In the days running up to my operation I scoured the web for information about what to expect. All that came up were discussion forums and a lot of negative experiences and I was feeling quite anxious about what was to come. So I thought I would do a quick update for anyone else out there that might be wondering about ostomy reversal.
All in all the hospital stay wasn’t too unpleasant. I was thrilled to awake to find I had no catheter and no drains, just a small bandage where my stoma used to be and underneath a small oval scar maybe 2cm x 1cm and no stitches to get removed. I had to stay in bed the rest of that day but the next day was already encouraged to get up and shower and managed absolutely fine. Because my hand was swollen where the IV was placed they removed it and looked to resite it. When they struggled to find an alternative vein I just told them to leave it out. So from the first day post op I was up and showered and dressed* and was attached to no drips or IVs, needles or cables of any kind, something that always makes me a much happier patient.
This first day post op was liquid only diet (packet juice for breakfast, small bowl of clear soup for lunch, and again for dinner). Because I had no IV fluids I was pretty hungry and getting a bit grumpy but my lovely wonderful H snuck me in a thermos of water and tea bags and milk so I kept myself going on cups of tea. I had some pain across my abdomen but it was easily controlled with regular intervals of paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Second day post op was purees (less said the better) and that night I had quite a bit of nausea and retched quite a lot which brings us swiftly to:
Third day post op the doctor wanted to keep me on purees another day because of the nausea from the day before. I was really not keen on that and told her pointblank that the purees were probably to blame and that if they put me on them again I would just eat food from home haha. I got my way and OH. MY. GOD. Talk about be careful what you wish for:
Is it fish? Is it chicken? We will never know because I did not touch it. And the courgettes! Why? WHY?
4th day post op I went home. Woot!
So all well and good but what ostomy patients probably want to know is about the poo situation. Now I do still vaguely remember a time in my life (all of it until a year ago) where I did not feel the need to share such intimate details of my toilet habits with all and sundry so feel free to stop reading here, no offense taken. What can I say? A year initiated into the world of bowel disease changes the parameters of what you consider polite conversation. I do still have boundaries, Poo just is now well inside them.
Nothing happened the first day. That night I did pass a small amount of liquid stool, a few times. Nothing urgent, painful or of great quantity. I didn’t do a whole lot more than that during my stay but my tummy was making plenty of gurgling noises and I had passed some gas so they were happy it all seemed to be working okay.
Once I came home the first few days were very light on toilet visits. That increased until lately I am going a lot, passing very small amounts at a time. I was very worried about this because before I was diagnosed I suffered really badly with running to the loo, urgency, constipation/diarrhea/ tenesmus. It was so hideous and I was really scared of being back there. But although I have to go a lot I CAN hold it, I haven’t been worried about not making it in time and haven’t had any accidents which I was warned was a possibility. Apparently night time incontinence can be a big issue but again that hasn’t happened so far. In fact I am sleeping really well and have only occasionally woken up in the early morning to go but that is a major improvement over waking every night to empty the bag. I also haven’t had diarrhea at all. Because I am going so often things could get delicate so I use wipes and go easy and so far so good. It is okay. So far it feels manageable and I am relieved and happy.
What has surprised me is feeling and looking quite bloated around my abdomen and I gather this can last a while. I was so excited to wear my jeans and tops and not have the bag bulge to worry about and feel a bit let down to have this big tum now instead. But that is a disgustingly superficial problem, I know, and I am working hard on not caring about it. The truth is the ileostomy seemed to keep my weight down and one thing that has helped keep my spirits up through all of this is that I have, ironically, looked really well all the way through. And a lot of that was losing a stray few kilos that I never managed to shift after having the kids. While my insides were falling apart my outside was glowing. Not all the time. I mean in the post chemo days I looked as hot as anyone can when they have laid in a bed for too many hours tossing and turning and sweating. Now I am fine. I am ok! There is nothing wrong with me. And those kilos might come back on but I am healthy inside and when I am feeling stronger I can hit up those hot yoga classes and get back on my long country walks and I may not be skinny but I will be strong.
And the bag? For all it didn’t bother me I don’t miss it either. I thought it would be a bit strange not to have it but it isn’t at all.
Its all good.
* I abhor hospital gowns. Cannot STAND them. Most people seem to think they are mandatory but I always get into my own clothes asap and it makes me feel a lot less like an infirm invalid and more like myself ergo; a whole lot better.