Friday, 5 May 2017

Post-op wisdom for all - My #1 Life Hack.

There are lots of things you readers probably shouldn't take my advice on. But if you ignore every other thing I say, every recommendation I make and every life hack I share, please let this be the one thing that sticks in your mind and changes it even just a little. 

If you ever feel something is wrong, tell someone. 


Yes, this is general advice for life - in any situation, if you feel something is not going well, or just not right somehow, speak up and get heard and make yourself safe. Generally, this is something to live by. 
This particular blog post, however, is going to focus on the application of that advice to medical sitch tings.

I have been ill many, many times in my fairly short life. Y'all have heard all about a lot of the illnesses - especially that big one I had that time - and you've been excellent with your responses and I love you etc., etc. But there have been a lot more things I may not have shared in quite as much detail as that Thing. That's just because hey, it's my business and it's not always something people wanna read about. I get that! My gosh, you think I'll be so brazen as to share every intimate detail of my physical upheavals with you? I know you won't want to hear all about my snotty colds, my shitty viruses or my PMS pains (although #livetweetyourperiod is always fun to do, ngl). 
No, I won't share all the ins and outs with you guys. But you can be damn sure I will share everything with my doctors. 

These days, my GP will see me for everything. I book an appointment at the drop of a hat. Repeat prescriptions, check-ups, all the usual tings yes - but I also get them to see the unusual shit. Whether it's an itchy mole, a tickly cough, an odd hot flush - I get everything investigated. Every single thing. Because these days I don't take any chances, and I listen to my body more than I ever did before. We all should listen. 

Quick story time: once I was on my way into London for the day, on the train when a mother and her teen daughter sat down opposite me as I read my book, sitting backwards. I did that thing of looking up and smiling at them gently, briefly, before looking back down and turning a page, just so they'd be reassured I was a nice person and they made a good decision sitting with me on this journey. For a couple of stops I continued to read and they chattered quietly just across the table. But then one of them said 'hospital' and naturally my ears pricked up. I didn't mean to, but I ended up listening in on their next few exchanges. 
   'Yes well, hopefully they'll be able to fix whatever it is,' the mum rubs her daughter's shoulder awkwardly from her position crammed in beside her. 
   'I know what it is...they just don't see it. It's a cyst of some kind, it just needs to be seen on a scan I guess.' The daughter has sad determination etched all over her young face. 'I wish they'd listen a bit harder, you know?' 
   ...yep, this is when I closed my book and quietly gatecrashed their conversation. 
   'Keep pushing,' I murmured, without really thinking what this could sound like to them. 'Trust me. It's just a case of seeing the right doctor, and having the right test done. Push as hard as you can, and they'll find it eventually.' 
   'Thanks...' The daughter seemed alarmed but she smiled at me, the eavesdropping lunatic, bless her. 'I will.' 
   'If you know something's wrong...' I began, but just nodded to conclude that point. The mum had misty eyes by this point, and I made a point of reopening my book, butting back out. I touched my head - my first scar, fresh at the time - and silently wished for this girl to have the luck I did. 

But was it really luck? I have to take some credit here for myself, sorry. Back when I was afflicted with symptoms of The Thing, I kept them to myself for ages and ignored the warning signs, but even as I did that I knew something was wrong. I felt it within my body. I couldn't relax, I didn't feel right - I had this sensation sewn into my skin that there was a problem. A big one. However, communicating that to a doc is always tough; 'well I just feel like there's a 404 error in my body, y'know? I don't have anything concrete, I just feel a deep problem...' No, the GP won't always get much from that. Fair enough, I guess. It was definitely a case of seeing the right specialists - and that only happened because I had the wrong scan and actually cried all over a doctor when he told me he couldn't see anything - then I had the right scan. And within a week, I was in hospital getting it taken care of. 

Same with this shit I've got going on now - I was on the sofa writhing in pain, crippled and unable to move more often than not, with intense stabbing throbbing lower abdominal pain. I don't get period cramps, but I can only imagine these pains were like those but multiplied by a zillion. I was crying out in pain, weeping every day and unable to walk more than a few steps before needing to sit or lie down. This time was different though, because I've learned my lesson about talking and getting things seen to, so you bet your butts I was calling the doctors every other day and booking all the appointments and all the tests possible. 
I took 5 pregnancy tests - one of my own accord, the rest whenever I saw a doctor. I had (gloved) fingers and strange soft probes put inside my vag to feel for cysts or strange cell collections. About 10 different doctors poked and prodded my tummy, over and over again. I even had ultrasound goop spread on it at one point. Nothing. I had almost given up hope, I was prepared to live with this unspeakable crippling pain for the rest of my life, I just couldn't see it ever ending - when finally, some blood test results came back and revealed some weird shit was happening inside me. The usually unshakeable doctor said to me over the phone 'ooh...that's...not normal. Can you come in and see me immediately, please?' 
She referred me to the hospital, and they were equally perplexed. My white blood count was high, which implied my body was fighting something. But nothing could be found from the exterior examinations. I was sent home from the hospital with an open access letter if the pain continued, and the docs prescribed me this and that to help my messed up bowels get back on track. 
The amount of times I heard 'it's definitely not the appendix' was actually laughable. And disappointing really, because that seemed to be the most obvious explanation. But no, definitely not. Not the appendix. 

...it was the appendix. Specifically an abscess that had grown on the very infected appendix, which had been hidden deep in my pelvis, hence the docs not seeing it - the prolonged infection had led to all my organs surrounding the inflamed appendix to get, well, inflamed. And stuck together. My right ovary was looking troubled, my intestine was angry, and my bowels were just f*cked up tbh. It wasn't pretty. 

Here's the thing, though. For all the nay-saying and ruling out the docs had been doing for a couple of weeks at that point, when they actually figured out what was wrong, they stepped up their f*cking game and they smashed it. I had that magical scan at midnight my first night in hospital, and the next day I was in the operating theatre at 2pm, the 3rd op of the day. I was kept in and monitored for almost a week, and every morning at 9am sharp, the doctors and sisters and nurses and whoever else would do their rounds and get all the updates on me and my guts. I cannot fault them. Same with my brain surgeries - when they work it out, they deliver the goods. 

(Credit: rubyetc, the genius)


Another bit of advice thrown in here: when you see a doctor, and especially once you're in hospital for your maladies, let them do what they do. I mean, unless it seems creepy and/or illegal. 
I was explaining this, the complete lack of boundaries in hospital, to my little sis the other night after she confessed she'd be horrified and scared and squeamish if she had to stay overnight in a health centre and have them extracting blood or running tests every other hour. I'll say what I said to her: you get into hospital, and you don't care. Holy shit, you really don't. You have to switch your brain off and give your body over to the healers! Let them do what they do best - their job! I cannot believe how quickly I became accustomed to being woken every hour at night so they could run tests on blood pressure and heart rate - and how little it bothered me! Same with having countless nurses wrapping me with rubber and tapping my arms persistently, forever in search of juicy veins (which sadly I could not always provide...I was very ill!). I really got to a point where I just didn't give any shits. The nurses would come by and gently say 'Grace?' and I'd already be sitting up in bed, rolling up my sleeves and presenting myself most willingly for whatever they needed to do in that moment. Because I couldn't look after myself, ffs, and because they were making me better. 

Always remember that, dear readers. It's worth the fighting in the beginning, and it's worth the total surrender when you finally get there - they will help. They'll do all they can do, and they will make you you again. Just let it happen. And never stop fighting for yourself. 

3 comments

  1. Keep going Grace 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

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    1. Thank you, angel. I will, promise! xo

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  2. Hello!
    Thank you for this post! I've followed a slightly similar path of health glitches in the last couple of years. After talking to a friend about my struggles, (I too have a little guy on my brain), but also paralysing migraine, she nonchalantly commented along the lines 'oh you spend lots of time in the doctors' and it really hit a nerve. To the point that when I found myself three weeks into abdomen pain, I was hesitant to go back to the GP. Needless to say, three weeks of pain (and me doubting my own pain threshold (as you do!)) is never nothing, but this is my very long winded way of saying a massive thank you, for giving me the kick up the butt (and the confidence) I needed to seek the help I most definitely needed.
    I really enjoy reading your blog posts, and have been following along for a few years (also a fellow Winchester (arts) graduate!)
    Hope you're recovering well and getting ready for your next adventures.
    Best Wishes!

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