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Before I head back to work…

Hello world. In my almost 5 weeks of recovery from surgery at the end of January, I’ve been healing wonderfully. I’m proud of myself for taking time for the rest my body desperately needed. Rest does not come easy for many people and that needs to change. And technically, I’m still healing, but I’ve made some great progress. I can honestly say this surgery (hysterectomy) was one of the best things I’ve done for my body! Remember, I was suffering from heavy bleeding, fatigue, and anemia. The only complication from the surgery is the stuttering (mentioned in 4 Week Post Surgery Update), but it’s occurring less often. I’ve been monitoring it.

So far, the only menopausal symptoms I’ve noticed are some occasional mild night sweats. At 48 years old, I view menopause as another passage of life. The most significant passages in my life (from my experience not my mom’s 😊) were my teenage years, becoming an adult, working towards my education and career, getting married, and having children. I see menopause in a positive light. (Look at me sounding like I’ve got this all figured out! Ha!) In some regards, it is scary to charter into this unknown territory, especially at a relatively young age, but I hope to THRIVE during this phase.

Once I got through the initial 2 weeks post-surgery (the most critical time), I took advantage of the down time and did some much needed self-reflection. I mentioned in my post How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery that I developed a plan for how I will manage menopause. My plan includes living a healthy lifestyle through eating mostly plant-based foods (not dieting), exercising, meditating, practicing deep breathing, getting ample sleep, and reducing stress. I could have started with reducing stress because I believe it’s had the most negative affect on my mind and body. I’ve struggled with stress for years and I’m determined to manage it much better.

A true sign of progress is last week my gynecologist approved me to return to work on March 2. And because I’ve enjoyed the less stressed, more centered person I’ve been for the past 5 weeks, I want to maintain this state of homeostasis (as my therapist calls it). My job and work environment are the greatest sources of stress in my life and I am determined to not let it erode my progress. Therefore, I wrote a SELF-CARE work plan to manage my work days moving forward. I also worked with my therapist on a plan for how I transition back to work. For example, I spent only 30 minutes Sunday, 30 minutes on Monday, and 1 hour on Tuesday catching up on the nearly 1,000 new emails in my in-box. In the past, I probably would have spent 2-3 hours per day, over several days reviewing emails until I had read them all. My therapist practically scoffed when I suggested 2 hours. The objective is not to get sucked back in and wear myself out. Not to mention, it’s not realistic.

I also created a template in a Word document for my direct reports to provide their updates and asked them to complete it by Monday, so I can know what transpired and what I need to prioritize. This was a much better approach. I will be catching up for a couple of weeks, but at least I won’t go into my first day completely blind. This process may not work for everyone. Some people working in certain establishments may not need to do this sort of preparation, but considering the fast paced environment I work in, I feel more in control when I return to work armed with information.

I used to despise the saying, “work smarter not harder” because in my current work environment, the expectation is that you work hard. In fact, working smart and hard go hand in hand. After all, I work for state government and resources have always been scarce in my area. However, I’m changing my perspective on this. Working smart means using all the resouces at my disposal and setting boundaries.

The main light lesson from this post is to be PROACTIVE. You do have control of your health. You can change (add, omit, modify) things that are within your control. Seek the help you need. Create processes that work for you. Do the things to ensure the best quality of life outcome for you. That’s it.

I’m ready for work today. Thankfully, my commute is a walk into my home office. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Happy Hump day!

Beignet keeping my office chair warm for me.

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4 Week Post Surgery Update

I can hardly believe it’s already been four weeks since the surgery.  To think, around three years ago, I totally rejected the option of having surgery and two of my doctors agreed. However, as my symptoms progressively got worse, the hysterectomy turned out to be the best option. For just about all of 2021, I spent lots of time imagining what the experience would be like, and even put some things in my life on hold to plan for the procedure and attend to my health. Well, I tackled my fears head on for the prospect of experiencing a better quality of life. If you haven’t been following my progress, you can catch up on the background by reading my posts Fight and How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery. In this post, I will share some of my recovery progress. My disclaimer is as a squeamish person myself, I feel obligated to caution readers I will be sharing information which might make you squeamish, or which may be considered TMI (too much information).  And for the first time, I will share an unexpectedly odd complication from the surgery.

