felt “recovered”. I wasn’t napping as much, was walking more comfortably and had introduced more “normal” activities. Fast forward to this week and the roller-coaster has been on a drop. Physically I’ve still been able to do much of what I was last week, I’ve been feeling more comfortable walking around but the issue of fatigue and pain has hit me like a truck on more than one occasion. Fatigue follows any time I’ve done “too much” but what constitutes “too much”? Well that seems to depend on the day, everyday is different and listening to my body is a skill I’m working on. Pain wise, there’s the odd twinge here and there, stiffness in the morning or when I’m sat for too long, the real issue is evenings/night times. It is probably my bodies way of saying I’ve done too much, well you’d have thought through years of coaching/teaching my body would know the more immediate the feedback the more likely it is to work.  Telling me at the end of the day is just too late!

 

I’ve spent the majority of three days on the sofa this week, I know that I’m only 4 weeks out from what is considered “major surgery”, I’m aware the first 4-6 weeks should be spent resting but that doesn’t stop me from being frustrated at needing these three days. I’ve always tried to keep my fitness levels up, that’s something I’m proud of, I shouldn’t need three days on the sofa. These days have also brought with them tears and tantrums, frustrations boil over. Time seems to be standing still, in my head I’m not progressing, I should be able to do more. I write a daily activity diary, in it I include steps done, rehab done, and any additional activities, even when I look through this and see the numbers showing progress I can’t help but put a damper on it. A prime example is a walk I’ve done this week, 3 km’s in over an hour, really I know I should be pleased with this progress but in reality my first thought is “wow that’s slow” or to immediately consider just how far away my fitness is from that needed for a triathlon I’ve signed up for. I know the process of goal setting and I have the smaller short term goals but I can’t help comparing where I am now to where I was prior to surgery (even that wasn’t something to overly shout about) and where I want to be.

 

The 4 week point appears to be a point where certain activities can be added, you’re encouraged to introduce more activities. This should be a time to be happy, a time to look forward to taking ownership, and I am looking forward to introducing certain activities. However, it’s a scary thought, not least because I’m naturally wired to push myself and this needs to be held back, the consequences don’t bear thinking about. The main concern for me is that getting back to these activities will further illustrate how far I’ve regressed and how much farther I have to go. How confusing, I’m frustrated by the lack of progress yet apprehensive of just what the progress will illustrate.

 

So there you have it, pretty much an unfiltered journey through my mind in week 4. The rollercoaster continues, this week has been tough, and the climb continues with many false summits, the view from the top? I really hope it’s worth it.

 

 

 

Fear, recovery and womanhood?

Fear! Something you face every day. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of your own mortality, fear of the unknown.  The issue I have with fear is that it’s not tangible. I can’t give you a lump of fear, you can’t hold it in your hands, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  I’m a big believer in facing your fears, putting yourself in situations that scare you, thus making fear an optional concept, I choose not to be fearful.  I’m scared of water, so I completed an open water swim, I’m scared of pregnant women (feel free to continue reading when you’ve finished laughing) I’ve done pilates surrounded by pregnant ladies. In the build up to surgery I had no fear of the surgery, I’d done my research, had confidence in the medical professionals, I put myself in a position not to be fearful. Recovery can be treated in a similar way. Right now I have a choice, I can sit back, rest and do nothing or I can actively participate in the process do what I can, listen to my body and give it what it needs to recover. I choose to take control, to move forward, to be better physically and mentally.

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They say it takes 6 weeks to resume “normal” activities post-hysterectomy, which means today is the half way mark. In reality the 6 week mark will just be the start, the journey back to the activities I miss will be much longer. I miss the feeling of setting a workout, hitting the point where your body is screaming at you to stop and having the strength of mind to keep pushing through. I miss the feeling of sitting under a bar, legs threatening to give way and still finding a way to stand tall. Strangely, I miss the feeling of being on a run, lungs burning, legs feeling like they’re stuck in treacle and hitting that zone where nothing else matters, the minutes fly by as you empty your mind whilst contemplating life’s problems. I can’t understand why people take drugs when these feelings are freely available through physical efforts. With my main goal this year (rat Race Dirty Weekend) already ruled out I’m currently setting out to fill the next few months with as many challenges as possible, after all what says “F**k you” to fibroids and surgery better than pushing yourself through obstacles and challenges with a smile on your face?

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Prior to surgery many of the forums I read talked of a great sense of loss that women feel following a hysterectomy. The loss of ever being able to carry children and frequently the loss of feeling like a woman, the loss of “womanhood”. I often questioned the inevitability of these thoughts, after all I knew I didn’t want to carry children and keeping my ovaries would keep hormone levels relatively stable. Would the surgery really change how I feel about myself as a woman? Three weeks on and these feelings are nowhere to be felt. Am I any less of a woman because I’m missing a few organs? I guess that depends on how you look at things. Biologically yes, without my uterus, cervix and tubes I am less of a woman but in reality? My point of view is that being a strong woman is about being strong physically, mentally and having strength of character. Physically I’m doing whatever my body allows, mentally there have been good days and bad days but I keep working on my frustrations and occasional emotional outbursts, however no matter what challenge I’ve faced I’ve stayed true to myself and that, I believe, is what makes me a strong woman!

