My Stoma Story.. My First Night in Hospital. 

My Stoma Story.. My First Night in Hospital. 

I had hoped to update regularly whilst in hospital. Unfortunately the signal on the wards where I was staying was absolutely terrible; so that wasn’t possible. I couldn’t even FaceTime my kids regularly. Instead I took lots of pictures to document my stay, now I finally feel up to sharing My Stoma Story with you via a series of blogs; starting with my first night in hospital… 

Day 1: 13.6.17.

Rather than turning up the morning of my operation, as I did with my hysterectomy, it was decided at my pre op I should arrive at hospital the day before my surgery. Due to my health issues my surgeon and I thought it best I do a bowel prep in order to clear me out ready for life with a stoma. As horrible as that was, I’m so glad I did it and I’d recommend anyone else take the same approach. Clearing out meant I could concentrate on getting used to my new stoma without having the pain and difficulty of getting any remaining stool out of my colon. It was this clearout, and my need to remain hydrated throughout (thank you POTS) that landed me in hospital a day early. 

I’m not going to lie, I arrived at the hospital completely terrified. But that calmed as soon as I was on the ward and settled. The nurses were friendly and the other ladies in my room seemed really nice. There was four of us and we chatted most of the afternoon away. My husband and son stayed to settle me in before leaving for the school run, it was then the serious business of preparing for my operation began. 


First off the stoma nurse arrived, she drew two ominous black dots on my bloated stomach. One of these would become my new stoma, we wouldn’t know which until after surgery. It suddenly dawned on me that after the surgery my stomach would never be the same again. It’s strange to look down on your stomach and know that in less than 24 hours your entire anatomy will work in a completely different way. That this relatively ‘simple’ surgery would change your life drastically. I looked down at those dots for a long time, contemplating the journey ahead. Little did I realise quite how much things would change. 

Marks are put on both sides of the abdomen in case internal scarring prevents the bowel from being pulled through to the surface in one particular spot. The same part of the bowel will be pulled through regardless of which side it comes out at. 

Even though these marks just look quite haphazard, they’re actually pretty carefully placed. The nurse had me sat down and stood up, I also wore my favourite jeans in order to try and avoid their wasteband. The nurse will try her best to mark the surgery site so it is easy to access whilst being comfortable with your usual wardrobe. Obviously placement can never be guaranteed though, it all depends on what the doctor finds inside. 


To try and take my mind off the daunting task ahead of me I arrived at hospital with a bundle of goodies. My friend had kindly bought me a colouring book and pencils, I’d also filled my iPad with all the remotely interesting free books I could find. But most importantly I had a plastic cup which had been lovingly decorated by my daughter. Not only the cup, but the box too. Love hearts, kisses and words of love adorned each side of the box. I read them over and over, reminding myself constantly of the people who I was truly doing this for. 

Of course I wanted to feel better in myself. But it was my need to be more involved and present for my little family that really drove me to have this operation. My husband and children are my world and I want to be as well as possible for them. 


Lunch arrived at around twelve thirty. My nerves were running riot and the meal they offered me did not appeal. I couldn’t even force down this soggy short bread and ice cream. Luckily I still had a pastry left over from breakfast which was just tasty enough to be worth feeling nauseous for. If only I’d known that within minutes of my meal I’d have my cannula placed and be told I was no longer allowed anything solid; I may have thought differently about my lunch! 



Two hours later and it was time to start the dreaded Picolax. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, this stuff is basically liquid dynamite! Created to clear out the bowel quickly and efficiently, most people choose to sit as close to a toilet as possible when they take it! The nurses on the ward, and some of the patients, looked at me with pity as I struggled to gulp down the putrid mix. To me there is little on this planet that tastes worse than Picolax, I literally feel it hitting my stomach and starting to pummel its way through my bowel. Keeping this stuff down is definitely not the easiest task for me! 

Soon those looks of pity turned into confusion. Why wasn’t I running to the toilet? An hour passed. Then two. Three. Four. It was almost five hours before the Picolax had ANY effect. Even then it was not the bowl shattering poonami they were expecting. ‘Luckily’ they had more Picolax for me to drink.  By round two I was exhausted and looking nine months pregnant. My POTS meds had worn off and I was walking like a weird chicken zombie hybrid. This was turning into a long night. 

As I speed shudder shuffled to the loo for the umpteenth time the lady from the bed opposite me chimed up, ‘You know I couldn’t understand why you called your husband your carer when you arrived. But looking at you know I completely get it.’ Thanks. For anyone thinking of pointing out my inadequacies in future, regardless of motive, please don’t. 

