Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 6

December 2022…what a year this has been.

January started off with us still being hopeful and even buying a few baby clothes in the sale…we had started trying as per the advice from the sonographer. It was also the month that I turned 30! I didn’t have a birthday party or any celebrations apart from a meal with Steve and my parents, but I was surprised with a trip to Dubai for February.

February meant I was off to Dubai, and I was beyond excited! It was cold in the UK, and I was desperate for some sun and heat. The trip was absolutely amazing and I’m sure I’ll write a blog post in the coming weeks about Dubai and my experiences there.

March is when things started to crash around me. It was time to go back to London to speak to the gynaecology department with an update on the MRI that I’d had back in November 2021. I wish I could say the news was good…In short, we were told to immediately stop trying and that I’d be booked in for an operation as soon as possible. It would be another major operation and it carried more risks than the first time. But it was the only option aside from a hysterectomy. So, after a LOT of back and forth…we decided to go through with the operation. The rest of that day was spent walking around London feeling completely numb with shock. Crying in the British Museum, in P.F Chang’s, in the Lego store, etc. I also had a Vitamin D check done and it turns out, I am way too low on Vitamin D… not uncommon here in the UK…

April was a blur apart from the trip to the Netherlands for the tulips (which did not disappoint!) and to see family.

May was a trip to Vienna and Budapest with friends which was exactly what I needed! The perfect distraction from reality! I cannot recommend these places enough if you are looking for somewhere to travel to in Europe!

June was the month that I got the call with an operation date in the middle of Waitrose. 6th of July…just a couple weeks away…Mum whisked me away to Budapest for a couple days to take my mind off it all and to soak up more sun before I’d be on bed rest. The rest of the month just flew by and before I knew it, July was here.

July couldn’t have started any better for me though…Steve proposed!!!! I am now officially a fiancée! 1st of July will forever now be a special day for me. Those last few days before the operation flew by in excitement with wedding planning!

That excitement quickly moved to dread and fear on the night of the 5th. Tears wouldn’t stop flowing and I was ready to call the hospital and cancel it all. After a very restless and sleepless night…off Steve, dad and I went to London. They dropped me off and weren’t allowed to come up with me. I was escorted up to the pre op room where I had bloods drawn, many questions asked and forms to fill in. The one I hated the most was the one where I had to sign that I understood that I had a higher risk of death during this operation. I was all alone…crying my eyes out…hyperventilating. The nurses, doctors and anaesthesiologists tried their hardest to comfort me. Steve, mum and dad were texting me encouragement too, but I have never felt so alone and so scared. Here I was…having just turned 30…just gotten engaged with so much to live for and not knowing if I would come out the other end. Time stood still whilst I was in that room…I saw others come and go for their operations and mine never seemed to get closer. Eventually it was time.

The past few times I’ve been in hospital for operations, I’ve been taken to the room just before the operating theatre where I’ve been put under. Not this time…this time I was walked into the operating theatre. I was sat down on the operating table, and it was time for my epidural. It did not go smoothly…she was struggling to get into my lower back and suddenly nausea hit! I almost passed out and suddenly got so hot! The whole team stopped and cooled me down and calmed me down. They were honestly so amazing, and it calmed me down. The surgeons didn’t look nervous…so surely, I shouldn’t feel nervous. The second try of the epidural, she went a little higher and got it in one. What a weird feeling!! Being asked to move your limbs but not being able to at all! Before I knew it though, I was out like a light.

When I woke up, I was surprisingly ok…no pain…no nausea…had they actually operated?? Until I tried to move myself in the bed…the searing pain from my abdomen told me they had. The surgeon came to talk to me and reassured me that it went seamlessly. I lost a lot of blood, but they were able to get almost all the fibroids. I still had a womb, but I would probably need 3 or so smaller operations to remove the last few that were on the inside lining. The news had me crying for joy…I was alive…I still had a womb! The operation took a long time…close to 5 hours and I had 1.2kg of fibroids removed.

