Been there, done it, will have the scars to prove it.

Yesterday was a long day. Out of the house at 6.50am, returning at almost 10.00pm.

The good news is that surgery went well and I’ve exchanged a pair of ovaries and Fallopian tubes for a bloated abdomen and four wound dressings. I’m tempted to draw lines between the dressings forming an X. At the intersection a small sign reading “No probe zone… NHS beat you to it” could be tattooed as a means to deter any passing aliens who might decide to abduct me and commence experimentation. I have news for aliens with those kinds of ideas. I already participated in clinical trials and research programmes so if high-quality abductee material is what you’re after you won’t find it here. (You’re also all out of luck with sex and human-alien hybridisation programmes).

Despite many attempts to be helpful when it comes to veins, drips, cannulas and the like – I live in here, I know this body – the anaesthetist was sure he’d raise a good vein at the base of my left thumb. Hah! They all got burned with chemo. He did manage to insert the cannula in a reasonably painless manner, then the vein immediately collapsed. My pre-op notes say ‘POOR VENOUS ACCESS LEFT SIDE.’  As “I tried to save you wasted effort” went through my mind, Mr Sleepy said “let’s try the other side, get you to sleep and sort the rest out later.” A few minutes later I was, thankfully, asleep.

A couple of hours later I came round in the theatre antechamber. Someone was tugging at my foot while Mr C the surgeon smiled and said “good job.” I hadn’t really come round at that point but soon realised my friend the anaesthetist had made at least two more attempts at veins on the underside of my left wrist and half way up my left arm. Those had obviously – unsurprisingly – failed and were covered in surgical tape and teal-green swab material. It’s exactly the shade I had in mind for new curtains but I’m reconsidering my options having seen it firmly taped to various bits of me. It’s a shame because I like the colour but constant reminders of another trip to theatre might prove just a little off-putting.

By around 1pm I discovered the tugging at my left foot was someone changing a saline drip. It came to light when recovery nurse S looked at me in a very puzzled way and said “where on earth have they connected that?!” Beneath four layers of cellular blankets (anaesthetic makes me shiver uncontrollably for the first hour after surgery) she uncovered the truth… The chemo-scarred veins in my left arm had beaten Mr Sleepy who had resorted to a dorsal digital vein. Is nowhere to spared I wonder?

All was going well with recovery until my blood pressure dropped to 86 over 44. Nurse S decided to lay me out flat and tilt the bed backwards at a 30 degree angle. I spent the next two hours in semi-headstand position wishing I could have something to eat and drink. By that point it had been around 24 hours since my last meal and 14 since my last sip of water but health and safety law says patients cannot be fed/watered if lying upside-down. Damned Eurocrats. When the blood pressure stubbornly resisted any reading above 94/60 they took the cuff off, turned me right-way-up and decided a cup of tea and some biscuits might prove more helpful. From my point of view it was certainly more enjoyable than dangling head-down while the machine went ‘beep.’ Being in hospital is the only time I eat biscuits these days.

There was a danger I might have to stay overnight and although the rooms at KTC are very nice they aren’t nice enough to make me stay when another option is available. I came home with more  cocodamol and some extra wound dressings.

Today the wounds are sore and I feel like someone used my stomach as a punchbag but I’ve only had two cocodomol so it’s not that bad. Reading around it seems this surgery can make a tangible difference. “In high-risk women (that’s me) and mutation carriers, cohort studies of risk-reducing surgeries (mastectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy) showed substantially reduced risks for breast or ovarian cancer, with breast cancer reduced by 85% to 100% with mastectomy and by 37% to 100% with oophorectomy, and ovarian cancer reduced by 69% to 100% with oophorectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy” – Cancer Research UK. Meanwhile the current challenge, aside from recovery, is to keep off cocodamol. Being restless and irritable doesn’t suit me.