The night wore on; even with my earplugs, cushion and sleep mask, I was in no way able to sleep. Yet it wasn’t my stomach tying  itself in knots or the possibility of a river of molten lava spewing forth from my nether regions without warning that was the issue; unfortunately I’m pretty used to those symptoms. No, the issue was my nerves over my impending operation, aggravated by a series of conversations I had had throughout the evening with my bedfellows. 

You see, the lady opposite me had stomas. Stomas which she didn’t exactly love. In fact, she believes many of her current health issues relate back to her previous stoma surgeries. (Due to my preoccupation with my own problems, hunger and exhaustion, I didn’t fully understand the timeline of her declining health. However, it did seem to me that her main issues pre dated the stomas.) Though I felt sad for her that she held so much resentment and mistrust towards doctors, I tried hard not to let her experiences colour my own. 

What I did find upsetting was when she bragged about chastising another patient for having her ostomy bag on show. Telling all of us in earshot how disgusting it was and how she feels the new movement to try and normalise stomas just encourages people to stare. Which they will, because it’s weird and disgusting. 

Her words really shook me. To the point I closed my curtains and sobbed silently to myself. Totally oblivious the woman carried on talking about how gross it was of anyone to see a bag, even with a cover on. We should all respect others and keep it hidden! Another patient popped her head around the curtain and sat with me a while. She had seen my upset, and even though she wasn’t quite sure what a stoma was, she wanted to help. ‘Ignore her’, she said. ‘It’s her age, she’s a prude, people won’t really think like that.’ I nodded in agreement. Wiped my tears and told her I was fine. 

But I wasn’t fine. 

The very next day I’d be having surgery to have one of those ‘disgusting’ bags. I knew that thanks to my issues with pain relief I wouldn’t be able to stand anything over my tummy, my bag would be on show. My see through bag that was surely much worse than a regular fabric covered one. Would she be on my ward then? Would she chastise me too, at a time I’m most vulnerable? My mind wandered further into the future. To my holidays and summertime. Should I hide my bag? Would a cover not be enough? Would people really stop and stare like the woman had said? She had lived it. So surely she knew? Or was she just paranoid thanks to already hating her extra appendiges? 

Question after question swirled through my mind. Worry after worry. Too tired to colour I attempted to take my mind off things with mindless games on my phone. I tried to block out the worries that crept in and gnawed at me. I tried, and I failed. 


Like with all other difficult nights I’ve lived through, the darkness eventually passed. As the sun rose I finally closed my eyes and managed to catch a few precious hours of sleep. It was then, as I closed my eyes to try and make the hours pass faster, that I vowed to myself I wouldn’t let anyone’s issues define me. Nobody else’s opinion will affect what I wear and how I live my life. In a matter of hours I would be getting operated on. An operation I was sure would improve my life. No way would I let anyone else’s negativity impact me. Yes, my nerves were still there. But now my determination had returned, for that I was stronger. 

To anyone else facing surgery and going through similar emotions as me, I say this: Fear is not a sign of weakness. To find something terrifying to the point of sobbing your heart out yet still go ahead with it is a sign of true strength, not weakness. Never beat yourself up for being afraid or upset. Just work through it and continue on your path with determination. 

To be continued… 
* Please note that my experiences in hospital may not reflect your own. I am simply documenting my journey in the hopes of spreading awareness and alleviating any fears I may be able to. 

Check back soon to hear all about surgery day and my early recovery. 

Waiting List Lifers.. 

Waiting List Lifers.. 

When my surgeon agreed to do my ileostomy he asked me if I would do him a favour. He is running a study of people on waiting list for surgery and hoped I’d partake. Of course, I said yes. In my opinion, the more doctors know about life as a patient the better. So, in that vein, I’d like to share with you my experience of waiting for my surgery date… 

It’s been about a month now, since my surgery was agreed. Over two weeks since my pre op. Still I have no date. Things may have gone a little faster, but my extensive and complex list of health issues threw a spanner in the works. As always. 

In order to be scheduled for surgery and receive a date you need to have the go ahead. ‘Fit to proceed.’ Whilst my tests at the pre op all came back ok (despite being told I’d had an acute kidney injury I wasn’t aware of recently) I couldn’t be pronounced fit without more information from my POTS team. Recently they’ve put me on medication for MCAD and the nurse who oversees pre op was, rightly, concerned this may affect my care needs whilst in surgery. My progress along the conveyor belt was halted until an email came back outlining the correct protocol to follow for me. 

Whilst I appreciate the fact that the hospital is doing their best to ensure a good outcome for me, the wait was maddening. Every day I was calling around, leaving messages on voicemail after voicemail. Until eventually I heard back from the lovely lady coordinating my pre op assessment to say that she had given the green light!! Fantastic! I was elated! Finally things could get going!! 