I’ll skip over my experience in the hospital as it wasn’t pleasant…recovering from a midline incision (belly button down) is not easy. But I learnt that I have really bad reactions to opioids and to anti-nausea medication. I managed to go home on Sunday the 10th where the real recovery started. I had been very sick and hadn’t eaten much over the last week. But eventually that started to fade, and my appetite started coming back. What I hadn’t mentioned yet was that as I came home, the UK had a heatwave. So here I was…recovering from a major operation…and it was close to 40 degrees Celsius almost every day. Our flat felt like an oven…and I couldn’t escape it. I would try and sit in our home office as long as I could, as that’s where we have an aircon unit, but sleeping was a challenge.

Fast forward to September and I finally have my follow up with the gynaecologist department and my surgeon…the news couldn’t have been better…yes, I still had fibroids, but they were extremely small, and I wouldn’t need any more operations…they would do an MRI to confirm this, but they were very optimistic. We were also given the green light to start trying from end of October and no time limit.

We know that I will need a hysterectomy at some point and the fibroids will be back…but for now…we are super optimistic…Recovery is slow, and I am still only 5 months into the 6-month recovery till I am mostly ‘back to normal’ but the difference in my life quality is insane.

The journey isn’t finished yet, but I am hoping that the next part might have more uplifting news…for now…if you have any pain or heavy periods…please go get checked for fibroids…the earlier you catch them…the easier they are to treat! All it takes is a quick ultrasound and its completely painless! I wish I had listened to Steve earlier and gotten checked much sooner.

But right now, I am mostly fibroid free and free to live my life again and to hopefully try and become a mum!

Fingers crossed 2023 is the year we’re able to get pregnant and have as safe a pregnancy as we can!

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 5

So it has been a couple years since my last blog post and I wish I could say that I was done with this story…Unfortunately that is not the case.

Rewind to late 2020 and I started noticing that it was becoming uncomfortable to lie on my stomach and that something didn’t feel right. After some badgering by my other half, I begrudgingly called the doctor to make an appointment. Fast forward to the start of 2021 and Covid is still in full swing meaning that doctors appointments are just phone consultations at first. It didn’t take long for the doctor to realise that I need to go back for another ultrasound.

After my surgery they had given me around 5 years before the fibroids reappeared but here I was…2 1/2 years after my operation and knowing something was wrong. It took a little time for my ultrasound to happen and the nerves were definitely high. At this point my womb had started growing again and the familiar signs were back, however I tried to stay positive and had thought that maybe it was just adhesions after the operation. However, no matter how much you try to stay positive…sometimes your gut feeling is just too strong.

Summer of 2021 and it was time for my ultrasound…with Covid still being around, no one could go in with me, so I had to stay strong. It was apparent very quickly though that it was worst case scenario…the fibroids were back and there were already 2 large fibroids. The lady doing the ultrasound was super sweet and reassuring because as you can imagine…I didn’t take the news well…I was fighting tears and feeling numb at the same time. Not only were the fibroids back and large…but they also told me that I probably had about a year or 2 to have a baby in with minimal risk. Those that know me, know that I would love to become a mum one day and have dreamt about it for a long time.

It has been several months now since the scan and in all honesty, I am still numb…I am still coming to terms with the news. What made it harder for me was that I had just started my relationship with my other half a couple weeks before the first lockdown in the UK and just over a year later we get the news of the fibroids. I had gotten myself so worked up on the drive over to him and was so scared that that was going to be it for us. But luckily he took it as well as could be expected.

Now here we are, at the end of 2021…I have just had an MRI a couple days ago and we are staying positive for the year 2022 that we’ll be able to either have a baby safely or have some form of treatment that gives us some extra time. I am still numb and still beat myself up occasionally but there are more positive thoughts and hope for the future.

So yes, my fibroids are back and that sucks, but there is hope…and that’s what we are holding on to. Here’s to a great 2022!

A Change of Perspective

So here I am, over a year since my last blog post, and not a lot has changed in my life…well actually, a lot has changed! This last year has been a year of growth and re-evaluations.

