What I wish I had been told about recovering from surgery.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

I wish I had been told it's okay to take it easy!

Jess lives in London. She has previously volunteered and worked for Endometriosis UK.

When I had my first laparoscopy, I had no idea what I was dealing with. My surgeon told me I’d be recovered in four days, so I approached it as if it was no big deal. When I awoke, I was much less concerned with the endometriosis diagnosis and more concerned with the fact that I literally could not sit up due to the blinding pain. It took me much longer than four days to recover, and the process was a slow one.

By the time I had my second laparoscopy, my relationship with my body and management of endometriosis had changed dramatically and I was also educated about the disease itself. My experience was entirely different.

Firstly, whilst I appreciate the endometriosis diet doesn’t work for everyone; it certainly works for me, and has become the main way I keep my pain levels down. 

So before surgery, I wanted to help my body be in a state that would keep my pain levels down. For me, and again, this is very personal, I cut down on inflammatory foods such as gluten, sugar and caffeine, and also took some supplements that could help aid my recovery. I’ve taken supplements since and have found it to significantly help with my pain.

The next thing I prepped for was making sure I had adequate time off. Regardless if your doctor says it’ll take less than a week to recover, it’s still surgery, it’s still a shock to your body and on top of that, we’re all different. Knowing I had those two weeks off meant I didn’t have to worry about talking to work and pushing back my return date, I could solely focus on getting better.

Another area I think is really important is having people around. Now of course, it’s unlikely that someone is going to be with you 247 for two weeks straight. But, my partner stayed off work for the first few days to prepare my meals, bring me medication or just keep me company. Whilst getting up and moving about is important, having someone do the cooking so you don’t have to bend, lift and stand too early on can make a big difference.

This takes me onto my other point. Movement. During my first recovery, I pretty much couldn’t even sit up due to the stabbing pain I had in my abdomen, even though they recommend you start moving asap. But this time around, I tried to take really slow, mindful walks around the bedroom every now and then. It wasn’t about pushing myself, I just wanted to my body to be able to do what it needed to do to repair.

Equally, I allowed myself to take it easy too. I just went with what my body seemed to want. Some hours I had much more energy, and I got up and started moving gently around the house, then several hours later my energy would deplete and I’d rest watching a movie. I tried not to judge what I was doing, I just allowed my body to guide the process and found that this really helped me feel more stable as time went on.

Lastly, I would say showing yourself some self-care is a lovely way to heal. For some that could look like your favourite movies, for others it could be sketching in bed. For me I found getting outside in nature when I was ready helped lift my spirits, whilst mindfulness helped me to cope with the changing pain levels. But whatever you do, give yourself the permission to heal at your own pace, and do what feels good and right for you.  

Do something positive this Awareness Week by signing and sharing our petition to get Menstrual Wellbeing included in the schools curriculum. Visit https://www.change.org/p/ngibb-menstrualhealth