Post-Op Reflections

It has taken me a long time to be able to write this post, and although for the first eight days this was due to me being physically unable, for the majority of the time since leaving intensive care it has been because, each time I have picked up my tablet, mentally I have been found wanting. When it came to writing my other posts, I found ideas and inspiration flowed freely and writing was easy, but this post has been difficult and I have rewritten and scrapped it numerous times. This morning I reread what I had written and decided yet again I was not happy. But this time I decided that rather than blindly starting again I needed to think why was I finding this so difficult; what had changed?

And I think the answer is simple: me.

Everyone has an idea of what makes them them, and for me I have always been someone who likes to think of themselves as strong. When faced with adversity I choose to stare it, emotionless, in the face and although I may be terrified I do not let it show, because, however stupid it sounds, I have always felt deep down that when I show real emotion, I show weakness. So I may moan about things but I am one to grit my teeth and get on.

After this operation, I was in a lot of pain. Pain that I have never known and never want to know again, because it struck fear into me. The other morning I received amazing news – my biopsies had come back and I had clear margins. I was told this by my surgical team, who said that in their eyes the operation could not have gone better, and that I would not need another operation. I think they could tell I had not taken this news as they had meant it, since my initial reaction was one of horror. They repeated the news to a now carefully smiling me, who gave my thanks and grinned. It appeared I had not fully considered this whole process, and had just whole heartedly assumed that this operation would be the last.

The prospect of going through this operation again had never entered my mind, and honestly, it makes me feel sick. Thinking of me and what I was a week ago makes me feel physically sick.  Because when I think of myself lying there on that bed in intensive care, blinded by the hours I had spent on my front under anaesthesia and clinging to the rails, truly believing I was dying, I don’t feel like me. I feel weak and helpless…and that scares me.

Don’t get me wrong – I really am ecstatic that I am cancer free. But I feel this ecstasy is more from a relief that I don’t have to go through this operation again, rather than part of a celebration of the long term, far reaching effects of not having cancer. For me, now, this operation is the thing on my mind. And it has been since I had it fifteen days ago, and it will be for a very long time.

I have come a long way since my surgery, and I am able to walk a little with the help of my little pal the zimmerframe. Physically I am getting stronger and I am recovering amazingly well. My progress is astounding me and my parents each day, but no matter how far or quickly I walk, there is still a massive sense of nervousness that hangs over me. I am worried I have lost my fight, because I don’t know how I would ever make it through round two if it turned out there was one. At every point in this journey so far I have been able to fight, to struggle on through the pain and continue searching for the answers when they weren’t there, or pounce on them and act when they were. After this operation I felt helpless. I lost my eyesight, my ability to communicate and my connection to the real world as I drifted in and out of consciousness under a haze of drug fuelled hallucinations. I couldn’t do anything and I wasn’t me. Honestly, I look back on myself and don’t recognise me. This is what makes me feel sick.

All this sounds dramatic but it is true, and I think I needed to write this post to be truthful to myself, because carrying on posting as though nothing has changed would be lying to both you and myself. This surgery has changed me, and although at the moment this scares me, I will continue to tell myself that I am not ashamed. I have been left with physical and mental scars, that extend up along my stomach and back, giving me the appearance of the world’s longest butt crack, but also those that cannot be seen go deep inside and will be harder to mend. I am proud of my physical scars, I earned them and I will wear them unabashed and loud for they are mine. I am more nervous when it comes to the psychological aspects: I am worried I have become boring as this is all that is on my mind; I second guess anything and everything the doctors tell me and find it more and more difficult to believe what they say; I have become scared of the fight itself.

I think more than anything this whole experience has made me question who I am and what makes me me, which, if you know yourself, seems like a fairly easy thing to consider. But not until you feel you have been stripped of everything and and you are completely powerless can you look at what is left and know what is there. It worries me that what remained was very little and that I did not feel strong when I needed to most, but just desperate with a longing for voices I knew. There was something almost inhuman in the way I felt at that time, most likely a combination of the pain and drugs I was on, but it is a feeling that is still haunting me now and will continue to do soon the future. I do not recognise myself lying on that bed and that is scary, and I think I will be dealing with that for a long time to come.

I wanted to write this post before I went into any detail regarding the operation or my recovery, because I thought it was important to give you an insight into my mindset as I write these upcoming entries, and also to show that this operation was not funny even as I make light of various situations. This surgery was the worst thing I’ve ever been lucky enough to experience, and words cannot express how hatefully thankful I am towards what happened, because although this entry and journey has been super depressing, I am cancer free. I am on my way to beating cancer.

About the Author

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9 Comments

allison semikin

Beth, this post is so honest, believe me when i say you still have fight. I have witnessed it everyday since this awful journey began and all through the difficult days since surgery. You continually astound me with your resilience and bravery and I sit and draw strength from you and your determination. I have always been so proud of you but this experience has shown me that you are a very special young
woman and a person who brings something very special to the world we live in. Keep going baby Beth and wear your battle scars with pride. Xxxxxx

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Stuart

It’s pretty difficult to know what to say about your blog as it feels that whatever I put it will seem insufficient, but I want to write something. It’s impossible to understand what you have been through especially with the operation, but I do appreciate what you mean when you talk about the treatment, the op and how it left you, making you feel like you had been stripped back to your very core. You are one tough young lady but surely anyone would have felt the same because that is what it does to you. You are not superhuman so please give yourself a break. The bravery, the determination and the tenacity you have shown is the real you and it is apparent from your blog that that person is coming back stronger every day. Stay positive, one day at a time and take care

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Helen Spencer

Beth – after reading your blog I am always left completely lost for words – so I will simply say that I am absolutely elated (but not surprised given your strength of character) that your operation has been a success and that you are on your way to complete recovery. Lots of love X

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Jen Yard

Beth, I can’t begin to express how brave you are. To go through the pain, and to be so painfully honest about your experiences. It takes courage to admit that you’re feeling like you’re in a dark place and not as positive as before. I really do hope you are on the road to recovery and that the pyschological and physical scars begin to heal that you are in some way richer for it. Xx

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Sharon kajdi

Dear Beth so pleased with your fantastic news operation successful & CANCER FREE . I have been following your blog and you are a very talented writer. Do not be so hard on yourself you are a fighter strong & able to communicate your inner feelings so emotively & with witty humour. I burst out laughing with comparing your recent operational scar as an elongated “bum crack”. Keep positive and I know it must be so frustrating & frightening when your independence is challenged but each day you will be stronger and you are brave and inspirational. Looking forward to your next blog xx My children Alanna who went to Wally Girls Jason & Kyle are also following your progress. We all send our love & best wishes for speedy recovery & discharge home xx

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Sara

Hi Beth just finished reading your post and feel incredibly emotional. You write with such maturity, sensitivity and elegance. Your mum and dad must feel so proud to have raised such a articulate, bright, funny, wonderful daughter! X

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Jayne

Beth you are inspirational and a tribute to your mum and dad. You have been through such hell but now the sun will be shining on you to bed making a full recovery. Keep well and think positive and really routing for you xxxxx lots of love and hugs xx Jayne

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Samantha Martin

Beth, you are doing amazingly and are so incredibly brave and have such an inner strength. The way you write is so wonderfully honest, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
Keep strong and stay positive.
Huge love and hugs to you and all your family.
Samantha, Lee, Ian, Mark & Molly oxo

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Jackie Owen

Hi Beth, brilliant to hear your wonderful news .. cancer free, fantastic! I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing you in Banstead very soon. Lots of hugs to you and your Mum, Jackie xx

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