2019 was, in all honesty, not a great year for me. Depression and anxiety had a firm grip on me and I started to lose grip of reality. Which I couldn’t explain as I finally had my life back after my operation and things were looking up for me. And yet, I just couldn’t shake that monster sat on my shoulder. The year was spent crocheting and trying to go with the motion of my ‘new’ life…Traveling was suddenly easier and I wasn’t living in pain anymore.

The year ended with some absolutely amazing adventures in Costa Rica and in Scotland, where I suddenly realised that I needed to change how I was looking at life. I could go through life with a defeatest, negative attitude or I could pick myself up, see the positives and try and achieve my goals! Suddenly that monster started to lighten…I was able to handle more and see the bright side of life! And that’s when things started to change for me.

2020 starts in Scotland in a motorhome with my parents and a new outlook on life. 2020 was going to be the year that I change, that I started to grow as a person again. The first few weeks of January, I started looking and applying for jobs, when all of a sudden I find a dream job. I still have to take it easy and starting a working life had to be done slowly, and suddenly a job at Hobbycraft in High Wycombe appeared in my list. Part time, local, and in a shop that I love. Being a creative person through and through, this job was everything I could have wanted. So I sent off my application and the nervous wait started. To cut a long story short, I got the job!!!

First days are always nervewrecking but I was going to go into this with a positive attitude and try my hardest, as that is all I can do! Well here I am…just over a month later…and instead of being at work, we are on lockdown. I am loving my job and missing it terribly but this time is allowing me to work on myself. I started working out again and this time I am not giving up. I set small realistic goals for myself, instead of unrealistic goals that would set me up for failure.

One of the largest things to change in my life has been my perspective, and that has definitely been influenced by a special someone who unexpectedly came into my life. He pushes me on almost a daily basis to better myself and to see positives when I can. So here I am…in the midst of a lockdown and instead of letting the situation get on top of me…I am doing everything to thrive this year!

I am also now back with lots of new blog posts planned so make sure to check back regularly with lots of new content coming soon!!!

Hope you and your families are all keeping safe in this strange situation and that instead of letting this get on top of you…I hope you all thrive in the ways that you want! Whether that is finished that project you haven’t had the time for or having the time for readjustments, re-evaluations and relaxation!

Take it easy everyone!!! Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives!!!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough…

So here I am…7 months after my operation (check out the ‘Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness’ series if you aren’t sure what I am on about) and I am finally back on track. I am able to walk more than 50 metres without being out of breath…well unless I am walking with my mum, who runs more than walks!

We just had a bank holiday this past weekend in the UK and we thought we’d use the time to go and climb Pen Y Fan in south Wales. So after dropping mum off at the airport, who unfortunately had to go back to America for work, and off we went to Cardiff where we spent the night.

Following a filling and hearty breakfast and coffee at the ready, we drove into the Brecon Beacons and before I knew it…we were at the base of Pen Y Fan. From the road we could see how busy it was and it really didn’t look like it was much of a climb. Boy was I wrong.

Almost as soon as we started the ascent, I was already out of breath!!! However, after many breaks on the way up, we made it to the top of Pen Y Fan (886m) in just over 2 hours. We then also climbed Corn Du (873m) before a steep descent down a different route. We were so insanely lucky with the weather and somehow avoided the rain.

This might not seem like a huge feat, and the mountain really wasn’t that high, but for me this was huge. This was the first real challenge I’d had since my surgery. Finally having two lungs I could use to breathe and no pressure on my spine, definitely helped. Yes I was still very much out of breath and it took me a longer than I’d hoped but I made it!

Hiking will never be one of my favourite things to do but getting to the top, I couldn’t help but feel proud and happy of my achievements. It is also the first step on a long journey. Dad and I have challenged ourselves to climb either Mount Kilimanjaro or to do the Base Camp trek of Everest in 2020. So keep an eye out for our other climbs and adventures!!

What about you? What is your favourite mountain to climb? What has been your proudest moment this year so far?

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 4

   So here I am…3 months after my surgery. I wish I could say that it was all plain sailing and that I’m doing great. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the reality at all.

Recovery at Home:

   After I got home, I genuinely thought that recovery would be a whole lot faster. And it did…to an extent…I no longer heard women vomiting at all hours of the day…I was no longer sleeping on a plastic bed…I had my own bathroom again.

   But you know what? Getting on and off the sofa is really hard if you don’t have someone to help you! Using the stairs was an absolute pain and climbing in and out of the shower (we have a shower head over a bath tub…) was again, only possible if I had some help. I was literally living the invalid life. I couldn’t do anything without help.

   My poor parents gave up their bed for me as I couldn’t climb into mine (I have a mid-sleeper (similar to this…https://amzn.to/2Hagjco). So whilst I couldn’t use my stomach muscles…that bed was impossible to get in to! But it was a goal I could set myself…I gave myself two weeks, optimistic I know…but I managed it!

Stitches:

   The part that I dreaded the most was getting my stitches removed. Well, stitch. I had one running stitch with a bead on either end. I had had multiple nightmares about waking up and having pulled my stitch out in my sleep…but luckily that never happened. Instead, 10 days later I found myself at the hospital (unfortunately not the one where I had had my surgery and appointments) waiting for my name to be called.

   My doctors surgery was extremely busy, so the options I had was to wait a further 3 days and have them removed at my doctors, or go to the local walk in centre and have them removed there. So off dad and I went to the local hospital. My nerves were all over the place…Was it going to hurt? Was the entire wound going to open again? Would it be infected?

   After an almost 2 hour wait, my name was finally called. To say that the nurse was confident…that would be really pushing it! She looked so intimidated, which as someone with anxiety…it really didn’t help! Luckily the actual removal of the stitch and beads, I didn’t feel at all.

   However. She proceeded to look at the wound and didn’t look happy. Of course, where the beads had been, the wound hadn’t fully closed. She was also convinced that it was infected and proceeded to tell me that she was going to put a plaster over the entire area and it would have to stay on for a week.

   Alarm bells went off in my head on the way home…growing up, I always learnt that an open wound needed air to close. Not be completely enclosed. But, her being in the medical profession, dad and I trusted her opinion. So guess what…7 days later when it was time to remove the plaster…the plaster had turned to jelly and it was completely infected.

   So off I went to the doctors office where it was confirmed that it had become infected and I needed to go on antibiotics for 10 days.

 

Becoming ‘Normal’ Again:

   A couple weeks after the surgery, I was finally able to get in and out of the shower on my own, I was able to climb into my bed and I was finally able to move around, without moving at a snails pace.

   Reintegrating into society was different though. If you have read my previous blog posts, then you know that I suffer from anxiety. I had gotten so into my head over the previous weeks…scared that someone would hit my stomach and that would open the stitches again. Luckily that never happened…but I had to be careful.

   Even though I was physically starting to look ‘normal’. I still had to be careful. I learnt that the hard way when I decided to make my chunky veggie chilli (chunky-veggie-chilli/). Chopping the vegetables hurt. I ended up in bed for the following 2 days in pain. The frustration was unreal!

Life After:

   So here I am…writing this 3 months after my life changing surgery. Still a far way off being in full health. But a lot closer to that than I have ever been! I’m learning now what its like to have a healthy human body. The swelling is still going down and I’m feeling better in my skin.

   The one thing that no one warned me about was how intense the changes would be and there was no mental preparation. I also didn’t have any followup appointments for how I’m coping mentally. So the last couple months have been hard. I’ve been dark, but I’m working through a day at a time.

   Now I’m just looking forward to all the things that I couldn’t do before!

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New Year…New Opportunities

So it has been a while since I posted anything. The last couple months of 2018 was spent recovering and taking time for myself (check out ‘Living with a hidden…not so hidden illness’ if you haven’t already).

Post surgery life has been pretty boring, but I will talk more about that in detail another day. But it is a new year. 2019…Now I don’t know about you, but I cannot set new years resolutions without failing within the first week. So this year for the first time, I haven’t set any. Instead, I’m taking this year one day at a time.

