I had a letter from the hospital saying my operation was booked for 01 September, so I had to go back to hospital for my pre-op checks. Essentially it was a chat with the surgeon, some blood tests and a really pleasant conversation about stoma bags. The chat with the surgeon was interesting, mainly because I thought they were going to take just the small chunk of intestine out where the cancer was.
However, the surgeon told me they had planned on taking the whole of my large intestine out – and maybe some of my lower. The good news with colorectal surgery, they take out your appendix for free – god bless the NHS!!!
The surgeon told me that the surgery would be keyhole and I would have a series of entry and exit scars on my belly. I should be able to live a normal life after surgery but may find my stools (sorry) to be a little looser. That fact didn’t bother me after six months of constipation and a horrendous amount of laxatives a day.
However, then the stoma chat started, essentially when they stitch my intestines back together they have to perform a ‘leak’ test to ensure I’m all sealed up, so there is only one exit out my body. If the surgeon has concerns of any leaks in my system they would attach a temporary stoma bag until I was healed.
I nodded and understood the issue, however the enormity of the situation was too much and my brain shut down into a fog. The issue with Covid is that you have to go to appointments alone, so there is no one there to sense check what specialists are saying and ask questions.
I realised once again I am not a person that really relishes for details. The surgeon sent me to a stoma nurse who gave me a kit to take home and read up about. The nurse was lovely but I didn’t want to hear the details of life (even temporary) with a stoma, it was too big for me to comprehend and too much of a change in my life. The nurse told me that life with a stoma (even temporary) could be normalised, she told me about the bag itself being discrete. I decided it would be easier to deal with it if it happened, if I woke from the operation with a stoma bag I would deal with it all then.
The operation was close now and I was so nervous about all of that – I had not stayed in a hospital since my early 20s and I was frightened. This was major surgery for a condition that might kill me – I went home that day and just cried, how could this happen to me??
I rang the doctors that week to speak to a GP. I struggle mentally as winter approaches anyway, a combination of lack of sunlight but also because the start of Autumn and Winter coincides with my brothers birthday and death anniversary. This is followed by Christmas, another time where I miss my brother immensely.
The fact that I now had major trauma going on, I asked to be put back on sertraline and I was given a couple of diazepam to help my anxiety before the operation. I’m actually really proud of myself for calling my GP, I was preparing myself mentally for battle and giving myself some assistance. I found I have no side effects from Sertraline, a couple of weeks of being a bit dead inside and then I’m normal and functional. With happy pills on order, I had to prepare for the operation, the start of a long week.