Friday, September 27, 2013

My Laparoscopy Tips

I can sometimes be a liiiiittle bit of a procrastinator. 

Like the time I had a laparoscopy scheduled for Thursday and, on the Sunday before, had no idea what I was in for.

(Perhaps distracting myself from actually thinking about surgery helped me to avoid stress and anxiety in the weeks leading up to it?)

Lucky for me, I had some great avenues I could use to reach out and get info about laparoscopic surgery. Namely, this blog and the IF facebook group. Thank goodness!

I posted on here and on there and got tons and tons of helpful advice. And I'm so thankful for all of it because I would have been so unprepared otherwise. 

Seriously. The only preparing-for-surgery info I had gotten from my doctor was "no food after midnight" and "do an enema before you go to bed." 

(Sorry, don't think about the enema.)

Anyway, I figured since all of that advice was so, so helpful, I should take some time to post my own "Surviving Your Laparoscopy" tips, in hopes that someone will benefit from my advice some day. Paying it forward, ya know? 

So, I've compiled what I found to be some of the most useful tools, tricks, tips, etc. during my surgery and recovery and I present them to you now...

Before the surgery.

1.) Go to Target.
When I realized I was going to need to pick up a few things for my recovery, I made a list and headed out to Target like a woman on a serious mission. And it felt good. It felt like I was doing my future self a favor, 'cause I was. "Don't worry, future recovering-from-surgery Stephanie, I'll take care of you!" It was very nice of me. And recovering Stephanie was very thankful. Things I picked up included: a cold/heat pack, MiraLAX, pads, GasX, easy-on-the-stomach foods, ginger ale, extra big high-waisted undies, and throat drops. I'll explain each item and its usefulness in a little more detail later.

2.) Pack.
I knew I was going to be spending the night in the hospital, so I packed a few extra things to get me through the night. Your list may be a little shorter if you'll be heading home the same day, but here's what I packed: comfy low-rise yoga pants, an old baggy shirt, a zip-up sweater, undies that are either very low-rise or very high-waisted, a squishy pillow, throat drops, GasX, and pads. All of these items came in so handy that evening. I'll explain better below. For now, you have your packing list!

3.) Prepare.
A few things you'll likely need to do to be ready for surgery day: stop taking blood thinners (like ibuprofen) a few days before surgery, stop taking most of your normal daily meds the day before (including the pre-natal multi-vitamin), do the enema, stop eating or drinking past midnight, remove all nail polish, and avoid all make-up, lotions, and jewelry on the morning of surgery.

4.) Find prayer warriors.
Whether it's your family, your coworkers, your friends, or your favorite online support group, find people to pray for you, especially while you're under. This will put you at more ease going into the surgery; it certainly did for me. Also, find a priest to do an Anointing of the Sick for you. One of my coworkers recommended this and I'm so glad she did. Now, this was pretty easy for me to come by, as I work at a church with 3 priests. But even if you don't have such a luxury, I'm pretty sure all you would need to do is call and set up an appointment for a priest at your church to do this for you. It takes about 5 minutes and the prayer and being anointed with the oil is such a blessing and de-stresser. I highly recommend it!

5.) Eat your favorite meal/dessert.
Treat yourself! This might be a morbid way to think, but I basically thought of it as a last meal... or I guess a probably-not-but-maybe-possibly last meal. So I racked my brain and decided a banana split was exactly what I wanted. My husband made it happen and I will say, it was a delightful last treat before surgery. Exactly what I needed to calm the nerves. More than anything, it gives you something to look forward to the night before surgery. The night before surgery is a scary thought, but not when you're too busy being excited about eating your favorite hot dog or filet mignon or fruit cake. Just make sure you finish up by midnight to keep within surgery guidelines.

6.) Relax.
Another night-before-surgery tip - find something that will help you relax! For me, it was a cheesy kids' movie; it helped distract me and didn't require a lot of thought or effort to enjoy. Perhaps yoga or some form of exercise is your form of relaxation. Do it! Or maybe a night at the spa. Please, by all means! Can't afford a spa visit? Pretty sure husbands can give free messages. And they can't say no because you can just use the "I'm having surgery tomorrow" card. It works everytime. But seriously, think about your favorite relaxation trick and make it happen. It'll take your mind off of surgery and hopefully make sleep come easily.

Surgery day.
1.) Prepare to be...
Anxious. Nervous. Interviewed by a million nurses and doctors. Half-naked all day. Hungry. Poked by needles and IVs. Confused by medical mumbo jumbo. Silly on anesthesia drugs. Scared. Cold. Then strangely calm. Asleep. Seemingly minutes later: awake. Groggy. Sleepy. Sore. Drugged up. Wheeled around. Relieved. Waited on hand and foot.

