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!

Camera 14MP-9PC
Camera 14MP-9PC

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 2

So here I am almost a year after writing part 1. I thought it was about high time that I updated everyone with my situation as a lot has happened over the last year!

So back in the beginning of the year, I had just had enough of waiting and so I made another appointment with my GP to chase what was happening. I finally found a GP who took my case seriously and chased it up for me straight away.

Fast forward a couple months and here I was waiting at the hospital for my first appointment in almost 2 years! I knew that I wasn’t going to be seeing the same specialist as last time which made me a bit nervous. However, the second I met my new doctor, that anxiety went away. I explained my case to him and he was upset to hear that my case had ‘slipped through the cracks’ for so long.

Well this is where it all changed for me. Normally these appointments only last about 10 minutes and I tend to come out of them still as confused about what is happening than when I went in. Well this time, the specialist took a long time to really understand my situation and to update the notes on the system to include as much detail as possible. He took the time to really explain to me what was happening inside my body and what my options were. Well, lack there of. He called in the head of department and between the two of them, they fully discussed my situation with me and put me at ease.

After a quick feel of my abdomen, they noted very quickly that unfortunately my fibroids and my uterus had hardened meaning my only option was for surgery. And not just a small surgery which we had all hoped for…but quite a serious one. My fibroids had hardened at 15x15cm. This meant that my uterus had grown to the size of 7 month pregnancy. All of these factors meant that the surgery incision would have to be a midline incision from above my belly button…all the way down. They tried to put me at ease saying that I should get an anchor tattoo afterwards to hide the scar and something that is fitting with me.

After about 5 minutes of laughing and coming up with ideas…they sat me down and talked me through the procedure and the recovery time. This was the bit I was most afraid of. When the doctor starts the sentence with ‘There is one more thing and some women think that this is outrageous…’ my mind instantly fills in the blanks. I knew a hysterectomy could be on the cards for me. I had been previously told that the risk was extremely high considering my situation. However my chance was actually at less than 1%!!!! AND the chance of having kids afterwards would be high! So not only would I be getting my life back, but my chance of having kids wasn’t completely ripped away from me!

45 minutes later I finally left the hospital knowing exactly what the plan of action was. And here we are…less than a month away from my operation. Yes my anxiety plays up from time to time thinking of all the ‘what ifs’ but I am just going to take it one day at a time.

First things first…I have a lovely trip away with my mum for a well deserved holiday (for mum) and a great distraction for me! See you on the other side!!

Definitely Not in Kansas Anymore…

When you travel around the world, you are bound to come across situations that are so different from home. Whilst here in Costa Rica, it has definitely been the earthquakes (or quacks according to mum).

The majority have been minor with only a couple seconds of shaking, which before it even registers as an earthquake is already finished. However this week was different. I had spent the whole day by the pool and hot tub, just enjoying the sunshine and spending some much needed down time to read, crochet, and read a book. I was sat in the hot tub when all of a sudden I get a text from mum asking if I was ok…Mum normally messages me but the tone of this message was different. So I instantly responded, seconds later another message pops up, a large earthquake had hit…didn’t I feel it?

Something I learnt was that whilst you’re in the hot tub, you apparently don’t feel earthquakes. This had been a 5.3 and I felt nothing. I knew it was a big deal though as instantly all the staff at the hotel went around checking if everyone was ok and switching off the various alarms going off. This was my first ever experience of a larger quake. Even though I didn’t feel it myself, I was still shaken (pun intended) by the idea of it. The rest of the day I was restless, expecting another one to hit.

So sometimes when you’re traveling, you experience things that you wouldn’t at home. Earthquakes in the UK are so rare and yet here there are around 10-15 a day!!! You don’t really think of these things when you’re traveling until you experience them. Last year whilst we were here, one of the volcanoes was active and so we couldn’t visit it, but the thought was in the back of our minds…what if…luckily nothing happened, and the volcano is dormant again. But you just never know.

