Monday, 25 April 2016

On The Mend and (gingerly) Raring to Go

Some of you may know that I've had a bit of a problem with my tummy for quite a few years. There was a lump above my belly button that just kept getting bigger and bigger. Of course, my first thought was cancer. Isn't that the way we all think? It wasn't. I was first told it was a divaricated rectus muscle, and that it was not hospital policy to operate on them as they weren't life threatening.  It wasn't exactly life-enhancing either! But I couldn't argue, as it was the policy.

I know I'm a big girl anyway, but it made me feel a bit freakish having this lump sticking out. Especially in the last couple of years when it got bigger still. The only positive was that I always got a seat on the tube as people assumed I was pregnant. I didn't disabuse them on the notion and was always rather flattered that they thought I was still young enough.  Luckily Fashionworld do a nice line in tents so I stocked up on those...

It didn't only look awful. It was uncomfortable too, causing me all sorts of aches and pains, and other tummy troubles. It felt as if the life were being sucked from me, and as much as I tried to do all the things I enjoy doing, like going to the RNA events and conferences, it always took a huge toll on my energy levels, and took me days to recover.

Anyway, last year I went to my doctor and literally burst into tears, telling him how awful I felt about this lump and he agreed it was about time they did something about it. I was sent to the hospital again, and told that the original divaricated rectus muscle had actually become a large hernia. Oh joy. I was also told that they couldn't operate unless I lost 3st. I was to return in February 2016 to see how I was getting on. In fact, I've been amused by recent 'news' that overweight people are being told to diet before they have operations, as it's always been thus and to be fair, I don't think it's an unreasonable ask. And I was assured that if the hernia became strangulated, they would operate anyway, but they would prefer if it could be elective surgery.

Losing weight is not easy, especially when you do have other health problems. But I went back to my doctor and asked if I could go on Orlistat (Xenical) and I joined a local Live Life Better group. And a bit later, I also bought myself a Fitbit. The upshot is that I finally lost nearly 4st. It made no difference to the lump, unfortunately, which looked bigger than ever.

I returned to the hospital in February, sure that they must operate now. But no. The consultant (who was actually rather dishy in television doctor sort of way), said he wanted to take an MRI scan first, to ensure there was nothing else lurking. So of course, the fear of cancer reared its ugly head again. I had the scan in the middle of March and didn't return to the hospital again until 1st April. Finally there was good news! There was nothing else lurking (so they thought...) and they'd operate. "When do you want it done?" he asked. "Tomorrow," I replied. We settled on 13th April.

Several pre-admission appointments later, I was at the hospital, finally waiting to have my operation. It was 4pm when they took me down to surgery and 7pm before I was put on the ward. The first thing I did was look down at my stomach to find it had disappeared! Oh, there was still flab, but the lump had stuck out six or seven inches, if not more, and it was gone! They also told me that they had found a smaller hernia hidden behind the large hernia, and had repaired that too. No wonder I'd felt so crappy for so long!

I have to say that, despite the long wait to finally get the operation, the staff at Chesterfield Royal Hospital looked after me really well. The ward I was on was very warm and friendly, with a lovely atmosphere.

I've been home since Saturday 16th April, and whilst I'm still a bit sore around the operation scar, and have to rest a lot, psychologically I feel better than I've felt for ages. I've even managed to get into some smaller dresses! I'm also working on the notes for a new Christmas novel and may even get some of it written this week. But I'm not pushing anything at the moment. I still have to have my staples out and build up my strength. I also need to keep up with the weight loss. I can't afford to become complacent and risk another hernia.

But it feels worth dieting now that I don't have that awful lump sticking out. I imagine it will also be much more comfortable to walk, once I get my Fitbit charged up again.

Unfortunately I won't make the RNA Summer Party, as it's towards the end of my recuperation period, and I can't really be lugging suitcases around London or being on my feet all night. I'm also going to give the conference a miss, whilst I build my strength back up again. But come November, I'll be there, at the RNA Winter Party, welcoming everyone in and hopefully wearing a posh new (several sizes smaller) frock! Meanwhile here's a picture of me and my darling granddaughter, Gracie, taken yesterday at our favourite breakfast place, The Lock Keeper.