You can do a basic Google search on “hysterectomy” to learn about what the procedure entails as there is ample information on the internet. It is a major surgery. My surgery was the least invasive procedure called a laparoscopic hysterectomy (performed with the assistance of a robotic device and through my abdomen) and was completed in 3 hours. My uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix were all removed. I was under anesthesia. I stayed in the hospital for one night. I was released with a catheter, so I had to go to the doctor’s office the next day to determine if my bladder would cooperate without the catheter. I was able to get the catheter removed at the doctor’s office. The first week was rough. For the first two weeks, I was primarily on bed rest, meaning I layed in bed all day, sleeping a lot, except for going to the rest room. I’ve been progressively getting better with each day.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, my pain from the surgery has been zero for at least two weeks. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel the dull aches from the four incisions on my abdomen because I do sometimes, especially depending on my activities in a day. I stopped taking the narcotic pain medication (it wasn’t very helpful anyway) about two weeks ago. I do take over the counter Motrin (Ibuprophren) on occasion, but if I do, it’s only once in a day. I’ve been exercising for a little over 2 weeks now. I went from walking 19,860 steps the week after surgery to walking 61,239 steps last week. I’m at full mobility without assistance in that I can finally lay down in bed to sleep, I can bend over, pick up items off the floor, put on my shoes, prepare meals, walk in the neighborhood, and do some light cleaning.

My energy levels have been increasing, which has been wonderful. However, I need to pace myself because I do get tired when I do too much. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t share sometimes the increasing energy goes to my head. Last week, I decided to do some minor cleaning out of my pantry, and as I attempted to reach for an item on the top shelf, I fell off an old stool that broke (while I was standing on it). The jar in my hand hit me in the head as I tripped against the kitchen island and grazed my abdomen. OUCH!!! I avoided falling on the floor though, but not without pain. I took some Motrin and got in the bed the rest of that day and the next day. Bryan was sure to tell my gynecologist about it at my appointment the next day.

Some things I haven’t started doing yet are driving, lifting weights (or any other items) heavier than five pounds, and working. I saw my gynecologist last week and she said I’m healing well. I did share with her since the surgery I’ve developed a speech stutter which is really odd. I’ve not had a problem with stuttering EVER IN MY LIFE. I’m obviously not a doctor, but I attribute it to the anesthesia because it does affect the brain and I had difficulty “waking up” from the anesthesia. I’m somewhat self-conscious about stuttering, but thankfully I’ve mostly only been talking to my family. It doesn’t occur all the time and even seems to be occurring less often compared to the first week of recovery. Bryan was sure to tell the gynecologist how bad it has been. Since the full recovery is eight weeks, my gynecologist plans to discuss an action plan at that time if the stuttering continues.

I’ve made so much progress in just four weeks, but I’m reminded I’m still in recovery and need to take it easy. I’m not at 100% yet and that’s not where I’m meant to be at this time. The main light lessons I’ve learned from this experience are “my health is my number one priority”, to have “patience”, and to know things will get better “in due time”. 

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Day 8: Post Surgery

It’s hard to believe I’m this far along into my recovery. The days are running together. Today felt especially like a long day with the frigid and icey conditions causing surrounding areas in Texas to shut down. We don’t need to brace ourselves for the fiasco that occurred last February, but it will get very cold tonight. I know our friends and family in Illinois and other states are feeling the cold also.

Our iced tree in Buda, Texas 2/3/2022

My new normal is to lay in bed most of the day, take frequent walks to the rest room, and doze off in between binge watching something on the laptop. I did prep my own meals a few times which is definitely a sign I’m feeling better. In fact, in my 48 years of living, I’ve experienced several medical procedures that required some time for me to heal so I know when I’m on the mend. With this hysterectomy, there are several signs I’m doing better. Keep in mind I’m still in pain overall. Some items on the list maybe TMI (too much information) so read at your own risk.

  • I can laugh without my stomach hurting as much. I do brace myself for the laugh by holding my stomach which helps. Last weekend, my husband, Bryan, said things to make me laugh, but I couldn’t take it at all because I was hurting so badly. I turned off a video of a comedian providing commentary because it hurt too much to laugh.
  • I’m awake for longer periods. Since I’m up, I do more things like prepare a meal or smoothie and take walks around the house, but once I do those things, I get back in bed to rest. I do get tired and will take a couple of naps throughout the day.
  • I can get out of the bed completely without help. I discussed this in my previous post and it keeps getting better. I’m able to prop myself up and slide my legs around to get out of bed. It’s not without some strain and pain, but I can do it.
  • My bladder and bowels are fully functioning. My bladder started off as an issue so I was discharged from the hospital with a catheter. It’s been smooth sailing since it was removed the second day post surgery. My bowels became active by the fourth day post surgery and since I eat mostly a plant-based diet, I have a couple of bowels throughout the day like I did prior to surgery.

In the next week, I’m hoping to be able to lay down flat. I think this will help me sleep more deeply throughout the night. For now, I have lots of pillows propping me up. I want to give my core a little more time to get stronger. Also, some time next week, I will start incorporating more structured exercise into my day. I will start off slow, of course, with maybe 10-15 minutes.