OR NOT… 

My surgeon was away most of May and will continue to be away in June. Meaning that, if I want to be sliced and diced before July I need to put my faith in another surgeon. A surgeon I haven’t even met. This is something I was dead against. I like my surgeon, I TRUST my surgeon. He is the best my hospital has to offer. I always said I would just wait to be seen by him. 

But this waiting is driving me mad! Each day I hope and pray that the post will fetch me a hospital letter with my admission date, or the phone will ring with a cancellation I can slot into. Meanwhile, my condition is worsening. The prolapses continue to get larger and larger, making it harder to pass anything. Anything at all. My insides hurt. They ache and they stab, twist and pull. My stomach swells and my kidney area feels about ready to explode. On top of all that sits the stomach cramps and absolutely crippling back pain. 

I’m trying to continue normal life. To still get out and about. But by the end of the day I’m yelping in pain like a wounded pup. Any movement takes such an effort that it’s leaving me on the constant verge of tears. I feel angry and disgusted with my body and what it’s doing to me. I’m afraid that my bladder will retain too much and give out unexpectedly. I sleep (for the little I can get) on a towel as I’m afraid of accidents. I’m afraid that soon my back will be so painful I won’t be able to attend to my complicated bathroom needs. I’m afraid that my kidneys are becoming damaged from the waste I cannot clear out of my bladder. I’m afraid that things are worsening to the point that surgery will have to be more extensive than we hope. 

On top of all the health fears, I have the fear of letting my children down. Letting my husband down. Being seen by him as a vile and grotesque creature. All these fears, the pain and exhaustion, they are all bubbling up inside me twenty four seven. Each day I’m left waiting feels like a lifetime as my mood plummets to depths I dare not think about. I am constantly walking a tightrope, a thin sliver of hope preventing me from falling apart at any moment. Tears and anguish are never far away at the moment. 

So, whilst I am truly desperate for MY surgeon to do the operation, I told the waiting list coordinator I would accept treatment from another surgeon. In fact, my exact words were ‘I’d let anyone do it. As long as they have a scalpel and a will to do it, I’m in!’ 

That’s actually how I feel now. The desperation to get it done outweighs the need for my doctor to look after me. But, even with my flexibility, it’s not that simple. A surgeon cannot simply be assigned a case and told where to cut. Surgery doesn’t work like that. Each different surgeon has to agree to the merits of the case. They need to read the file and understand why the patient was offered that road of treatment. With my health problems being so rare, that’s not guaranteed for me. I worry my notes could be passed round, with each doctor refusing to do the surgery. In the meantime my surgery date with the doctor I want is getting further and further away. 

So I wait. I wait and I worry. I wait and I cry. I wait and I grit my teeth and attempt to cope with the pain. 

Such is life on the waiting list. 

The Surgeons Decision. 

The Surgeons Decision. 

If you follow my blog you may remember the impassioned email I wrote my surgeon. I was honest and brutal about the difficulties I’m facing thanks to my prolapses; basically I begged him for help. He responded. Soon after I was sat in his office and given three options to choose from, repair, permanent irrigation tube or, stoma. After a lot of research and soul searching, consultations with my GP and POTS nurse, I decided the stoma was the right decision for me. 

A few weeks ago I saw my surgeon again. I told him how my issues had worsened. Seemed to be worsening each day. He began to suggest re doing tests I’d had months earlier. A year or more earlier in fact. I took a deep breath and stopped him in his tracks. 

No more tests. No more thinking. No more suffering. I told him I had made my choice and was ready for surgery. My voice shook as I spoke of the research I had done and my reasons for choosing this route. I spoke of the impact on my life each surgery could have and how my previous ‘fix’ of one of the prolapses has already failed. Failed to the point of being worse than it was. I made it very clear that I knew the pitfalls as well as the positives of having a stoma. This is in no way the ‘easy’ option. There was no easy option to choose. All were fraught with complications and changes to my life. It is just that this path gives me more chance of change. Of no longer suffering with pain in my stomach and back all the time. Of not living my life around my bowel. 

Eventually I stopped talking. I sat there, shaking, awaiting his response. ‘Right, we will get you on the list for surgery then.’ 

HE SAID YES!!

He agreed. Immediately. No more appointments. No more tests. I would be put on the waiting list for surgery! Not only that, but he decided to do an ileostomy rather than a colostomy. This will bypass all of my large bowel, hopefully bypassing all my problems with it! He’s going to do a keyhole loop procedure for now, if that still leaves me with pain from the prolapses then he will consider a larger procedure at a later date. I can understand that decision, after all I do have a bajillion things wrong with me. Why have a huge procedure when a relatively small one could do the job? A procedure that only takes forty five minutes will hopefully change my life completely. 

