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Surgery number 5

Like Mambo number 5 but with more general anaesthetic!

So if you follow me on Facebook, twitter and instagram, you may have seen that I have been under the knife again.  I have had two hernias develop since my last op in January and I was on the waiting list to get them fixed by Mr Brown but last week, out of no where, I had a huge, sharp pain in my stomach and my incisional hernia (that runs through my belly button) had popped out and got stuck.

I was sick with the pain and knew immediately that I needed help, I never go to A&E as I hate the waits and the people in the waiting rooms (I know that’s judgemental, sorry!!) But I called Timm from work and asked him to come home and take me to hospital.

incisional hernia with ostomy

I was vomiting with the pain, sweating, crying and a general mess but was seen quite quickly and taken onto a surgical assessment ward where doctors thought I would need surgery as soon as possible.  I stayed in overnight and had a CT scan as they thought that there were loops of bowel stuck through my hernia and were worried they would be damaged.  The scan showed that the hernia was very large and there was fat and tissue stuck through it but luckily no bowel.  I was very relieved as I don’t have that much left, so I can’t risk losing any more!! The other thing it showed though was that my parastomal hernia was worse than imagined and the two were almost joining up with only a centimetre between them, so surgery was the only option.

It was all such a whirlwind, the next thing I knew I was being prepped for surgery, and then I awoke in recovery!  It was a big surgery, almost 5 hours long and a lot more complicated than the doctors had first thought.  They had to open me up and pull in the muscles from the sides, remove the tissue that had been stuck and fix the two hernias with two types of mesh.  One was made from pig skin, so you can officially call me Miss Piggy!

incisional hernia with ostomy surgery

After a few days in hospital, I asked to be discharged home on Monday and have been recovering at home since then.  It has been really painful, a lot more painful than my last hernia op, than in comparison was extremely simple. I feel like a punchbag, I am pretty much bed ridden and really struggling to do much at all.  I am feeling quite emotional and sad about it all, I think it is just the shock of everything happening so quickly, it is taking a bit of time for my head to catch up with the rest of me.

It’s all a bit sudden to be honest and has thrown things up in the air as I am due to start a new job and also because I am about to fly to India in a couple of weeks and so I was in a real panic going to surgery as I had no idea how it would affect these things.  But after talking with Timm, we are on it.  To be honest, it is good timing for the job, I’m not due to start till after my hols and so it means that it is done and dusted before work starts.

Regarding India, it is a bit scary.  If this were just a holiday, I would cancel.  But we are going to our family’s home town where they are honouring my grandfather who passed away this year in a football match and commemoration where we are scattering his ashes.  It is so important to me to attend and so I am fighting through.  Doctors are backing me on this as they understand how much it means and I am under instruction to wear surgical stockings, have daily blood thinning injections and a whole list of other things to keep me healthy.  We are getting a wheelchair to help me whilst we are away and Timm, my mum and the kids are all going to help support me too.

incisional hernia with ostomy surgery staples

So the next couple of weeks is all about rest and healing.  I am doing nothing other than concentrating on my health and getting fit and ready for what I hope is the start of a new chapter in my life.  The past three years have been so difficult, with surgeries, anxiety, illness, fatigue and depression, but now I feel I am turning a new page (ALLLLLL the cliches are coming out now!) and with a surgery to fix all the hernias done, my ileostomy settling in and a new job, I hope life is going to be brighter.

 

Thank you all so much for all your love, support and care

 

You are awesome

 

Sam xx

Vanilla Blush – Ostomy underwear that makes you feel awesome

I met Nicola at the recent Get Your Belly Out Ball who is the owner of Vanilla Blush and we got talking about the brilliant work she has done in the field of Ostomy Underwear.  As an ostomate herself, Nicola has created a range of beautiful underwear specifically designed for people with an ostomy bag.  Nicola kindly sent me some of her products to try and I am so impressed!

