One month ago today I had the surgery I desperately wanted. Regular readers will know that, sick of incredibly debilitating pain and sick of being told to wait it out, I contacted Dr Edi-Osagie in England and asked him to undertake a surgery I couldn’t get an Australian doctor to do: Total Pelvic Peritoneal Excision (TPPE). Today I want to share with you my experience of this surgery and my recovery over the past month.
Unlike a normal excision, which simply digs individual lesions out of the peritoneum, or lining, of the organs and pelvic wall, TPPE also removes the peritoneum so that endo has nothing to grow back on. In my case, the good doctor did this to the back of my uterus and my urethra, which was where the endometriosis was growing in my case.
I much preferred the preparation for the surgery than what we have in Australia. In Australia, you have to drink a variety of icky liquids that give you appalling diarrhoea, and not eat for a day. For this surgery, I simply fasted overnight and had an enema. Embarrassing? A little. But honestly, I’d rather have a nice professional nurse sticking whatever it was up my bottom than drink litres of glop so foul-tasting that it’s even odds as to whether you expel your insides through your mouth or your backside. For those who’ve never had surgery, I cannot properly convey how bad that stuff tastes, particularly when you haven’t been able to eat all day, and have been on “white foods” only before that.
The day before the surgery I had all my testing and whatnot, and the day of I met a whole reel of nurses, my anaesthetist, and finally, Dr Edi-Osagie. Due to distance, we’d only chatted on Skype before this. He is as lovely in person as he seemed on the computer, and was very careful to ensure that I understood what was going on and had no fears about it. He was very thorough in his post-surgery explanation too, taking me through all the photos of my innards (which I got to keep!) and, unlike many surgeons, waiting until I was awake and functional before speaking to me. I’ve had previous surgeons explain to me while I’m still drifting in and out of an anaesthetic haze, and by the time I woke up properly, I would only retain about 1/10th of what they were saying. By waiting til the next day, Dr Edi-Osagie ensured I actually would remember and understand what he said.
Initial recovery from was painful, although no worse than my last excision. As with last time, I woke up in recovery with the shakes. Jury is out on whether this is pain or cold or both, but an extra warm blanket and having control of my own morphine supply sorted it out. I remained fairly dependant on the morphine until mid-afternoon, but after that did not need to use it again. By the evening I was sitting up and had my catheter removed so I could use the toilet independently. By mid-morning the next day, I was ready to go home.
A note for vegans: the hospital I was in did not have any vegan options for dinner. Bring something.
The biggest problem initially in my recovery was the shoulder-tip pain. When you have laparoscopic surgery they blow up your abdomen with gas so that they have room to work inside your pelvis. Not all of that gas comes out immediately, and it can bounce around your diaphragm and up into your shoulders, leaving agonising pain in its wake. It’s kind of like having a stitch, but 100x worse. The only thing you can do is try to move to a different position, use heatpacks, and drink lots of peppermint tea.
Once the shoulder pain started to reduce, I became aware of a new problem: constipation. The trouble with morphine, codeine and tramadol, all of which I used post-surgery, is that they constipate you terribly. I’m normally a 2-3 times a day type of girl. My surgery was on Sunday, and I did not poop again until Wednesday. When I did, I was stuck in the loo for about 20 minutes because things were so slow-moving. My poor insides felt so bruised.
Lately I have also been experiencing bladder pain. Urination has been uncomfortable since the surgery due to my urethra being stripped all the way back, but a week ago my bladder or uterus or something in there was in agony when I peed. It is calmer now, but still uncomfortable. It isn’t a UTI – there’s no burning and I’ve had it tested just in case – but boy, it’s not fun.
Overall, recovery from the actual surgery has been remarkably good. I have four little incisions, which have all healed beautifully. My peritoneum is about 3/4 regrown now, apparently. I did about a 5km walk less than two weeks after the surgery without too much trouble. Walking wasn’t really a problem at all after about a week or so, although standing still remains an issue, so I used a wheelchair for things like shopping or going to museums, where you walk and then stop, walk and then stop.
One month on and I’m fairly certain that all my remaining issues are attributable to my new mirena. I find the adjustment period for the mirena really rough, and I’ve had ongoing spates of bleeding and period pain (not necessarily related to each other) for the past two weeks. If those aren’t gone soon, I’m going to talk to someone about having the mirena removed and see how I go without it.
It is really nice not having endo pain in the way I have come to know it. If I can get rid of the mirena pain I’ll be a happy little chappy. At the moment, I’d definitely rate the surgery as a positive experience. I hope to know properly by the new year whether it has really worked or not, and I will keep you all updated.