He left the room to get the required paperwork and I dissolved into a puddle of tears. My friend comforted me as I sobbed. My tears weren’t sadness; they were relief, joy, fear and excitement all mingled into one cocophany of emotion. As each breath rattled through my lungs I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders. Soon, within eighteen weeks, it would all be over. I’d be through the surgery and on the road to recovery. I could hopefully start living again. 

But at the same time, I knew it would all just be starting. My recovery. Adapting to a new way of functioning. Living with a bag and evolving my life around that. It was a truly terrifying and liberating thought. 

The surgeon returned and was perplexed at my tears. ‘I thought you’d be happy?!’ ‘I am!’ I exclaimed, explaining the explosion of emotions overwhelming me. As I left I hugged him and thanked him for saving my life. Because whilst the problems with my bowel aren’t at the point of killing me, they are stopping me living. Hopefully, with this change, I’ll be able to take part in my own life again. 

NB. During the appointment my surgeon spoke of how refreshing it was to have a patient be so open and frank about their condition. He really appreciated my in depth emails. Whilst it is not always possible to write to a doctor directly, we can advocate for ourselves during our appointments. As a patient, I urge you to research your condition and your options. Take notes to appointments if needed so you can speak clearly about your problems and the way you want treatment to go. NOBODY knows more about your body and your life than you, you are the expert in that field, so be confident in yourself. If you’re not happy with treatment plans, request another opinion. This is your body, it is you that has to live with the treatment being offered. You cannot simply end a shift and walk away from things, so advocate for yourself. Always. 

The Appointment Arrived… 

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you may have read my Desperate Plea; an email I wrote impeaching a surgeon I’d seen months previously to help me. Basically I have prolapses galore since the birth of my son. That combined with years of bowel problems and slow transit has left me with severe difficulty when defacating, or even passing wind. To the point my bowel becomes incredibly sore and bloated, resembling that of a pregnant woman. This issue is really taking over my life, to the point I literally begged for the doctors help. 

Normal stomach and bloated stomach. This happens daily and you can see my tummy swelling.

Miraculously the surgeon actually read my letter and even responded within a few hours, promising to get me in his clinic. A promise he indeed kept. 

Yesterday was that appointment. The one I’d been simultaneously hoping for and dreading all at once. The one which is been mentally and emotionally preparing for. I’d steeled myself for the very real fact that he may tell me I couldn’t be helped surgically. I also looked into options I thought may be of help. Options which my friends and family believed would never happen. Never even be on the list. They were wrong. 

Yesterday, as I laid everything on the line to the surgeon he looked me dead in the eye and told me I had three options. 

1 – have a tube as small as a biro formed from my skin into my bowel which I would then flush through with saline every day forever. 

2 – have the prolapse repaired and then have the tube inserted if I’m still having problems. (Which I enevitably will have as my issues began as a small child)

3 – a colostomy bag. The option everyone but me thought would never happen.

I asked his advice. What do I do? He couldn’t tell me. Ultimately, this is my decision. It’s my body, my life, my choice to make. 

Whilst I understand that; a huge part of me wishes he had been able to promote one option above the rest. To take the responsibility from my shoulders and ive me someone to blame should it all go wrong. Or even if it goes right and I just have a tough day. 

Right now I’m in shock. I don’t know what to think and my emotions are all over the place. I’ve burst out crying and made many many inappropriate jokes since stepping out of that appointment. I’ve researched, and worried, and researched some more. There’s not been a walking minute where this huge decision hasn’t been nibbiling away at the corner of my psyche. 

People have said to forget about it. To put it to the back of my mind for now. My surgeon is going to discuss my case at the Multi Disciplinary Team Meeting. I will be having a Marker Study on my bowel to see which bits are pulling their weight. Then, in six to eight weeeks I will be back in to see him. Possibly signing up for surgery. It’s not that long to wait, but right now it feels like forever. 

I’ve asked around for people’s opinions. Many think have the prolapse repaired and just see how I go. Or just have the small tube. But, having lived with my problems, I know that neither of those will work without having both done. They cannot be done at the same time. So I’d need at least two operations. My surgeon couldn’t tell me if the flush outs would be painful. Only that they take at least one, maybe two hours and must be performed daily. Or every other day if you’re lucky. So even on days I cannot see straight, I’d have to get my ass on the loo, and stay put. If it’s anything like when movicol explodes through me.. it will be painful. I don’t know if that’s a sustainable option for me. 