There are ranges for both men and women and they go from hernia support wear to swimwear to beautiful but practical underwear.  They look like any other high waisted underwear from the outside but have an internal pouch that houses your ostomy bag, keeping it off your skin and close to your body.

sam cleasby Nicola dames Vanilla Blush ostomy underwear

I tried them out and I can’t believe how great they feel, I have never worn specific ostomy underwear before, always choosing everyday pants but now I have tried these, I am a bit in love.  I think originally I felt that they were trying to hide the ostomy bag away and I wasn’t comfortable with that, but having tried them, they are so practical and cleverly designed and make me feel awesome.

What I love most about them is they are not medical, they don’t look any different to beautiful lingerie, the website doesn’t scream “SICK PANTS FOR SALE HERE!”  Buying and wearing these knickers just felt like a great experience.  I don’t want reminders of my illness, especially not when Im trying to wear something to feel good and Vanilla Blush get it so right.

Going from a UK size 6-8 up to a 20-22, there is a good range of sizes so most people should be able to find something for them.

I wore the hernia support vest and I felt really held in and like my hernia was well supported, and it looks like any other vest.  This allowed me to do some gardening and housework, something I had been struggling with before. (Although after taking this photo, I realised I had it on backwards!!!)

vanilla blush ostomy underwear hernia support vest

I love that all the models on the website are real people with real ostomies.

I also tried the other knickers and just fell in love with them, I felt in control, beautiful and awesome. My sister saw them and wanted a pair for herself and she doesn’t have an ostomy! They feel very well made, as good as any high end underwear I have bought before and wash well.  I have to admit that I put them through the washing machine before reading the website which advices hand washing, but they did survive a 40 degree wash with no ill effects.

vanilla blush ostomy underwear

 

Warning… If you are my mother or child or don’t want to read about sex, step away from this post now!

Still here? OK, so Vanilla Blush do some crotchless knickers.  I loathe to use that term as it sounds so tacky and creepy.  The underwear is the same shape as the other pants but has a split gusset that looks like normal knickers when together or when separated it is open.  I wasn’t sure about these, we got them out and had a giggle and talked about the connotations of crotchless knickers.  Then I tried them on out of curiosity more than anything.

As you know, I don’t like talking about my sex life on here, but I have to say, they are a very clever design.  It’s not that I want to hide my ostomy bag or that it shouldn’t be seen, it’s more that the presence of it can sometimes be off putting, the rustle of it is a subtle reminder that it is there and so these pants mean you can be intimate whilst your bag is safely in the pouch and flat to your body.  The pants looked classy and like beautiful lingerie, it didn’t feel seedy or weird but just that someone had actually thought about the sex life of people with an ostomy, which is something hospitals and doctors simply aren’t doing.

OK, enough sexy talk!

vanilla blush

These knickers rock, I adore them! Go take a look at the website and if you are in the UK, take a look at the prescriptions page, you can apply for:

  • UNDERWEAR: 6 pairs per-year (these have an internal Stoma-support pocket).
  • SUPPORTWEAR: 3 items per-year (Level 2/3 flexible Hernia Prevention Support inbuilt).

 

If buying yourself, prices for underwear go from £13 -£20.  Not cheap I know, but they are of such a great quality and certainly compare positively to more expensive lingerie, I think it is well worth the money and will certainly be buying more.

 

Sam xx

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review, but I was sent the underwear for free from Vanilla Blush.  From time to time, I work with companies who sponsor me in some way, either though payment or products.  I will only work with companies that I believe have something positive to offer my lovely readers.

 

Weight Loss – Operation No Operations – Week 1

So after my news last week that I now have two hernias, I decided to try and lose some weight.  I am adamant that I do not want surgery until it is absolutely necessary and so I spoke to my doctor about the benefits of me losing weight and we agreed that it would really help with the hernias.  Thus begins Operation No Operations!

I looked at groups such as Slimming World and Weight Watchers and though I know that they are great for some people, I thought they weren’t for me for a couple of reasons.  One is that I don’t want to go to classes and two is that my medical history scares the bejesus out of most people and I wasn’t sure as to whether they would understand.  On a side note, if you are interested in Slimming World, take a look at the very lovely Wit Wit Woo and her 5 month weight loss journey.

