My 6 week post surgery check up

This morning, I headed back to hospital for my 6 week post surgery check up. I had two hernias fixed in my last surgery, a parastomal hernia resolved, my stoma resited and abdominal reconstruction. It was a big operation and was my 8th surgery since 2013.

6 week post surgery check up

I’d been warned that it was going to be a very tough recovery. That I would need 2-3 months off work and to prepare for a lot of pain. Its been a tough 7 weeks but I am really pleased to say that everything has gone well and my recovery is right on track! I am still swollen and have some hard lumps of scarring but they are happy with the results.

The check up was with one of the surgeon’s team. The doctor examined my stomach and talked through all of my concerns. I felt very nervous that he was going to find some complications but he said I was doing better than expected. I am feeling really relieved. Thanks to Timm for driving me and being there . We talked through all the questions I wanted to ask before so that he could remind me if I forgot once I was in with the doc. If you don’t have someone with you at your appointment, I suggest writing a list as it’s easy to forget!

Timm and Sam Cleasby 6 week post surgery check up Sheffield northern general hospital

Back to work

I am signed off work till the end of June and they’ve suggested a phased return to work from July. I’m both nervous and excited about this. I work for the disability charity Scope and they have been so supportive to me during this time. They haven’t put any pressure on me and have supported me in taking the time I need to recover.

I also present a radio show on BBC Radio Sheffield on a Saturday morning from 10-12 called Nowt So Strange As Folk. I returned to that a couple of weeks ago thanks to Timm being my chauffeur. It’s only 2 hours a week but it’s mentally tiring. I have been coming home on a Saturday and spending the rest of the day in bed!

Exercise after surgery

We have discussed my recovery moving forward and at the 6 week post surgery check up. The doctor said they were happy for me to start an exercise regime. I am joining the gym and will be seeing a personal trainer as part of my physiotherapy.

I stopped smoking in February this year in preparation for the surgery and I’m happily now a non smoker. This is so important as there’s a link between smoking and recurrent hernias.

I am also aiming to lose weight and get much stronger. I’m currently classed as overweight and this can mean I’m more likely to get another hernia. It’s been an awful 6 years of recurrent hernias and so I need to do everything I can to reduce my risks. I’ll blog more about the exercises Ill be doing after I see my PT in July.

Mental health

I have been quite up and down mentally, it’s really tough to be stuck in bed unable to be independent. And even more so when it’s the 8th time in 6 years! I have slipped into depression before after surgery and so it’s at the forefront of my mind to take care of my mental health.

One thing that has been difficult is that I am reacting to certain things that make me feel right back in that hospital bed. The other night I was flipping through the TV channels and I happened upon a real life hospital show. .I paused and watched a patient in a bed writhing in pain. The doctors and nurses were rushing about, the machines bleeping, and I felt my chest tighten. I felt jittery and panicked and a fear washed over me. I was sweating and struggling to breathe.

A similar thing happened the other night. My ileostomy bag leaked in bed. It was only a slight leak onto my skin, I caught it before it went on my sheets. So I cleaned myself up and changed my bag and then saw a air freshner spray that had been in my hospital bag. I sprayed a couple of squirts to cover any poopy smells in my room. That smell of the spray immediately took me back to being in the hospital bed and I went into panic mode again. After talking to a friend I recognise that certain sights, sounds and smells are triggering me. This is common with people suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

So though I am feeling positive for the future, I am aware that my mental health has been affected by all of this. I have started back on my antidepressants and I am really focussed on looking after myself. From meditation to self care, planning to spend time and energy on myself is really important.

The future

How does the future look for me? I don’t know. I have to hope that it will be surgery and complication free. The thought of going through all this again and ending back in the same place is just too much to bear. I don’t think I could cope with more surgery and to be honest I don’t think they would consider another hernia repair as I have had so many now and my abdomen is such a mess.

But I cannot think about the worst as it would make me spiral. I need to think positively and plan for success. My goal is that by next year I will be strong enough to learn how to kayak. I want to spend the summer camping with Timm in our campervan, hiking, wild swimming and kayaking. It is a dream right now, but I am going to put all my effort into building as much core strength and muscle as I can. And all I can do is to try my best.

Peace and love

Sam x

I did something awful

Recently I did something really awful, something I’m quite ashamed of and that I really should know better. I judged someone on their social media and their chronic illness. I saw someone posting about going out to a social event and thought “Oh, I thought this week you were really ill?!”

Someone I see on social media has an invisible and chronic illness and shares their life to educate others about the impairment. They had been posting a lot about how difficult a time they are having and then I saw a photo of them heading out to a really busy social event. And I judged them.

I’m embarrassed about this and I’m not writing this post to make any single defence. But to talk about how we all can sometimes judge others even when we truly do know better.

Feeling judged? I should know better

I publicly share a lot of my life, the highs and the lows of life with a chronic illness. And I have been judged many times. People making comments about me going for dinner when I have said I’m struggling with fatigue. Asking how come I can manage to go to a festival when I have shared my pain levels. People just openly telling me I don’t look sick with a suspicious stare as if I’m making it up.