So I come to the bag. A huge operation to form a (possibly irreversible) massive change to my body. Scary to say the least. The thought of never having to go through the ordeal of passing a motion through the traditional exit ever again though? That leaves me wanting to cry tears of joy. It’s not that simple though. I know I get a lot of mucous build up. So, if they don’t take my colon I’d still be having to go and evacuate that. If they remove my colon then the op becomes irreversible for life. Which would be the best option? Would I still be able to eat steak?  My body is super sensitive, could I cope with the adhesive of bags on me permanently? Would I still be able to eat steak? Would it be possible to stay hydrated so as to keep my POTS in check? Serously, steak? How would my EDS impact healing? Would it put my husband off me? (Regardless of the fact he claims it won’t.) Could I still sleep on my tummy? For the love of god, could someone just tell me if I could still eat steak???!! 

I have a lot of questions. New ones are popping into my mind by the second. But I’m trying not to focus on this too much. I’ve been called brave. But I’m not. I’m scared. I’m terrified. I’m frightened of having another operation. I’m scared of adjusting to a tube or a bag. Mostly though, I’m scared of having to continue as I have been for the rest of my life. I’m scared of missing out on my kids growing up. It’s that fear that pushes me forward. That stops me hiding in a corner and refusing surgery. I have a family to fight for. A family that needs me present, not locked away in pain. For them, I will do anything. 

** NB. The surgeon said my frank openness has been a great help in treating me. He wishes more patients would leave their modesty at the door and just tell him like it is. That’s perhaps something to consider at future appointments. 

A desperate plea… 

Below is an email I sent this morning to a specialist I saw last year. It’s not professional. It’s not the right way to go about things. But it’s real. It’s my life. It’s the level of desperate I’m now at. I’m not sharing this for sympathy. I’m sharing it to highlight the thousands of people out there who are just like me, living  with these problems. Sharing this isn’t easy. It’s hard not to be embarrassed and disgusted with myself. These are issues often kept behind closed doors. But I’m opening them. I refused to be ashamed. It’s not my fault I have to live like this. 

If someone told you they had a prolapse, would you think it a big deal? Would you expect it to seep into every aspect of their lives? Would you realise that it could be on their mind of every second of every minute of every day? Probably not. Well… maybe this may open your eyes to what it’s really like…

Hello Dr ##1##, 


I’m sorry to contact you directly, but I’m unsure what to do. I feel I have to take things into my own hands. 


I have had my surgery in October with Dr ##2##. She addressed the cystocele and prolapsed uterus by performing a vaginal hysterectomy and anterior prolapse repair. No mesh. 


However she refused to touch my rectocele, which continues to get worse and worse. I now cannot pass wind without pressing on my perineum, or bulge within my vagina. The only time I pass any stool is when my laxatives cause me to have violent and painful loose stool. However some of this always collects in the pockets of bowel and quickly hardens and blocks it. Mostly I have to manually remove my stool. This involves putting a thumb inside my vagina and two fingers in a v around my anus (which when I need a motion bulges out to varying degrees). 


I manipulate the whole area in order to push the stool out, as my lower section of bowel doesn’t push at all. Often times I then have to insert a digit into my back passage to try and help the process along. Inside is a large cavern. It feels almost flying saucer shaped. (Sorry that’s all I could think of to describe it) I have to sweep my finger around to collect stool and mucus. Above this area it seems to become tighter again, but still won’t push, though the muscles around do clench. Since my surgery however there also seems to be a large grissly bulge protruding into that upper area. 


Unless the laxatives cause me to have severe cramping I very rarely can tell if I need to pass a motion anymore. The only things that alert me are bloating, a heavy feeling, and being unable to urinate. This also happens with the large amounts of trapped wind I get. You don’t realise how much you must naturally pass throughout the day until you can’t do it anymore and it’s all stuck. Let me tell you, there’s a lot! I could power a wind farm. The only way I can tell which it is is to feel whether my bulge is full of gas or stool. Then get it out. 


Every single time I go to the toilet is an ordeal. I’m left feeling in pain, bruised and without any dignity. Because of my POTS and EDS the positions I get myself in often cause my joints to hurt and sublux. My legs go completely numb and my heart fluctuates. I also get hot sweats and dizziness. All this combined means my husband often has no choice but to supervise me on the toilet and help me back to bed. I can be on there an hour or more at a time, and bed is always where I end up. It takes so much out of me. Plus, I never go just once. Often there’s at least three trips to actually get the entire stool out. 


I have ended up in tears, wishing for an ostomy over this life. How crazy is that? I know it’s crazy. But I just cannot go on like this. 


The only thing that Dr ##3## can think of is regular irrigation. Possibly even weekly, from now until kingdom come, to get my bowel cleared and hope that in between I feel ok. He said he doesn’t believe I have crohns. There’s no sign of it on any recent test. But he told me, if it’s IBS it’s the strangest and most aggressive type he’s ever seen. 


