A post for Febuary

I’ve been thinking about the blog for the past week or so. Thinking I need an idea for a post topic, and coming up empty. I’m in a mild depressions as I’m home from yet another abdominal surgery (hopefully, the universe will make this the last one). The current political mess is also depressing, and perhaps I’m reading too much news as there isn’t much I’m allows to do at the moment. Although any news is probably too much right now with the just incredible volume of horribleness coming out of the current government.

I’m also feeling sorry for myself due to my surgery, and slow expected recovery. This, fortunately, is something I have to power to do something about. So I am. Part of that is getting myself back up (mentally if not yet physically) and into a productive routine. Over the past several days, I’ve made calls that I had previously ignored or procrastinated, my desk is very slowly becoming more tidy, and I got my novel draft transferred to a format I can work on editing both on my desktop or my phone, and edits have officially begun. I’d also like to return to regular blogging. And short story writing. And quilting. And I’d love to learn to use my new loom better. . . and my ukulele. . . and, well, maybe one thing at a time.

In closing, here is an update on my health, since that’s something I’ve shared a lot here. I had a ‘small re-occurrence’ on the lower of my two big hernias. So that required another surgery, but it was complicated due to the previous repair and the mesh that was already there, etc. My surgeon got a little more aggressive this time since another repair will be next to impossible after this, and he is also very concerned with my activity level in the longer term for my recovery to avoid straining or damaging any part of the repair. That’s what has me kinda bummed out. I don’t like the thought of never being able to do much physical again. Coming to grips with my new reality. It’s a journey.


My Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Experience

When I was told I needed a surgery called an “Abdominal Wall Reconstruction” it was a frightening moment. I spent a lot of time trying to find out everything I could about what that kind of surgery entails. It was more difficult than I’d expected. Some articles or chat forums lump it in with hernia repair surgery, and that made it sound like I could be back to normal in a few weeks. I knew from the discussions with my surgeons that this was a much bigger deal.

One blog I found very helpful was this: http://www.notquitewonderwoman.com/surgery-post-1-ventral-hernia-repair-with-abdominal-wall-reconstruction/

If this is something you’re going through, she explains her journey very well, and is much braver than me in that she also supplies photos. She also explains how she found her surgeons which isn’t something I can speak to since I have Kaiser for my insurance and they have their own in house Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Team. (Who were wonderful! Thank goodness.) This team included a general surgeon and a plastic surgeon, and a nurse practitioner.

I think part of the problem with trying to find information on complete abdominal wall reconstructions is that not every procedure is the same. When I was researching information about my partial colectomy, it was fairly straightforward to find information on what to expect. While there is a lot of variation in why someone might need a colectomy (cancer, diverticulitis, severe Crohn’s, etc.) the actual surgery to get the thing out doesn’t seem to vary as much.

However, an abdominal wall reconstruction is going to depend on what’s wrong with the abdominal wall in the first place. If there are multiple hernias, or just one massive hernia. Where the hernias are. How much good/normal abdominal wall structures there are to work with, etc.

For example, one of my hernias, the one at the site of the original colectomy was low on the left side of my abdomen, right over my hip bone. The surgeons were concerned that hip bone would make attaching the mesh in that area tricky. They warned that the might need to drill into the bone to attach it, but they couldn’t say for sure what they would need to do until they were in there. Thankfully they were able to attach it by wrapping the mesh a little further around my side so no bone drilling happened, but that conversation helped me see how each abdominal wall reconstruction is unique in many ways.

The basic gist of reconstruction though, is separating all the muscles and damaged layers of the abdominal wall and rearranging them so they cover the holes from thee hernias, and reinforcing them with mesh to keep it all together.

I’m at about 5 weeks post-op now, and really happy with how I feel. My doctors have warned me at length that my abdomen will never again be as strong as it used to be and I need to proceed accordingly. At this point in my recovery I still have a lot of restrictions on what I am allowed to do. Lifting, bending, twisting, or using my abdominal muscles in any way isn’t allowed. I must be careful to never gain weight. People ask me about that a lot. The mesh is holding my abdomen together now. It will always be there. It can’t stretch, so weight gain can cause damage to the tissues attached to the mesh, and possibly tear them. Not good. This will be a major challenge for me, but I have no choice but to rise to the occasion.

