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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

Ileostomy Diet

I thought Id do a post about diet, as it’s one of the questions I get asked a lot… What can you eat?

In the long term, Im advised that I’ll be able to eat what I like within reason.  That I will find my way with foods that agree with me and foods that don’t.  The ones that don’t will be things that cause excess gas, blockages and stomach pain.

In the short term I have been advised to keep a very low fibre diet.  All the things I *think* are good for my body seem to not be right now.  The doctors say its a good idea to eat a low-fibre diet for the first few months after your operation. This is because the surgery causes your bowels to swell, making digesting fibre difficult.  Once the swelling has subsided (usually after eight weeks) you can resume a normal diet.  It is advised to avoid any foods that may cause stoma obstruction including fibrous meats, vegetables like corn, cabbage, celery, green peppers and peas; and fruit skins and seeds, nuts, dried fruits and popcorn.

diet funny ecard

The following foods are generally allowed on a low-fiber diet:

  • Enriched white bread or rolls without seeds
  • White rice, plain white pasta, noodles and macaroni
  • Crackers
  • Refined cereals such as Cream of Wheat
  • Pancakes or waffles made from white refined flour
  • Most canned or cooked fruits without skins, seeds or membranes
  • Fruit and vegetable juice with little or no pulp, fruit-flavored drinks and flavored waters
  • Canned or well-cooked vegetables without seeds, hulls or skins, such as carrots, potatoes and tomatoes
  • Tender meat, poultry and fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Creamy peanut butter — up to 2 tablespoons a day
  • Milk and foods made from milk, such as yogurt, pudding, ice cream, cheeses and sour cream — up to 2 cups a day, including any used in cooking
  • Butter, margarine, oils and salad dressings without seeds
  • Desserts with no whole grains, seeds, nuts, raisins or coconut

On a low fibre diet you should avoid the following foods:

  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta
  • Brown or wild rice and other whole grains such as oats, kasha, barley, quinoa
  • Dried fruits and prune juice
  • Raw fruit, including those with seeds, skin or membranes, such as berries
  • Raw or undercooked vegetables, including corn
  • Dried beans, peas and lentils
  • Seeds and nuts, and foods containing them
  • Coconut
  • Popcorn

One of the biggies with an ileostomy is keeping hydrated.  The large bowel takes liquid out of our foods, so in removing it, you remove a good chunk of the water our bodies need.  I have found that Im constantly thirsty and Im drinking pints and pints of squash.  I find water just goes straight through me, but adding the squash keeps it in longer.  High outputs from an internal pouch or stoma run a real risk of dehydration due to water and salt losses.  Aim for at least 8-10 cups of fluid per day, and increase this if losses are high.

If you have diarrhoea you need to ensure you are replacing both the fluids and the salts.  Over the counter remedies should be kept to hand or you can make an electrolyte mix.  I found this recipe online…

Glucose 20g

Sodium Chloride 31⁄2g

Sodium Bicarbonate 21⁄2g

Made up to one litre with tap water

You can buy the powders from any pharmacy and some supermarkets. Sodium Chloride is table salt which you may have in your home already. Sodium Bicarbonate is also known as Bicarbonate of Soda.

A good tip from my stoma nurse for dehydration is to keep some ready salted crisps in the house.  If you have a high output and are worrying about being dehydrated a packet of crisps and a sweet drink can be an instant help till you can get some Dialryte or Electrolyte mix!

Just been reminded by my sister in law of another tip! Apparently if you have diarrhoea, you can help ‘stop up’ your output by eating 30 marshmallows!! That was in the info book they gave me in hospital – I don’t know why I find it so funny but I do…

Another problem is salt.  The bowel takes the salt we need from our food, so in the first few weeks you can safely add a bit more salt to your food to ensure you are getting enough.

As always, if you are reading this and looking for advice, the best place to go is your own doctor or stoma nurse.    The information here is what I have gleaned from my health professionals and the wonder of the tinternet!

Love Sam xx