Please will you help me. Dr ##2## was lovely. But you are the best in colorectal surgery. I know I’m a complicated case. I followed your instructions. I saw a different doctor. I did everything you told me to. Now, months down the line, the problem I came in with is just getting worse and worse. You wrote to me saying if I was still having problems to get back in touch. Whilst writing this letter I got a call back from a Secratary. She told me my GP must write in and I have to wait all over again. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I feel like the main issue I need help with was pushed aside and I’m just left here to suffer. Now to hear I’m starting from scratch is devastating. 


My in laws have booked to take us to Disney in early 2018. They’ve already put it back two years because of my health. They can’t move it again. How do I tell my kids I can’t go because I can’t go to the toilet like a human being and it’s ruining my life? I struggle to even wear clothes due to the extreme bloating. How do I tell them that after all the waiting and the surgery I am right to the back of the pack again? 


I know I’m just another face in a sea of patients begging for your help. But I took your advice. Please, now will you try to help me? I’m not too proud to beg. 


If you got to the end of this letter I appreciate it. Most doctors would bin it immediately. I really am sorry for contacting you directly. But desperate times and all that. Also, Dr ##2## really was lovely and treat me very well. She just hasn’t fixed the thing that most impacts my life. 


Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. 

Regards,

J

Please. If you know of anyone with these problems, don’t make fun or make light. Be aware of the fact that these issues can make you feel sub human and worthless. If, like me, you are going through this. Don’t just sit back and wait in line. Dig your heels in and kick up a fuss. Push hard for the treatment you need!! 

If by some miracle any Doctors happen to read this blog. Well, to you I ask this. Please try to understand that prolapse can impact a persons entire life. Many people in support groups Im in are teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown. Treat us with respect and care. But also with a sense of urgency. The longer we live like this, the less human we feel. 

Living the POP Life. 

Living the POP Life. 

I have a prolapse. In fact, I have several. I’m what’s known as a POP patient. I’ve been tested and checked and I know the extent. I know that all my insides are basically clamouring against each other to become outsides. I know which bits are ‘winning’ that battle. I know that I cannot pass a motion, or even wind, without some form of manipulation. I know that I have hemorrhoids and I get a full mucosal prolapse when I even attempt a number two. I know that just trying to irinate is like trying to wring out a wet rag whilst wearing boxing gloves. I know that I bulge and balloon and I stretch and strain. I know my episiotomy scar splits and I bleed. I know that I’m sore and I feel smelly. I know that when I menstruate it’s all caught up in a mess of bulges and gross. I know that I don’t feel like a woman anymore, or a person, and most definitely not a sexual being. 

Of all my ailments this has probably knocked me down the most. It’s dragged at my confidence in the same way it constantly drags down on my abdomen. Each appointment has involved examinations and tests in my most intimate of areas. Many of those with a male doctor who made me feel guilty and selfish and like a bad mother because I am desperate for surgery to help me. All because he was afraid to perform it and wanted to put me off. I’ve been poked and prodded and made to spread my legs. I’ve had gel inserted inside me and been made to push it out with a gallery of technicians watching me. I’ve cried and wiped my tears then cried again. 

Sex has become a taboo word in my relationship. How do you have sex when you are constantly uncomfortable? How do you feel remotely sexy when your own body disgusts you? I recoil and tense up if there’s the merest hint of an advance from my husband. To me that area is no longer sexual. It is not pleasure. That area brings pain and misery to my life. It brings degradation and embarrassment. That area is separate from me and all of me at the same time. I can honestly say I hate that part of my body. 

Last month I saw another surgeon. My final hope. A woman. A woman who had kind eyes and an understanding air about her. Again the same questions were asked and the same examinations done. Again the tears flowed. But this appointment had a different outcome. Instead of a hard no, I was given a yes. A promise of surgery. But not just one. No, my life is never that simple. For me it will be several. Probably a lifetime of repeat fixes thanks to my genetic condition. But she understood my pain and could see that I cannot continue this way. Feeling less than nothing. Hating myself because of something I have no control over. Something I know I shouldn’t hate myself for. Walking out I was relieved, I was happy, I was excited. But over and above all that I was terrified. 

I’ve never had major surgery before, I never really imagined I would have. Especially with the health issues I have. The words of the previous doctor rang in my ears. How recovery would be long and gruelling and I’m taking myself away from my kids. The surgery is looming closer and if I’m honest I’ve almost been talking myself out of it these last few weeks. Fear of going under the knife is almost stronger than the horror of living as this leaky, painful mess. 

Almost. 

But not quite. Because every time I sit down and wince, I look to the surgery. Every time I feel the aching pull in my abdomen, I look to the surgery. Every time I can’t go to the toilet or pass wind, I look to the surgery. Every time I leak, I look to the surgery. And tonight, when I sat on the loo and somehow managed to urinate down the back of my ankle;  instead of falling apart, I looked to the surgery. 