I bought myself a fitbit that tracks my steps, heart rate, sleep and through the app, I can log my food and track my calories.  I aim for 1400 calories a day, but I don’t freak out if I go over and I am doing 10,000 steps a day.  I am finding that the fitbit and app are keeping me on track, on days where I am well under on my steps, I am forcing myself to get out and get my steps up.  It is a huge boost to my will power to have a watch that is gently reminding me to get moving.  I even filmed one of my dog walks when I had to force myself to get out even though it was raining!

I haven’t been hungry this week at all, I am making sure I eat three meals a day and just avoiding snacks, though last night the desire for a Feast ice cream was just too strong and so I had one and enjoyed every bite! I have been really shocked at how many calories are in things, it has made me realise why I am overweight.  170 calories in a gin and tonic, yo!!!

I am also looking at my portion sizes and weighing out my food, I realised that my average bowl of cereal is twice the recommended portion size! I am finding that I appreciate my food a lot more and I am enjoying eating.  I have always had a thing about clearing my plate and so often would carry on eating even after I felt full just because there was food still on my plate.  Smaller portions mean I eat well and then if I am still hungry, I can always go back for a little more.

The thing that is important to me is not denying myself anything that I really want.  I was so limited with what i could eat when I had my jpouch that now I hate to be told I can’t eat something.  I am very lucky with my current ileostomy that there is nothing so far that I can’t eat.  I just chew everything well and drink plenty.  Even though I am limiting calories, I have found it quite simple to still eat filling and delicious food.

So how has it gone? Well here’s the numbers.

Starting weight – 16th May 2016 – 13 stone 13 lb

Week one – 23rd May 2016 – 13 stone 8 lb

fitbit weight loss blog

I lost 5 lb this week!!! I can’t believe it! I have eaten well and never once felt hungry, an example of my diet this week…

Breakfast – Granola with 0% fat natural yoghurt and sliced mango, strawberry and pineapple

Lunch – Salami, parma ham, mozzarella, feta, humous and fresh bread

Dinner – Baked potato and sausage casserole

Snack – satsuma

I am drinking plenty, either water or no added sugar squash, tea and coffee.  I do like fizzy pop and I am trying to reduce the amount I am drinking, but it is sugar free. (I know, I know, it’s still bad!!)

I don’t feel strong enough to exercise yet, my hernias scare me and so I am walking a lot, I am aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day and also doing some work in the allotment.  I am trying to be active every hour, which is something the fitbit encourages.  I am wearing support garments from Vanilla Blush or just a pair of strong support ‘fat’ pants, you know, that underwear that is supposed to suck you in?

sam cleasby blogger allotment operation no operations

So there we go, that was week one of weight loss.  I wasn’t sure whether to blog about this, I am not an advocate of dieting and think women are pushed into weight loss all the time.  I am a size 16-18 and classed as overweight, my BMI was 28.7 which is on the verge of obese (which I find ridiculous as I do not think I am obese!)  Despite what society tells me, I love my body, I don’t mind that I am bigger than some, I genuinely feel happy in my own skin.

But this weight loss is for my health and so I feel I must go ahead with it.  I am so terrified at the thought of more surgery that I really want to do everything I possibly can to have positive affects on my health.  I don’t think we all need to be the same size and shape but I do think we all need to be responsible for our own health and for me, right now, this means dropping a few pounds and putting less strain on my stomach and hernias.

 

For anyone thinking of losing weight, especially those of us with IBD or other medical needs, do speak to a health professional first and make sure the changes you make are healthy and positive.

 

Sam xx

 

When the struggle feels never ending

I visited my consultant yesterday (yes, on a Saturday because despite the reports, we DO have an NHS on the weekend!) I’ve been having stomach pains, feeling very tired and more worrying, some weird swellings in my stomach.  I knew what he was going to say, but it didn’t make it any less devastating when he told me I have two hernias. 

Fuck. Two?! 