2.) Prayer.
One of my lovely blogger friends suggested this and I'd like to pass this suggestion on. Have your loved one(s), the one(s) waiting for you in the hospital, say a rosary for you while you're in surgery. My husband was more than happy to do this. I'm pretty sure it put his nervous heart at ease and I was so happy knowing a whole rosary was being said for me during the scariest part of the whole process. What a blessing this was!

After surgery.
1.) Tools to use.
Alright. Now it's time to dive in and talk about all of those handy surgery recovery tools I mentioned above. Though you may find other items more useful, each one of these were go-tos for me and if I were to go through this again, they'd be at my side the whole way, again.

Cold/heat pack - Target sells these packs as a 2-in-1, both cold and heat in the same gel-y pack, and only for a few dollars. I mostly used the heat pack on my shoulders when I experienced gas pain and it helped dull the pain immensely.

GasX - Another handy tool to help with that gas pain. And GasX is a very safe drug, so don't be afraid to take as many as often as you'd like.

Throat drops - During surgery, you'll have a breathing tube down your throat. When you awake, it's already out, but the throat can still be a little dry from it being previously in there. It's really not a horrible pain, but the throat drops will do just the trick for your slightly dry, scratchy throat.

MiraLAX - Anesthesia and pain meds can do some weird things to your digestive system. Do yourself a favor and prepare for constipation by taking MiraLAX as soon as you can after surgery. A capful a day should do the trick. I had read about constipation being a very uncomfortable issue with recovery, so I went in prepared and came out without any bowel trouble. Thanks, MiraLAX!

Pads - Have some extra pads around because you will bleed for about a week after surgery. Probably nothing heavy, but constant.

Squishy pillow - This became like a little stuffed animal friend through my recovery. I took it with me everywhere. It was most helpful in the car, acting as a bumper between my new incisions and the seatbelt, but I would also use it on my belly when I was just laying in bed or relaxing on the couch. It created a great buffer between the fresh scars and the rest of the world and was especially great as a place to rest my lap top.

Extra big high-waist undies OR very low-rise undies - I went with the high-waisted undies, but looking back, low-rise undies would have been best. The main goal here is to wear undies that avoid the incisions. Although you're not likely to have trouble with them, it's still nice not to have an underwear line irritating them all the time.

Yoga pants and baggy shirt - The same goes for the yoga pants and baggy shirt. You want clothes that won't irritate those scars. The yoga pants should sit low and the baggy shirt will help things to breathe. Just make sure you don't mind getting a little blood on the shirt because it may happen. Your incisions are closed, for sure, but they're known to bleed a little here and there.

Zip-up sweater - Grab your favorite sweater that zips up the front since you probably won't want to have to put your hands above your head and go through the supreme effort of putting a hoodie on while you're fresh outta surgery.

2.) Eat light.
Your appetite won't quite be the same, definitely right after surgery, but also in the days following. So make sure you have some easy-to-digest foods stocked up at home. My go-to recovery foods were jello, applesauce, pudding, saltine crackers, ginger ale, beef-a-roni (guilty pleasure!) and pastene soup. And as a bonus for making it this far in what has now become a way-too-long-but-just-trying-to-help post, I'll share with you the pastene soup recipe, AKA the best meal ever for when you're feeling sick.

Pastene Soup - Boil two cups of water. Stir in chicken bouillon (enough for 2 cups of water) and 5 heaping tablespoons of a teeny, tiny pasta (such as stars, acini de pepe, or pastene, which is the pasta the soup is named for). Boil until the pasta is cooked. Let it cool for a few minutes. Serve warm. Mmmmm. My mom used to make this all the time when we were little and feeling sick. I highly suggest it as part of your recovery diet.

3.) Relax some more.
Recovery time can vary from half a week to two weeks, so whatever amount of time it is you'll need, make sure you allow yourself pleeeenty of relaxation time. And don't feel guilty about it! Not one bit! Watch your favorite movies and shows, read books and magazines and blogs, knit a sweater, call friends, listen to music, and sleep bunches too. This is the only time you get to recover, so milk it for all it's worth! And listen to your body. It'll know when you're ready to go back to the every day grind. I was feeling pretty much recovered by 5 days post-op, but I stayed out of work one extra day just to be sure I wasn't pushing it. I recommend that for you too!

4.) Move around.
Ok, so you definitely want to relax a bunch, as I stressed above, but you also can't be afraid to move. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your recovery is move around a bit every day. A friend of mine recommended getting up and walking around a little every time you have to take your meds. It'll keep you on a regular schedule of movement and get things flowing around inside like normal again. The last thing you want to do is come home from surgery and crawl into a ball. This will only delay recovery. So give yourself tasks everyday (like walk around the house, climb the stairs once, go to the mailbox, shower) and soon you'll find yourself feeling back to normal again.