So I’m shocked and ashamed of myself that I had this thought. I wondered how they were going to manage going to an event when all their posts that week had been about extreme pain and inability to walk. How very dare I?

Because the reality is that you have no idea what someone is going through by just looking at them. And when you feel judged, it just makes life feel worse.

I have managed to work a full time job whilst living on painkillers with horrific pain, insomnia, depression and awaiting surgery.

I have been on a night out despite feeling like death because I was fed up of letting friends down so much and not wanting to cancel. I’ve shit myself on a night out, cleaned myself up, changed and then smiled for an instagram selfie.

On my wedding renewal day, I was bleeding from my jpouch so heavily that I had to wear a pad. Yet my photos wouldn’t give that away.

timm and sam cleasby wedding

Festival and travel

I’ve been to festivals whilst being desperately unwell because I didn’t want to lose the ticket money and ruin other people’s plans.

I’ve travelled the world whilst recovering from major surgery, feeling terrified, fragile and had to carry a case filled with medication. On one trip I had to inject myself every single day into my stomach. But my holiday photos don’t tell that tale.

india with an ostomy taj mahal in a wheelchair sam cleasby travel blog judged

I have had people write comments on my social media criticising my for these things, saying I don’t look sick. People saying to my face or online that if it were really as bad as I say, then I wouldn’t be having a social life like this.

And it’s a crippling feeling of judgement, a weighty slump of worry. Not feeling believed, supported or understood. It’s devastating.

So I have no idea why this mean spirited thought popped into my head when I saw someone doing something fun despite their illness. I can only say that I didn’t comment to them or to anyone else and as soon as I thought it, I caught myself and gave my head a wobble.

Perhaps it was jealousy more than anything (not that it makes it ok). I’m 5 weeks post op and still in an awful lot of pain. I’m exhausted all the time and though I’m getting better, it’s still really tough. And maybe I just wished I could be doing what they were.

Be kind yo

I suppose the reason for this blog post is a reminder that sometimes we all can judge others unfairly. That we can think the worst and make unwarranted and negative assumptions. But those thoughts and assumptions are on us and we all need to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles and you have no idea what they are.

If you find yourself judging someone else on something that you have no idea about, then keep it to yourself! And then think about the damage those negative comments can make to another person.

We have all done it. But if we’re aware of how wrong it is, then hopefully we can make the world a little kinder.

Be kind quote everyone is fighting their own battle

We seem to live in a world where social media tells us we can never make a mistake. We can never slip up, say or think something out of character. The truth is we all fuck up from time to time, but if there is no room for self recognition and allowance to learn, educate yourself and make positive changes, then where are we left?

To err is to be human, and in my poor thoughts I have realised that we can all mess up. I’ve been judged in the way I judged someone else. And it made me realise that maybe we need to speak up a little more when we do something wrong. And maybe society and social media need to be more open to allowing people to make amends for their mistakes?

✌🏽 & ❤️

Sam xx

Happy birthday me!

Today is my birthday and I reach the grand old age of 38! I swear in my head I’m only 19…

Happy birthday me!

It’s been a hell of a year, two surgeries, losing my nan, our American adventure, depression, a break down, a new radio show, lots of pain and plenty of struggles.

I’ve learnt a lot this year. I’ve learnt that you just never know what is around the corner. That we need to care for ourselves. Hold the ones we love close and let go of the negative bullshit in our lives.

Love my narwhal birthday cake

Feeling positive

For the first time in a long time, I’m actually feeling positive and hopeful. I have the most amazing friends, a loving and supportive husband, jobs I adore. I also have brilliant kids who are setting off into the world on their own paths. We are crossing everything that this last operation will be the one to make it all better.

I feel like I’m able to make plans for our future. To really assess the things that bring me joy and go after them.

I’m planning to get strong. As soon as I’m able I’ll be working with a physio to get my body as strong and healthy as I can and I can’t wait!

Timm and I are so lucky to have our friends Caroline and James in our lives. They are our family and have been there for us every step of the way through some of the toughest years we’ve ever faced. We are forever grateful to have such amazing people with us.

So what am I hoping for the year ahead?

I want to get back to work as soon as the doctors agree. Camping trips in our campervan with fires and countryside and dogs. I’m going to get strong and fit enough to get walking, to be able to go and hike and be in nature. Also I want to learn to kayak!!!

I wish the greatest happiness to my son who starts University this year. Love and strength to my child who is off travelling for two months and all the best for our youngest in everything he wants. It’s big changes to us as a family unit with C leaving home but I hope it makes us all very happy.

I hope to have the strength to do more blogging, more raising awareness and to expand So Bad Ass.

Mainly I just hope we can have a happy year filled with kindness, laughter and love.

So happy birthday to me! I hope 38 is the year it al starts going right!

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx