Oh man, sorry for the long silence, it’s been forever since my last entry!
It’s now been a full month since I had surgery to remove the dermoid cyst on my right ovary. The procedure was successful and my dr. was able to remove the dermoid (which turned out to be benign!) and save the majority of my ovary. In the weeks leading up to the surgery, I was really afraid of how painful the recovery was going to be, but in hindsight, I can say that it really wasn’t too bad. Definitely nowhere near what I was expecting.
Since the surgery was laparoscopic, the dr. made only three small incisions in my abdomen (on the left and right sides and in my belly button). I had some intense pain the first two days and really couldn’t do much more than lie on my back or sit up. I couldn’t engage my abdominal muscles and standing up and walking were slow, labored, and had me bent-over, unable to stand up straight. I took pain medication for the first two days and then switched to taking only ibuprofen. I hate taking pills, and honestly, I didn’t feel like the pain was bad enough to warrant taking anything stronger than ibuprofen.
During my pre-op appointment, my doctor mentioned that the worst pain I would probably feel after the surgery would be from the CO2 they would pump into my abdomen during the procedure. This was definitely true! About a day after the surgery, I had a terrible sharp pain in my right shoulder and chest as my body tried to reabsorb the CO2. This pain was a lot worse than the pain from the surgery itself and lasted almost a week.
My recovery was mostly uneventful, but I did have a minor complication. About two days after the surgery, I was having a lot of pain in my chest when I tried to breathe deeply. At first I thought it was just pain from the CO2, but it felt different than the pain in my shoulder. Since it felt like someone was sitting on my chest when I tried to breathe, I called my doctor who told me to go to urgent care or the ER immediately. I was seen right away and after a quick exam and some chest x-rays I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor at urgent care told me that anytime you are intubated, there is a risk of pneumonia and that hospital staff should have had me use an incentive spirometer before discharging me. Thankfully, the pneumonia was just beginning to develop, and after taking the first full day of antibiotics, I began to feel better.
The first week was definitely the worst/most painful. I did very little and spent most of my days sleeping, sitting on the couch watching TV, and reading in bed. I couldn’t eat much of anything for the first 3 days or so, but thankfully my husband stocked up on juice from Whole Foods for me.
Other than my trip to urgent care and a couple of short walks around my block, I didn’t leave the house for the first 7 days because getting in and out of the car was very painful and uncomfortable. I did have an awesome recovery buddy though. My pug, Abbott, kept me company, kept my legs warm, and was generally entertaining enough to keep me from going totally crazy from the boredom of just sitting in my house.
By about day 8 I was feeling a lot more like my normal self and I went on my first real post-op outing. My husband and I took a slow drive out to the coast and enjoyed a gorgeous, sunny day in Bodega and finished it off by sharing some fish and chips at our favorite fish shack.
I was off of work for a full 2 weeks, and by the time I saw my doctor for my post-op appointment, on the Friday before I went back to work, I felt almost back to normal and was ready to go back to work. Now, four weeks after my surgery, I still have a bit of pain in my abdomen, especially if I wear pants, but mostly I feel like I’m almost back to 100%. The most unexpected things after having the surgery has been how easily I get tired and how much endurance I’ve lost. During my first full week back to work, I was exhausted at the end of each day and basically went to bed as soon as I got home. I’m finally feeling a lot less tired throughout the day and generally have more energy.
The most annoying part of recovery has been my limited ability to be active. Last week I began lightly exercising, and on Thursday I took my longest walk, a 3.5 mile loop around Spring Lake that I had done many times before the surgery. Walking that loop took me almost twice as long as usual. It was hard and I felt like I had walked a lot further than 3 miles.
Over the weekend I walked around the lake again and was able to shave off almost 30 minutes from my time and was a lot less tired afterward. Yesterday, I rode my bike part-way to work (6 miles) and felt like I had biked 10x that distance. Even though I feel so much more out of shape than I did two months ago, I am working my way back. It’s a slow process and I’m trying not to push my body beyond what it can do right now. I still have one more month before I can do any kind of lifting or high impact activity, and I’m looking forward to being able to run again. For now, I am going to try some other low impact activities, like yoga, and keep riding my bike and going for long walks.
I have some fun events to look forward to in the next couple of weeks, and I’m excited to share my progress with you as I finish up my recovery from surgery and get back into the swing of hiking, cycling, and running!