Random wisdom.
1.) Gas.
Oh, the dreaded gas! Yes, it's true. You will experience gas pain with your laparoscopy recovery. But why so much? Well, they pump your abdomen full of gas to be able to see inside and get in there with their medical instruments. So after the surgery is over, you'll still have a bunch of that gas left in ya. Not to mention the gas from your constipation. Even more interesting is you'll feel the gas in your shoulders. Weird, right? What's it doing up there? My sweet doctor husband explain it to me like this: Your diaphragm is in your abdomen, near where all this extra gas is sitting. Since your diaphragm can't feel pain like other parts of your body, it instead refers the pain to other parts that can, namely your shoulder. Hence the icky shoulder pain. As I recommended before - heat packs and GasX will be your two best friends for the gas pains. Lying flat on your back will also help. And now you know why it's up there in your shoulder.

2.) Anesthesia.
Going under was probably my biggest fear in this whole process. My sweet doctor husband comes to the rescue once again. He went onto his doctory medical site and looked up complications with anesthesia and he basically found that risks are very low. He said, "You can't get into your car these days for those odds," meaning you'd be more likely to die in a car crash that day than die of an anesthesia complication. A morbid way to think, but definitely reassuring. Also, if you've never had serious medical issues (diabetes, heart conditions, obesity), you're really at a low, low risk. Hearing all of this made me and my husband feel a lot better and will also hopefully help you with your nerves too.


Whew! Well, that was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Call me comprehensive 'cause I think I covered everything. And then some.

If you've already gone through this procedure and feel like I've left out anything major, please feel free to add on in the comments. Let's make this as comprehensive as possible!

Most of all, I hope this is helpful! If you're about to go through a laparoscopy or other surgery and you've just read through this, please know that I'm wishing the absolute best for you. If you shoot me a comment or an email, I'll be sure to pray for you. And if you'd like me to expand on anything I've written here (I know, what more could I possibly have to say, right?!), please don't hesitate to ask.

*I do realize that every surgery experience is unique and the recovery process is different for everyone. What worked for me may not work for you and vice versa. Please also understand that I have no medical expertise whatsoever, so these are all the opinions of a girl who went into this just as clueless as your average non-medical Joe Schmoe. My goal here is only to be helpful. Please ask your doctor if you're uncomfortable about your procedure or are unsure of anything I've said here. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Surgery Story

On Wednesday, I worked a normal day at work, tied up all the loose ends, and headed home to get all my surgery ducks in a row. 

The sweet husband prepared dinner, a delicious lasagna soup, then insisted on taking me out for dessert. Ok, so maybe the dessert was my idea, but he was definitely on board. For some reason, I really wanted a banana split, so he did some internet searching and found a frozen custard place nearby that had them. And it was delicious...

After we ate every last bit of that deliciously oversized sundae, we found a Redbox and rented the most happy, lighthearted movie we could find, which happened to be Epic. It was super cute and just what I needed to keep my mind off of surgery. The movie ended, we went to bed, and I thankfully fell asleep very quickly.

The alarm went off at 5:45am and we both felt mostly well rested. We grabbed all of our stuff for the overnight stay, including our two favorite stuffed animals, Mij & Picksey, did a quick get ready routine, and headed out the door.

John drove us the whole (1 hour) way to Jackson while I mostly just relaxed in the passenger seat and randomly asked him questions about surgery. Gosh, sometimes it is such a blessing to be married to a doctor. He put me at ease about everything and assured me it was all going to be ok. I think at this point my biggest fears were going under and having to fast all day. Not really equal fears at all, but I guess that's just how it goes.

We arrived a little early to the hospital, filled out all the necessary paperwork, paid the bill, and then were escorted up to a pre-op holding room. I think we arrived in the room by 8:30am and settled in very quickly. I was given a hospital gown and some slippers to change into, which I did, and then a kind nurse came and took a blood sample. Soon after, another nurse came to hook me up to some IVs - one in each hand since I was having robotic-assisted surgery. The husband decided this was a good point to take a picture.

He suggested the thumbs-up pose.

One funny thing we wondered about for a while - we didn't really know much about the hospital we were in, just the name really. So John kept wondering if we were just in a pre-op holding room or if it was also the room I'd be recovering in later. We were hoping it was just the pre-op room because it had no couch or bed for John to stay the night with me and no bathroom. I mean, we would have made do, but we were confused and laughed about it for a bit. 