I have to say, the prospects that are on the horizon for this year, do have me very excited to see what adventures lie ahead of me. What I do know is that this year I will be focusing on this blog and all things creative in my life! Whether that is more crocheting and knitting or trying my hand at painting again. Another major aspect that I will be working on this year is my mental health. As you are probably aware if you have read my blog posts throughout 2018, you will know that it was a very hard year for me. But 2019 is the year that I am really going to work on it! There is that saying of ‘new year, new me’, well it might be a cliche but I really am going to try to better myself and not let the past get me down anymore!

So what about you? Have you set any new years resolutions or goals for 2019?  Any tips to help with mental health?

Whatever this year brings, I hope it will be filled with happiness and love for all of you!

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 3

So here we are…a couple months after the last update and what a couple months it has been!

So after the hospital visit and finding out my surgery date, I have been busy getting the house and office pod ready for my recovery and getting mentally prepared for what was going to happen. Mum and I also planned a trip away for before the surgery as a distraction.

This trip was the perfect thing and exactly what I needed. We first as a family went to Holland to see the rest of the family for a couple days, and then mum and I went on to Paris and Disneyland Paris for a week. We came home only 2 days before my surgery so I didn’t give my brain the chance to panic too much. The day before my surgery was just spent buying the last few bits that I would need in the hospital and stuffing my face at Yo Sushi.

The morning of my surgery started early…the alarm going off at 5am so that we would arrive at the hospital for 7am. It was a bit of a blur once the hospital gown and compression stockings were on, a blur of blood draws, blood pressure and heart rate monitoring and questions. Before I knew it though it was time to walk to the operating room.

So now for the details…I panicked a lot before my operation and actually needed to go on oxygen for about 15-20 minutes before they could put me under anaesthesia. When I came back out I was in the recovery room and I remember falling asleep a lot. One of the times I was awake, I remember the doctor came to see me and all I remember was her telling me that there were more fibroids than they had thought and I asked them if they were able to save my womb, which they did!!! I fell asleep again and before I knew it, I was back on the ward waiting for my parents to come in.

When they came in they both told me how worried they’d been. The surgery was only meant to be about an hour…however, I had been in for 4 hours. I was also super pale as I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery and had had 1 transfusion. The pain was unreal and I felt super nauseous. I also had no appetite and only ate a little bit of a yogurt and a few sips of hot water.

The next day was horrible. It started with another blood draw at 5:30 in the morning, followed by multiple blood pressure and heart rate checks. This was followed by the nurses telling me that they want to get me up into the chair so that they could take the catheter out and change the bedding. For anyone that has had abdominal surgery (my incision was through the abdomen from my belly button down) you know that it is incredibly painful to move your stomach muscles. I was told to use my arms to push me up out of bed however, I still had my catheter in and on my right hand I had a canula with 3 ports which pulled when I moved my arm, so using my arms was hard. But somehow with the help of the nurses, I managed to get up and into the chair. I tried to eat a bit of toast with jam and some hot water but I instantly regretted that. I felt the waves of nausea build and I tried to hold it in as much as possible. However my body had a completely different idea. Before I knew it I was reaching for the sick bowl. The pain that followed was unbelievable, my pain killer pump didn’t even make a dent.

Several hours later, my parents came in along with Althea (essentially my second mum), however I cannot remember much of what happened at all. I was still so out of it. All I remember is that I had another 2 transfusions but my levels were still very low. They were still very worried about my heart rate and blood pressure.

The next few days were a bit of a blur of more blood tests and blood pressure readings. But before I knew it, I had been taken off my pain pump and put on oral pain killers. I was able to walk a little more and able to walk to the toilet on my own. But after 3 nights I was ready to go home. The plastic bedding and no air movement just meant that I was boiling hot all the time and severely uncomfortable. So Monday morning I was convinced I was going home. I felt well enough to go home. However, my haemoglobin levels were still very low and they wanted to bring it back up to what it was pre op before I could go home. So one final blood draw was done and several hours later I was ready to go home!