I have a parastomal hernia, which means it sits right behind my stoma and an incisional hernia in my belly button.  I can’t actually explain just how upset I am.  I know some people may think that a hernia is a minor thing, but it affects you every day and limits what you can and can’t do.  But worse than that for me, is that they can only be fixed through surgery.  I just feel my struggle is never fucking ending. 

Just saying the word ‘surgery’ makes me anxious, I feel hot, my palms sweat and my mouth goes dry.  I feel like crying and running away.  The word takes me back to a dark place of hospital wards, pain, suffering and sadness.  I feel panicky and sick. 

Mr Brown saw my face and asked me what I’d like to do, he said surgery is the treatment for this and I just shook my head. “No. I can’t.  I’m not ready in my body or my mind to face surgery again.”  He smiled and agreed, saying he thought I was right and that we should wait as long as possible to operate. 

I asked about alternate ways to help during this time, I already wear support underwear (see Vanilla Blush for support underwear that doesn’t look like your nan bought it) and I try to not over exert my tummy muscles.  I have spoken to my stoma nurse about getting some other hernia support designed for people with an ostomy. 

The other thing is my weight. There’s too much of it. 

I asked Mr Brown if losing weight would help and he said yes.  It will help with the pressure on my stomach and when I do face surgery it will be better for me to be a bit lighter.  I’m a size 16-18, my BMI is 28, I am classed as overweight and plus size. I genuinely like how I look, I don’t diet because I don’t feel that I need to be thinner.  Now I am being told that losing weight would be really beneficial to my health and so it is time to shed a few pounds. 

I know this will be hard, I’ve been overweight since I started having babies but if this will hold off the surgery then it something I must do. 

Regarding the tummy pains and aches, I was told that I’ve had a lot of surgery, there are a lot of internal scars and unfortunately, it is just part of healing. I’ve had a lot taken away inside so I suppose things are moving around and settling which causes pain.  Regarding the tiredness I had bloods taken to test my vit b12 so Ill wait and see what they say about that. 

I’m trying to be positive and look for the ways I can help myself. But really I want to hide in a duvet and cry. I’m absolutely devastated. Have I not been through enough? Does the struggle never end? After each of the 4 surgeries I’ve had in the past 3 years, I think it will be my last, I think that this is the one that makes everything ok, but it never does. 

There’s always something else around the corner and I’m so tired of being unwell and broken.  When does it all end? When will I be ok? 

I don’t know the answer to this question but I do know that I have no other choice but to plod on and keep going.  I’ll recite my Yorkshire mantra that “it’ll be reight” and keep smiling. 

Sam X 

Appointment update

Just wanted to update you all on yesterday’s hospital appointment after my hernia surgery.

Mr Brown is fairly sure this lump is a seroma, a gathering of fluid. To confirm this I am having a scan next Friday and if it is fluid they will drain it with a needle.

If it is anything else we will deal with it as and when!!

Thanks for all the lovely messages yesterday. I am feeling quite upset at another setback but my doctor did say “after all you’ve been through, this is nothing!!”

I’m trying to stay positive. Something’s the only way to deal with that is to take one appointment at a time. So I’m not looking past the scan right now. Thinking of needles and drains or infections or hernias is just too much to bear and so I need to keep focussed on what is real, what is planned and what I know for sure.

Thanks again lovelies

Sam xx

Op update

After my latest hernia surgery 2 weeks ago I have tried to rest and recover as well as fitting in quite a lot of work! I know people say to take it easy but both my husband and I both run businesses where if we don’t work, there’s no wage!

I wore a corset whenever I was up and about to support my stomach but found after a week, a large hard lump formed behind my scar. I was scared that the hernia had come straight back through but it feels different to that.

As always I have been trying to tell everyone around me that I’m fine and just power through and deal with it. In reality I feel gutted that there is yet another setback.

Mr Brown doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about and suggested it was a seroma. A seroma is a pocket of clear serous fluid that sometimes develops in the body after surgery. When small blood vessels are ruptured, blood plasma can seep out; inflammation caused by dying injured cells also contributes to the fluid.

He has booked me in today for an appointment to take a look at it and so I will update as soon as I know anything more.