It can only get better from here and I’m looking forward to how much better I’ll be in a few weeks. In the mean time, I’m taking it day by day and am grateful for the time I have off work to rest and heal.

Until next time…

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Day 3 & 4: Post Surgery

MAMA BEAR has been down, but I’m slowly getting better. The recovery process is in full effect. For two days straight I’ve layed in the bed for most of the day, dozing off periodically as I attempt to binge watch shows on Netflix. With each day, I’m more alert. Though it hurts (pain is concentrated in my abdomen), I’ve gotten quite good at getting myself up out of the bed to go to the restroom with no help. I use my strong arms to prop me forward then I turn my legs around and push them down. Our bed sits way higher than the hospital bed so it’s a challenge. It also hurts to get back in the bed and to walk, but I know the pain will ease with time. My husband, Bryan, has been caring for me nonstop. If he’s busy, I’m able to get my kids to help with things like pouring some water into my water bottle on my nightstand or pouring a glass of prune juice for me. I’m so thankful I have the help and feel very loved.

I know I’m living a privileged life because I have everything I need at my disposal. I’m a planner so I made sure some things were in place so all I would have to do is rest and heal. Some things I did in the days leading up to the surgery which put my mind at ease were:

  1. Cleaned my spa-like bathroom – Bryan is capable, but no one cleans our bathroom like me.
  2. Watered/pruned my 60+ plants – This is one of my favorite mindful activities because it puts me in a zen mental space.
  3. Prepped a few more nutritious smoothies – It’s a priority for me to feed my body with healthy options. The cover photo shows a mug of my warm almond milk drink with turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. This drink is soothing and healing.
  4. Took inventory of my vegan/plant-based options in the freezer – Same reason as previous…months ago I began freezing nutritious soups/meals.
  5. Laundry- I wanted to make sure my comfortable items were freshly laundered. Bryan bought me several, comfortable loungewear outfits.
  6. Packed my hospital bag- The only thing I used from the bag was my waist trainer.
  7. Took off work the day prior to surgery – I could have used at least 2 full days to decompress from work, but I at least had one. January has already been a stressful month so the one day was better than nothing.
  8. Met with my therapist the day prior to surgery – This session helped me talk through some things and get my mind focused on surgery and recovery.
  9. Exercising – This was important because I knew exercising would be off limits for several weeks post surgery. I wanted to release some of the anxiety with dancing and strength training.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll provide more information on the steps I took to plan for this major surgery….a hysterectomy. One of the best light lessons I can give in the midst of fear of the unknown is to arm yourself with information. Knowledge is power and I used that to quell my fears.

Until next time…

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Day 2: Post Surgery

With these posts, I’m chronicling my experience of undergoing major surgery to remove my uterus and other female productive organs due to fibroids. The purpose of this procedure is to improve my quality of life. My gynecologist, who performed the hysterectomy on Wednesday, said I did great. I can tell you I don’ feel great just yet. In fact, I’m mostly in pain despite taking pain medications. BUT a milestone happened today that I’d like to share.

I spent one night in the hospital mostly because I had a very difficult time waking up from the anesthesia. My surgery started at 8:00 am & it was a 3 hour procedure. Hours after the surgery, I still kept falling asleep and my bladder was very sleepy also. The doctor didn’t want to release me until I peed on my own which was something I couldn’t do after trying several times. My husband, Bryan, told me there were 30 surgical procedures performed that morning but, only 2 patients were ordered to stay overnight….I was one of them.

To my dismay, the nurse inserted a catheter for a second time and discharged me with an appointment to see my gynecologist Friday morning. One good thing about the catheter is I didn’t have to get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night. I was already in pain and it takes a lot of effort to get me out of the bed. My appointment was early. It was an ordeal to get me in the car. Thankfully I planned ahead and ordered a waist belt to wear under my clothes to keep my tummy steady. I also ordered a pillow that attaches to the seat belt in the car which helps shield the impact against potentially bumpy car rides. Bryan passed a couple of speed bumps that made me holler due to the pain but, we got to the doctor’s office safely.

While walking to the office once we parked, I got really dizzy and disoriented a few times. The nurse checked my catheter and inserted fluids to see if I could pee on my own and GUESS WHAT??? I did it! No more catheter. All day today I’ve been getting out of the bed alone to go to the restroom. I’m so looking forward to getting passed this initial pain.

I will be on bed rest for the next couple of weeks. Bryan has been taking great care of me. If you’re interested in my progress I plan to post a few lines everyday as long as I feel up to it. You can review my previous posts to learn about what led me here.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for undergoing this major move to improve my quality of life. So many people live in suboptimal conditions because they’re afraid. And I was afraid of the needles, cuts, blood, pain, but, I did it anyway. See you next time.