Now my recovery is far from over. Walking goes at a snails pace and stairs still have to be taken slowly. But I’m getting there, pain is almost nonexistent now and every day I’m able to do more and more.

So when they opened me up, there were more fibroids than they thought. They reckon there were close to 100 fibroids in total with 5 large masses (15cm each). They also estimated that my fibroids had taken about 45% of my total blood supply and I lost around a litre of blood during the surgery. The best news though was that they were able to save my womb! I can still have kids!!

But for now…there’s still a long road to recovery but I am on the way 🙂 So far…this is the end of this chapter!

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Turtle Spotting Do’s and Dont’s

So I thought I would start a series on the do’s and dont’s that are associated with wildlife. For the first one I thought I would go with turtles. Now as you may know, I am a marine biologist with a huge love and passion for conservation. This has led me to take multiple trips around the world with focus on conservation and eco tourism. One thing that I noticed a lot was animal eco tourism trips and specifically those with the focus on sea turtles.

So over the years I have been on multiple trips where turtle spotting has been part of it. Whether it was working on a turtle conservation project with Archelon in Zakynthos or turtle spotting in Tobago. I have picked up certain behaviours from tourists that inspired me to write this.

So lets start with the Dont’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see one in the ocean whilst on a boat…do NOT go near it with the boat…keep a safe distance and don’t drive over them!
  2. If you see one whilst swimming/snorkelling/diving…again keep a safe distance. Turtles can be very quick swimmers so if they get stressed by you, they will swim away but always give them space. DO NOT touch them!
  3. If you encounter an adult on the beach, give her space as it will most likely be an adult female who is getting ready to lay her nest. This will occur at night (or very rarely at sunrise) so do not shine your torches as that stresses them out and again give them plenty of space. Do not use any light at all, this includes phone lights, flashes from cameras and normal torches.
  4. If you are lucky enough to see hatchlings coming out of the nest. No matter how tempting it may be. DO NOT pick them up. They use their journey from the nest to the ocean to ‘learn’ where to come back to to lay their own nests.
  5. Don’t litter…This is an easy one. Even if you aren’t seeing any turtles, the litter you drop on a beach will inevitably affect a turtle at some stage. Whether its an adult or a hatchling, they all are effected by litter on the beaches and in the ocean.
  6. Do not buy turtleshell products when travelling. They are normally caught by poachers and are always illegally and inhumanely sourced.

Now for the do’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see them…enjoy the moment! Do it responsibly but enjoy it none the less! They are beautiful creatures and I will never get bored of seeing them.
  2. If you spot a hatchling going the wrong way…pick them up and turn them around. If it is during the day…try and shade them so that the sun doesn’t roast them. And if it is at night, try and block out the lights that are disorientating them.
  3. Do a beach clean every time you go to the beach. Even if you only pick up 5 pieces of litter each time it will make a huge difference.
  4. If you decide to go on a turtle spotting boat…make sure you go with a reputable company that is known for its eco tourism. If you aren’t sure which company to chose, there are companies in most countries that are there for the sole purpose for turtle conservation, such as Archelon in Greece and Save our Turtles in Tobago, they will be able to tell you companies that they recommend.
  5. Use recyclable straws or reusable straws. Straws are some of the biggest culprits of turtles dying. Making a small change to reusable straws or no straws at all will make a huge difference.
  6. Eat locally sourced sustainable seafood. Companies that are locally sourced tend to use better fishing techniques so less turtles get caught in fishing lines. The sustainable companies will use more turtle friendly fishing gear.
  7. Last but not least. Donate to local turtle conservation projects. Most are NGO’s and need the money to keep running. If you can’t give money, maybe you can give some time and volunteer with them. I can’t recommend that enough. My time volunteering with Archelon in Zakynthos was one of the best summers I’ve had. The information I learnt then have stuck by me and have changed my daily habits.

Overall, enjoy them! They are truly beautiful creatures, so lets protect them so that we and the future generations can still enjoy them!

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Camera 14MP-9PC