 

hospital visits and being patient. – week 2

This week has been full of challenges, reality checks and frustrations. But that’s two weeks down on this road to fitness, two weeks closer than I was prior to surgery.

I mentioned in the last blog that I had been experiencing some calf pain and a cough, after getting sick of me complaining (only joking) Becky insisted we find out if this was something to be concerned about. I called the ward and was told to go to A&E just to be on the safe side. So despite my arguments off we went to A&E. Not exactly feeling at my best it took all my strength not to unleash hell on the doctor who examined me. I was left feeling like I was wasting his time (because spending 4 hours in A&E on a Saturday is one of my favourite pastimes), tutting at the speed I took to move and get on the bed and asking me what I thought was wrong, if I knew that I’d have saved us both the time! Following his examination I was told he thought I was ok but wanted to do some tests in case I had a blood clot on my lungs which is potentially dangerous. The tests an X-ray, being asked if I was pregnant was an obvious irritation here, and blood tests came back potentially positive. I say potentially positive because they aren’t always accurate after surgery apparently. I was given a blood thinning injection in my stomach (ouch!) and told to come back on Sunday for another then more tests on Monday. Monday was a long day of tests and waiting for results, thankfully because the results take so long to come back I was allowed to go home and try to get comfortable – hospital chairs for hours on end are not comfortable at this stage. Thankfully the call came to say results were in and everything was fine for now and just stay aware of the symptoms and go back if anything changed. We’ll never know if it was a clot and the drugs did their job or if the symptoms were just down to the surgery and/or cough. Either way I’m grateful that Becky made me ask the question and that in the end everything worked out.

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This whole experience gave me more food for thought and prompted yet more frustrations. You see the only advise I’ve been given is to take it easy, yet taking it easy leaves you open to the risks of these complications. I was given no exercises or advise to prevent these complications and aid recovery, this may be because I was placed on the breast ward rather than the gynae ward post-surgery. Instead I have had  to research  and find advise given by other NHS trusts on recommendations for recovery. Everything I’ve read suggests the benefits of walking, which I have been doing since day 1, most documents suggest that at this point the majority of women are walking for up to 10 minutes, I’m now at around 20-25 minutes max, is this too much or am I ok if I get no after effects? I now have a series of 5 exercises, (ankle rotations, knee extensions, pelvic floor exercises, pelvic tilts and knee drops which I do 5-10 reps of 2-3 times a day and stop with any sign of discomfort or pain. This seems to be the consensus amongst the documents and with no post-op follow up scheduled I guess it’s the best I’ve got right now.

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Patience and discipline really is being challenged at the moment. Mentally I’m raring to go, physically I feel like I can do so much more than what I am doing which is leaving me with a constant battle between my heart and head. My heart wants to get moving, start regaining some level of fitness whilst my head knows that my body will take time to heal. The external incision is virtually healed but I know that the soft tissue internally takes much longer to regain it’s strength and recover. I’m increasingly fighting between the need to rest (and nap) with my inherent dislike for laziness, Ok I know its recovery and not being lazy but still!! I keep trying to tell myself that being disciplined now will allow me to do the fun stuff sooner, not that that helps when the little chimp in my head that wants it’s fitness now!

 

1 Week on.

 

A week on from my hysterectomy I am surprised by how well I feel. I was aware of being in pain and tired for the past few months but not at quite how much this was affecting me. The change was almost immediate. Now don’t get me wrong the surgery hurts, basic movement (sitting/standing, walking etc), laughing and coughing are hardly a walk on the park right now. I’ve also found a new hobby of taking regular naps, the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed since being a toddler. I’ve had some issues with a cough and random leg pain but even so I feel raring to go and am consciously putting the breaks on my activity levels.

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The most difficult aspect of recovery for me so far is the lack of guidance/timescale for rehab. With previous injuries I’ve been given guidelines and milestones to work towards, with this you’re told “you’ve had major surgery, take it easy for 6 weeks”. What exactly does “take it easy” mean? My taking it easy is probably quite different from a lot of the women having this surgery. I have researched and searched forums for basic guidelines which at the moment is helping me set very basic targets and map out my journey for the next couple of weeks.

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Activity wise I’m pretty mobile already. I’m walking slowly but fairly freely, I’ve taken short walks around the local area and even to the pub and back. I try and have something booked in everyday and that’s my aim for the day. I’m learning the warning signs and call it a day if I feel any discomfort or pulling/soreness and am careful to have plenty of rest throughout the day. Prior to the operation I’d read about how uncomfortable seatbelts were after this type of surgery, I can honestly say I have had no issues with this at all. The potholes however, now there’s a different story.

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The biggest surprise for me has been the emotional toll of this surgery. I’m sure that much of this is relief at it finally going ahead, that and a natural reaction to the drugs and trauma of surgery. However I have been surprised on more than one occasion by an ever stronger desire to cry for apparently no reason. His was one side effect I wasn’t expecting.

 

Pain wise I’m pleasantly surprised, I’ve taken nothing stronger than paracetamol and ibuprofen, even that has pretty much stopped other than at night. All in all I’m one week post-op, feeling ok, if not a little frustrated. The next few weeks are sure to bring their challenges, but with the support I’ve got by my side I’m sure I will make it out the other side a stronger and better person.