Recovery is a long slow process. I will see my surgical team again at 3 months and 6 months post op and learn when I can safely do more. Unless there is a problem, then obviously I will go in sooner.

Anyway, I decided to write more about my experience because of how difficult it was for me to find any information when I needed it, and I was so grateful to find the blog linked above. I hope someone out there finds this useful too. Feel free to ask questions if there is something more you’d like to know.


I Lost my Belly Button

I like to picture it in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf somewhere, but that isn’t where it went. More likely it was incinerated as biologic waste a week ago. Regardless, I don’t have a belly button anymore. The kids and I were brainstorming ideas of how I could explain to people why I don’t have one. One wanted me to say I was an alien. I sort of liked the story that I hatched out of an egg. But the one I like best is that I don’t have a belly button because my mother molded me from clay and Zeus gave me life. Now I’m just waiting for this to somehow come up in conversation.

I’m tired and sore, but doing really well all things considered. My big goal of the week is to get some writing done. I’d love to have a new Flash Fiction Friday piece ready this week. So watch for it to see how I’m doing! I’m tired of talking about my health so I probably won’t for awhile.


Today is the Big Day

Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Day

Sooner than I had expected, but that’s how things go sometimes, don’t they. I thought I had considerably more weight to lose, but my surgeons are thrilled with what I’ve done so far. Trying to organize my life to make sure all my responsibilities are covered while I’m out of commission has kept me busy enough that I haven’t spent too much time obsessing about the actual surgery part, which is probably for the best.

I’m hoping to get some writing time in during recovery, but from experience I know when I don’t feel well, my brain doesn’t flow all that well either. So we’ll see and hope for the best.

Wish me luck!


Weight Loss Progress

So the weight loss is going better than expected. I’m down about 15 pounds from May 1st, which puts me on track to be down 25 pounds by mid July. I’m a little worried about muscle loss since I am so limited on what exercises I can do, but I’m putting that into the ‘things I cannot change’ category and trying not to let the stress of it get to me too much. I am walking a lot, and I enjoy that.

For those interested, I use the Sparkpeople app to track my food and exercise. I think you have to go into the full site to get your goals set up to see the recommended calories a day, etc. but after that I recommend the app instead. The full site is crazy ad heavy so it loads super slow and is generally a pain. But it’s all free, so it has that going for it.

Just a couple days ago I hit 190 on the scale, and got very excited that I only have 10 pounds to go! Whoo! Then I thought things through a little further and realized that my reward for losing these last 10 pounds will be getting a horrible surgery that I don’t especially want to have, and in that light it is a whole lot less exciting. The flip side is that I don’t want to stay the way I am either, as both hernias seem to be causing me more pain and discomfort as time goes along. So surgery it is. Dammit.


What’s Up with Kara’s Guts?

I know this is the question that’s on everyone’s minds. That’s keeping everyone up at night.


I guess it’s just me then.

Still, I’ll fill you in anyway because I have already said so much here, and it’s going to affect the blog and my making of the things. I’m going to need more surgery. My innards have not been behaving themselves. I’ve herniated through both my colectomy incision site and my iliostomy site. The hernia at the iliostomy site is rather large. Because there are two hernias and one is a biggie, they can’t just repair them like a normal hernia repair. I need an abdominal wall reconstruction.

I’m not going to get into what that all entails in this post, but I may later on. Right now I’m working hard to emotionally come to grips with this new reality. My previous experience with surgery was pretty terrible, and frankly, this sounds like it will be worse.

Right now, I’m in major weight loss mode – much more so than the casual weight loss I was working at before this. Apparently excess weight makes abdominal wall reconstruction much less successful. Over a certain BMI, they won’t do surgery at all. I’ve just crossed down into the acceptable range, but to try to make things go as well as possible, and for this to be as strong a long term success as we can make it, my surgical team (yes, there is a team this time, not just one surgeon) wants me to drop another 20 to 30 pounds in the next 3 months. So that’s my focus right now.

Strangely, the drastic weight loss expectations are not what’s upsetting me. If the weight loss will make things go better, then I will lose the weight. I want things to go better. I want things to go great. I want things to go as well as any abdominal wall reconstruction has ever gone before in the history of abdominal wall reconstructions. Then I want to never need surgery again for anything.

Is that too much to ask?