Whilst I was under no illusion that the spinal surgery was a serious operation, at this point I didn’t feel I had any choice. My right hand function was deteriorating by the day, which was making even the simplest day to day activity hard and made being alone with Oscar completely out of the question. I was on a load of pain killers and steroids to control the inflammation round the tumour, and the side effects were starting to show; grogginess and horrific acne being the two that were really starting to get me down.
I have to say here, I’d never realised what an incredible support team I had around me until now! There was already a silver lining to this cancer as friends and family stepped up to help out and sent well wishes beyond anything I could have imagined. My amazing parents and Brian’s wonderful mum between them were taking it in turns to live with us to help out. Sure, all being under one roof came with its own challenges, but I will be eternally grateful for the support, and it was impressive how we all settled into our rolls in this weird new routine. Oscar, quite frankly, was having a ball, with his grandparents and uncle and aunt showering him with extra love and attention! I saw friends who I’d not seen in ages, even reconnecting with my best friend from university who I’d pretty much lost touch with ten years before! Two of my closest friends, both pregnant, visited me time and again, and chatting baby stuff was such a joy, making me even more determined to get through the cancer. I also found huge support from my blog and social media followers. I’d decided being open was the best option as I didn’t want to hide away from the world, and I wanted the support of my team. Sharing the news was such a good move, enabling me to continue posting when I felt like it, but with loads of support and understanding when I couldn’t.
Anyway, back to the surgery… I was readmitted to the Royal London on 3rdOctober (I really should have a gold loyalty card by now…), ready to be operated on by Mr Bull (who’d amusingly made bull horn gestures with his hands when he’d introduced himself the week before, but who we’d researched and realised was pretty much the top guy in his game!) He’d explained that his aim was to stabilise the spine by inserting metal pins, but he wouldn’t be removing the tumour as this carried too great a risk of causing permanent nerve damage. That felt kind of weird, but I understood the reasoning and felt that it was right to let the expert do what he felt was best.
The day didn’t start brilliantly as I passed out while the nurse was doing all the pre admission checks. I’d not been allowed to eat that morning and I really am a disaster if I don’t have breakfast! Anyway, I recovered quickly and luckily was the first patient on the list so there was very little waiting around. I remember being wheeled into pre-theatre and breathing into an oxygen mask as the clock in front ticked 9am, then the next thing I know I’m coming round in the recovery ward and it was apparently 3pm. The first thing I did was wriggle my fingers and toes… YAY they worked, I hadn’t been paralysed (a small but pretty significant risk of the surgery)! Then I asked for Brian, who was luckily brought in very shortly afterwards as had been charming his way past all the staff (he shouldn’t really have been in the recovery ward!) Guess what his first question was? “Can you wriggle your toes?” Haha. The poor guy had had it way worse than me that day, anxiously waiting to hear if all had gone to plan.
Much to both our surprise, I didn’t feel so awful and even wanted to eat, although Brian did have to spoon feed me like a baby as I could barely move. To be honest, compared to many of the things he’s already had to do since, that was nothing. Thank goodness he’s such an awesome guy, and all this is only making us stronger (although not going to lie, romance is kinda on hold for a while!) He stayed as long as he could while I waited to be moved to a ward, but was kicked out in the evening. A little later I was moved to an intensive monitoring neurosurgery ward… me and three old man, awesome! I was so drugged up I did manage a little sleep, but waking in the morning everything started to hit me.
I was wired up in every way possible. From painkillers on a drip, to a blood pressure cuff that squeezed me on the hour, to a catheter doing, well, its thing, and numerous other devices I can’t even remember. I couldn’t work out how much pain I was in from surgery and how much was discomfort from all the monitoring. I was desperate to start getting back to normal, but when I tried to sit up I passed out. Twice. Apparently that was completely normal but I can’t lie, I felt pretty demoralised.
But things improved over the day. I begged the nurses with my best charm to find me a private side room, which they did! And that evening, I even managed to get out of bed. The following day I was much more mobile, although as the drugs started to wear off, I got a feel for the real post surgery pain… eeeeek! On the plus side, I realised I could lie on my side, something I hadn’t been able to do for months with my back pain- the surgery had clearly helped with the stabilisation! Not so positive was my hand function, which actually felt worse. Of course there was going to be a lot of inflammation from the surgery, and nerve compression isn’t something that is solved quickly, but this did worry and upset me.
I had a scan to check the 12 titanium pins they had inserted were still all in the right place, and as they were, and I was able to get out of bed and my vitals were all stable, the neurosurgeons said I could go home on day 3!! We were in shock. I’d expected to be in hospital at least a week. But home was definitely preferable to hospital, and by that evening, after one pretty excruciating taxi journey, I was back in my own bed, with my family around me.
My surgery incision on day 3. 28 metal staples holding it together