Because I will have it. I will get through it and I will feel like me again. No matter how difficult the recovery. Because I’m a fighter and I can do this. 
Talking about my prolapse can be both difficult and embarrassing. But from what I’ve learned there are many women out there living a life similar to mine. Though I cannot say I’m proud of  having Pelvic Organ Prolapse, I’m determined not to be embarrassed or ashamed. This post was a hard one to write and share, but worth it. I hope to show women they are not alone and to help #breakthetaboo surrounding gynaecological issues. 

The words I dare not speak. 

The words I dare not speak. 

*** I don’t know how this post is going to go. But I would say reader discretion is advised. ***

As many of you know I’m struggling with the symptoms of a prolapse. In fact, when I saw my surgeons for the results of my Proctogram their exact words were that ‘everything is coming down’. I do hope to share my story at various stages, and was intending to share my experience of that appointment. This is not that post. 

But that appointment does play a part. You see it culminated in the surgeon I’d never met before telling me I would be fitted with a pessary. I told him I didn’t want this. I’d been told I’d need surgery. I stuck up for myself. But no. He thought a pessary was the way forward, and that’s what was to be done. 

Ordinarily in this situation I’d feel disgruntled to say the least. Royally pi**ed off would be a more accurate description of my feelings when doctors steamroll me into things. This time I didn’t. This time was different. This time I was devastated. Completely and utterly devastated. I felt something inside me well up. Something I hadn’t felt for many many years. Something which I wasn’t ready for. 

I told myself it was disappointment. I’d been hoping for a surgical fix. But yet again I had landed myself with a condition to be ‘managed’ rather than cured. Something that would need long term treatment rather than an end date, a fix. I lamented this fact to my husband. He was sympathetic, but also confused. This was a none surgical option, surely that was better? He had a point. So I saw my GP. I asked questions. I looked at diagrams. I researched. 

The results were good. The pessary was less invasive. No recovery time. I may be able to cope with it for a long time and only need smaller surgery. The side effects were minimal. If it didn’t suit then surgery was still an option. I even spoke to women with a pessary. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I feel I need to point out that for many women the pessary would be a wonderful option. 

But not for me. 

For a while there I put it to the back of my mind. Then my letter arrived. My letter with the info on the pessary. My letter stating I would have my appointment for a pessary fitting ‘in due course’. I read that letter and I sobbed. I cried long forgotten tears. Once I started I just couldn’t stop. I think I sobbed all night that night. Quietly in bed. My back to my sleeping husband and wonderful baby. I broke my heart time and time again. 

Eventually, in the dark, I picked up my phone and emailed my ‘nice’ surgeons Secratary. I wrote the words I wasn’t ready to speak. I wrote the words that I didn’t even realise had been the problem. I spoke of a tragedy I thought I’d long since got over. I wrote and I hoped. I hoped for understanding. I hoped for compassion. I hoped for a new option. 

Soon after I saw my GP for an unrelated issue. He innocently enquired if I’d had my prolapse appointment yet. I think he was surprised when I broke down into a puddle of tears in his office. He almost cried himself when the words came tumbling out. 

FOURTEEN. VIRGIN. RAPE. VIOLATED. 

It was at that point I knew 100% I could not have the pessary. I could not, and would not, force myself to go through all those emotions again. After so many years of counselling, healing, regression and then finally progress, I wasn’t going to step back into the dark. My demons have been long locked away. I thought I’d got rid of them altogether. Clearly not. Clearly they still exhist in the darkest depths of me. But that is where I intend them to stay. 

I feel weak. I felt pathetic. I felt downright stupid for allowing something from so long ago to affect my health today. But my GP didn’t. He understood. He understood that childhood trauma becomes engrained in your soul. 

I was a child. Until that day in my GP office I’d never seen it like that. At fourteen I’d felt like a grown up. I was independent. Strong. Fearless. But now, fifteen years later, I finally see I was a child. That was a hard pill to swallow. 

So that’s where I am now. My GP has written to my surgeon stating he feels the pessary is not an option for me. My truth is out there, and now I’ve scared it with you. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard. I’m still struggling. I’ve dredged up a part of my past I never wanted to face again. But I’m glad I spoke those words. Because had I not I know I’d of ended up being railroaded into something that just wasn’t right. Not for me. And now I have a doctor to vouch for that. 

So ladies, and gents, if you have a past experience that still impacts you today. Something you dare not speak of. Something which affects the way you may view medical examinations or treatment. I implore you, find someone you trust and let them know. Because they can and will help. 

Testing Times. 