I just want to be healthy and to not have any more issues. I know this sounds really minor and it is in the grand scheme of things but it tough when you feel that it’s just one thing after another. I want to know when I get a break from all this, you know?

I’m so fed up of hospitals, doctors and medical crap! I just want to be healthy! It’s not too much to ask is it?

Anyway rant over, I will update soon.

Sam xx

Hernia Surgery Update

I had my hernia surgery two weeks ago and realised that I hadn’t posted an update here (though I have been on facebook and twitter).  I have had a super busy week working with the amazing arts group Responsible Fishing and so have just not had a minute!

So to the hernia surgery!  Our fab friends Caroline and Jamie had the kids for us the night before as I needed to be at hospital at 7am and so it made life loads easier to not have to get three kids up and out for 6am.  I had to stop eating at midnight the night before and no fluids from 6am.  I arrived at the hospital and was taken up to my room where Mr Brown came to see me along with the anaesthetist and nurses.

I was second on the morning list and so went down to theatre at around 9am, and after just a couple of hours was back up on the ward feeling pretty sore and very sleepy but not bad at all.  I was very relieved to not feel sick as after the last operation I awoke vomiting and felt nauseas for days.  That was when I discovered that I have bad reactions with the anti sickness drug Cyclozine and so I was quite anxious this time.

cyclozine allergic reaction

The first night I had quite a bit of pain but was able to control it with just paracetamol and codeine and I was allowed home the following morning.  The only issue was my sleepy bowel… I just couldn’t go to the toilet.  It was the oddest feeling as since my jpouch surgery last May, I go to the toilet and poo AT LEAST 6 times a day and so to just not go at all for nearly 3 days was bizarre!!!

I was a little worried but was told it was very normal after surgery and just to keep an eye on it and to call them and potentially go back to hospital if it didn’t ‘wake up’ after 3 days.  But sometime on day three, my small intestines awoke with some ridiculously loud grumbles and I eventually went to the loo.

paralysed ileum

The first couple of days I had some soreness, but nothing compared to the last two surgeries!  It was well controlled with codeine and paracetamol and I also wore a corset to feel a little more supported.  By day 4 I was up and pottering around the house and day 9 saw me go away with work for 4 days!

I had been very nervous about the op, but it all seems to be going well.  There is a lot of hard swelling behind my scar and I have a little soreness by the end of the day but I am feeling ok.  I am still very tired, I think perhaps its the general anaesthetic that takes it out of you, but with the odd nap and lots of early nights I am doing very well.

hernia ostomy incisional scar

Thanks for all the lovely messages of support, it means so much!

 

Sam x

Hernia surgery tomorrow

So the big day is tomorrow! I am in at 7am for surgery on my incisional hernia with an overnight stay.  I started 2015 with two wishes, I didn’t want to have an operation or move house this year.  Unfortunately it wasn’t to be…

My hernia is very small and usually quite flat but when I exert myself, it pops out and is sickeningly painful and so it is stopping me from exercising and doing the things I want to do.  I have such a busy year with work and I need to be in good physical condition to manage it all.  Hernias only get worse with time, they won’t improve without surgery and so I know that this surgery is the right thing to do.

But I am nervous as hell.  A few people have said that “it’s only a small surgery” and that “it’s nothing compared to the last two”, they are right and I know they are only trying to set my mind at ease but I really am terrified and feeling anxious and sad about this operation.  

The thought of having another general anaesthetic is scaring me, I know they do it all the time but the risks are there.  I’m frightened at the thought of just not waking up.  I’m also scared of there being complications with the operation, but I have Mr Brown operating which definitely puts my mind at ease though I’m still nervy and shaky.

Timm is taking me in to hospital at 7am and I’ll be in overnight. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or like me on facebook then I will probably be posting on there before the blog.

I am extremely anxious and feeling weepy and sad but I am going to pull on my big girl pants and I’ll be ok. The kids are worried as they always are if I have to go into hospital but Timm is going to bring them to visit tomorrow.