Traveling opens up your eyes to not only new cultures but also to new experiences. Whether that is walking over the hanging bridges, whale watching, eating new foods, or feeling an earthquake for the first time. I love it and wouldn’t change it. Yes at the time it can be scary but you know what to do the next time!

What about you? What has been something thats happened to you whilst traveling that you didn’t expect to happen? Let me know in the comments below!

On to the next adventure…

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R and R

I know that I have been very quiet on here recently and the reason for that was that I took a break. I took time for myself and learnt to listen to my body.

The last couple months haven’t been easy for me and my mental health took a huge hit. Depression had a strong hold on me and I couldn’t find a way out. But after taking this time away from blogging and social media as a whole, I’m happy to report that I am much better now! My mental health is in a better state and I am actually looking forward to the upcoming events in my life.

I’m currently writing this from Costa Rica where I am really taking the time to do the things that I love to do…crochet, reading, photography and just binge watching Netflix. Allowing my brain and body to relax and to just be myself again. I’ve missed enjoying the day to day things and I feel like I can and am now!

So instead of all the doom and gloom that I had been seeing since the beginning of the year, I am now able to find joy in every day life. So I’m back now with lots of blog posts in mind. Be ready!

Hope you’re all having a great week!

Costa Rica 2018

Exploring London…

A couple weeks ago I realised that I had never been to London on my own. I knew the reason for this was my anxiety, but that same week I had decided that I was going to fight this. I was going to fight my depression and anxiety head on and not let it beat me.

So here I was on a Wednesday morning, packing my rucksack with everything I thought I would need and off I went. After a quick stop off at Dad’s church, he dropped me off at Watford Junction and I was on my way…no turning back now…trust me, the anxiety was winning…my illogical part of my brain was telling me that everything would go wrong and I should just go home and lie in bed. But I thought the better of it and pushed through.

After a quick check to make sure I had enough on my Oyster card, I ran into one of my old school friends and instantly the anxiety reduced. Instantly I was calmer. Turned out that he was headed for the Science Museum which is directly behind the Natural History Museum. The anxiety for travelling had almost completely disappeared at this point and the other fears and anxieties built up. But again, I didn’t give in. I powered through.

About 30 minutes later and there I am, standing in front of the Natural History Museum. Now my plan had been to spend the day there, meandering through all the different sections and reading as much information as possible. However, the second I walked through the doors, I realised that that wasn’t going to happen. It was so incredibly busy, and boiling hot! Not a great combination when you are already struggling with anxiety!

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I tried to enjoy myself as much as I could but after about an hour, I gave in and left. I moved on to the Victoria and Albert Museum, hoping that that would be quieter, unfortunately, it wasn’t. So after a quick dash through the V&A and a quick pep talk from someone special, I picked up the guts, ignored my anxiety and decided to go to the British Museum.

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The British Museum has always been one of my favourites as it includes a lot of ancient Egyptian history and Ancient Greek history, two of my favourite topics!! Yes, it was busy and hot like the other 2 museums, and yet my anxiety was a lot less there.  I was able to distract myself with all of the awesome history that surrounded me. I drowned out the illogical brain and all of my anxieties, I was actually able to enjoy myself!

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Multiple hours were spent here just wandering around looking at all the different artefacts and then realising two important things:

1) How many plaques said ‘now missing’ or ‘now destroyed’ and it made me sad to think about how much history we have already lost and would never be able to discover!

2) That the Natural History Museum didn’t have any information that I saw about the current crisis and what we can do to help to stop more extinctions, etc to happen.

The journey back really tested my anxiety and fear though. It was just before rush hour, but people were already there and pushing. I decided to let one train go as it was so busy and full that I knew it would be a recipe for disaster. The next train was practically empty and I was able to avoid a near-certain panic attack.

Now for those who don’t suffer from anxiety, this day just sounds pretty calm and ‘normal’. For me, however, it was a HUGE step. It allowed me to see that I can push through and not let anxiety run my life. It also showed me that London isn’t such a scary place to explore on your own! Would I do it again? Definitely!! I’m already planning my next trip in!!

If you suffer from anxiety…what do you do to stop it? How do/did you overcome it?