So, I have a problem which I haven’t really spoken about. Partly because I’ve been digesting this new issue for myself. Partly because I’ve been embarrassed. But I shouldn’t be. This is a medical issue. A complication of one of my conditions, and it’s not my fault. 

Last night I went for a test on this problem area. A test I was terrified of having. It was then that it struck me. I’m not the only one going through this. I’m not the only one scared about these tests. The fear of the unknown can be a terrible thing. So I’ve decided to share my most intimate of troubles and my experience last night in the hope that it eases other people’s fears. 

Here goes… My name is Jennie and I have prolapses. Yup. That’s plural. I’m not going to sugar coat it. My bowel and back passage are pushing up into my vagina. My bladder is pushing down. My uterus seems to have dropped towards the front of my vagina and my back passage also prolapses out of my anus when I pass a motion. Basically my nether regions are one big old mess! Living like this isn’t fun. But explaining why is something I’ll brave another time. 

Luckily I’ve been referred to an excellent doctor who is determined to fix me. Even though, due to my underlying health conditions, I’m a very complex case. The first step on the road to surgery was a test called a defacating proctogram. This can be done either with X-ray or MRI. I was to have the MRI, and let me tell you I was terrified. 

My basic understanding of the test before I went was I would have something (I thought maybe barium) pumped into my back passage and then I’d have to poop it out in front of someone. My experiences of anything going up that area has always been incredibly painful. So I was nervous to say the least. 

The test was in the evening at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield. Due to the time and location I travelled alone. The hospital was easy enough to find, and parking was abundant and free. Always a good start. I arrived a little early and buzzed the bell to let them know I was there. The nurse had a quick chat with me, as they were concerned about some bleeding I’d had previously, then I had a short wait until my turn. I apologised profusely about it being my ‘time of the month’ but they assured me if it wasn’t an issue to me it wasn’t to them. 

At the time of the test another lady came to collect me. By this point I must have looked like a dear in the headlights. Again she questioned me about my bleeding. She was also very reassuring about the upcoming test. In total there were three very kind and comforting women looking after me. 

For the test itself you change into a gown and then empty your bladder. Any metal must be removed for the scan and it’s advisable to leave your valuables at home. Then you enter the scan room and lay on your side on the scanner. 

 

Looking #hospitalglam in my gown.
 
I had two women in front of me and one behind, at the business end so to speak. The two ladies in front kept me chatting and relaxed whilst the one behind filled me up. In total she put 600ml, of what turned out to be the gel used for ultrasounds, inside my back passage. The aim is to fill you up to just around your sigmoid. Honestly, the srynges looked quite scary, but it didn’t feel too bad. The nozzles were small and they had been put in warm water to heat up the gel so it was body temperature. The sensation was definitely strange, and mildly uncomfortable. But not painful. Every now and again it would make a popping noise when air trapped in the srynges would pass into my bowel. That felt odd, but again not painful. 

You then carefully roll onto your back and a cushioned plastic ring is placed under you to collect what you expel. You’re also given a headset to protect your ears. A tray thing called a coil is placed over your abdomen. This helps get better pictures. 

At this point the ladies all left the room and I was popped into the scanner. My head was pretty much completely out, so I didn’t find it claustrophobic. First off they took lots of scans just with the gel inside me. Then I had to push as if I was trying to release it whilst keeping my bum clenched. This sounds a lot more tricky than it actually is. It takes a bit of thinking about, but it’s nowhere near as hard as patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time! 

At this point the lady who filled me up returned. She told me the time had come and ran through what I needed to do again. I’d be told to release and then I just had to push the gel out. Easy right? Wrong. For me this was the most difficult part of the test. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. I swear I pushed harder than I did in labour. My veins bulged. My muscles strained. I even saw stars! But that gel was not moving. Eventually I shifted a bit of it. But only a bit. This part of the test apparently lasts two minutes or so. But it felt like much longer. 

Afterwards my lady returned to tell me what I already knew. I had failed in my task and was still full to the brim with enough jelly to cater a children’s birthday party. So after a quick clean up with the wipes provided I toddled off to the loo to evacuate the rest as best I could. Then it was back on the scanner for a final few images and that was that. Scary test over. 

Honestly the fear of the test was much worse than the test itself. I have been left with some discomfort the day after. But I think that’s mainly because I really went to town trying to ‘release’.  I’ve strained just about my everything. If I have any advice it would be not to push so hard that you feel like your eyes are going to burst from their sockets. Otherwise it’s really not too bad. Of all the tests I’ve had this is one of the few I wouldn’t be too upset if I had to repeat it. 

I hope that if you’ve got this test coming up I’ve helped ease your fears a little, and I wish you luck with your treatment on the whole.