Our amazing friends Caroline and Jamie are having the kids tonight so we don’t have to rush with them in the morning and they are looking after them tomorrow so Timm can stay with me. We’re so lucky to have such fantastic friends who are always there for us and offer to have the children whenever we are in need. I can’t thank them enough and love them very very much.

So I’m off now as I think I’m chuntering on…

Thanks for all the lovely good luck messages as well as the cards and flowers.

✌️& ❤️

Sam xxx

Hernia date booked!

Very quick update about Harry the hernia… I blogged about getting the news I was being treated at a private hospital.

Well, my letter has come through and I’m booked in for the 21st March! Just under 3 weeks time.

IMG_0371.JPG

Though I know it’s a routine operation and I trust my fabulous surgeon Mr Brown implicitly, I am very nervous. I think psychologically, I associate hospitals with so much pain and missing my family and so my anxiety levels are quite high thinking about surgery.

I even thought about cancelling, I just got myself in a bit of a panic and was thinking that the hernia isn’t that bad and that I could live with it. The reality is that it isn’t as bad as the last one. But it is uncomfortable every day and stops me doing things. It’s a sharp sickly pain when it pops out but because it’s not agony, I was thinking maybe I should wait.

I got over myself though and know I need this surgery to help me feel like I’m back on the road to recovery and so I will be going ahead.

IMG_9960.JPG

I’m hoping that the change in environment may help my anxiety. I’ve never been to this hospital before and so it’s a different feeling to going ‘back’ to the Northern General. The place looks gorgeous and I’ll hopefully only be in for one night.

As with all surgeries, I have this panic that I won’t wake up. But I trust Mr Brown and really do feel like I’m in the safest hands and so I need to try to let go of that fear and accept that I will be cared for.

The kids are upset about me going back in.  They always get very concerned when I have to go into hospitals even if it’s just for a clinic visit, as they are afraid I will stay there for a couple of weeks.  But I have assured them that it will be a brief stay, the doctors say one night in, and this hospital doesn’t have set visiting hours and I will have a private room so they should be able to visit me whenever they like.  This really helps Timm as trying to arrange visits and school runs was quite stressful for him before.

I am having an operation on an Incisional Hernia, which means the weakness is where they cut me for the stoma, this is my second hernia op in a year and unfortunately the chances of it coming back are quite high.  But I will plod on in the hope that one year I will go a full 12 months without any surgery!!

 

I will, of course be blogging up to and after my surgery, so do keep reading!

 

Sam x

Hernia surgery update

I have been awaiting a date for hernia surgery, I am hoping this op is going to set me back on a healing path. My hernia isn’t large but it’s uncomfortable every day and is stopping me doing the things I want to do.

Anyway I heard from my consultants secretary this week. Mr Brown was unhappy with the time I’ve been waiting and has asked for me to be booked in to the private hospital in town rather than the usual one.

It’s a bit of a shock but for once, a nice one! Surgery should be within the next few weeks and will be with Mr Brown rather than just on the general list as was planned before. This has calmed some of my anxiety over this operation.

I was adamant that 2015 was going to have two things NOT happen for me. No house moving and no surgeries!!! After two huge ops in 2013 and 2014, I was really hoping for no cutting open of Sam!! Unfortunately that’s not to be, and I have been feeling really upset, angry and anxious. So the knowledge that I will be under Mr Brown’s care has really lifted my spirits and calmed some of my nerves.

Mentally I am struggling at the minute. I have just so much jumbling through my mind right now. Illness, jpouch, hernia, accidents plus my cut hand that’s still strapped up along with parenting and personal issues are making me feel fucking crazy. I am filled with self doubt, anxiety and sadness.

I’m carrying on regardless. Trying not to piss off everyone around me and just keep going. My head is swimming but I’m trying hard to work through my anxieties and sleep issues. I’ve downloaded a meditation app that I’m using at night to help me relax and sleep.

We are off to Filey for a few days next week and though we still have to work, it will be really nice to get some sea air, get out walking and have a change of scenery.

I’ll be photographing and instagraming my break next week so if you don’t already, head over and follow me over there (samcleasby)

Sam xx