Soon another nurse came in and explained it was just a pre-op room. Phew! She came in to take my temp and blood pressure and cover all the last minute surgery details. She ended up talking to John for a while about his job as a pediatrician - apparently her grandson had just spent several nights at the hospital where John works. She also loved that I was a Youth Director and kept telling us she had walked into a "God room" when she walked into our pre-op room. It was sweet, although I was a little annoyed when she started telling me all I needed to do was relax and forget about it and I'd be pregnant. I held it together and just smiled and nodded, I mean she was just trying to be nice, but seriously, two things: 1.) If I could "just relax" and get pregnant, trust me, I would have done that by now. And 2.) I'm in here getting surgery because of our infertility! Don't you think that means it's a little more serious at this point than "just relaxing"? I obviously didn't say any of this to her, but I sure did think it for a second. I let it go so quickly and was just happy with the fact that she said she'd pray for us. Overall, it was a sweet interaction.

Dr. Gray dropped in to see me before surgery. He asked me to tell him what kind of surgery I was having done, to make sure I understood what I was in for, I guess. I passed the test and then he went on to tell us that things were a little delayed but that my surgery would likely start by noon, only about an hour late. He was extremely kind and his presence was very calming.

Johnny and I took some of our extra time to say some prayers to all the saints that came to mind. Just a quick "St. Anne, pray for us, St. Gerard, pray for us," and so on. I also had him tell me a story that I was going to try to remember post-surgery. He said some of the anesthesia drugs can affect your short-term memory and cause you to forget things even before the drugs were administered. I thought that was really odd, so we decided to have some fun with it. (I did, in fact, remember the story right after surgery, though I can't remember it now. Weird, right?)

The anesthesiologist arrived to chat quickly and then things really picked up from there. A fourth nurse dropped in to administer some relaxation drugs (versed), then a certified nurse anesthetist stopped by, and then next thing I know, I'm being whisked away on my hospital bed! I said a teary goodbye to my sweet husband and cried down the hallway to the operating room.

When we arrived in the room, it was so cold! They helped me from my bed to the operating table, put a breathing mask on my face, told me to breathe deep, and then told me they were going to administer some drugs to put me under. And then the drugs worked perfectly because the next thing I remember is waking up in the post-op holding room. 

I was groggy and mostly half awake, but I remember a kind nurse asking me how bad my pain was on a scale of 1 to 10. I think I told her 2 or 3. They must have already pumped some nice drugs in me, because I wasn't feeling half bad! I also remember asking her what time it was. I wanted to know how long my surgery was because I knew the length of the surgery probably equaled the severity of whatever Dr. Gray found when he went in. She said it was around 2:30pm, so I knew surgery had only lasted about 2 hours. Praise God! This probably meant something good!

I was held in the post-op room for 30 minutes to make sure everything was stable and then they wheeled me off to my recovery room. I remember feeling so happy that I was going to see my husband soon. As soon as I reached my room, there he was to greet me! I don't really remember much of what we said, but I know I was happy to be back with him because I knew that being reunited was calming his nerves. 

After a short while, I decided I wanted to get up and try to use the restroom, but as soon as I sat up (assisted by the nurse), I quickly felt nauseous and like I had made a bad decision. The nurse laid me back down and put an alcohol pad on my nose to help with the nausea. Thank goodness she did because I was so afraid I was about to throw up everywhere. I decided now was not the time to be going to the restroom, so I took a nap instead.

Several hours later, I woke up and remember being pretty shocked that it was dark outside. I was also shocked at how not hungry I was, considering I hadn't eaten anything since 8pm the night before and being hungry was one of my biggest (silly) fears going into surgery. Turns out anesthesia and/or pain meds can do some weird things to your stomach and its sensation of emptiness. Johnny went and grabbed some dinner and I did my best eating some jello, chicken noodle soup, part of a turkey sandwich, and some saltines, although the saltines didn't work so well with my drryyyy, dry mouth.

The night was pretty uneventful. I think we watched HGTV for a few hours (my guilty pleasure!) and then I drifted off to sleep. The nurse came in to check on me here and there, taking my temp and blood pressure, but that was about it. I was very surprised at how minimal my pain was and how easy sleep came. Thank you, pain meds :)

Dr. Gray stopped by to visit pretty early the next morning and brought with him the details of the surgery. John had already chatted with Dr. Gray right after surgery, so I had a few of the details, but I was anxious/excited/nervous to hear Dr. Gray's take. 

He did find some endometriosis! Going into surgery, I would waver back and forth on whether or not I thought he'd find endo. I really didn't have any noticeable symptoms of it except for the infertility, so I really wasn't sure if I had it. Turns out I did! He found it in a few places around my uterus - right side, left side, front, and near one of my ovaries - and on my cervix. He said it was a very mild case and he was able to excise all of it. Thank you, God!! 

He also said he saw the fibroid we had seen previously on ultrasounds. It was on the top of my uterus, on the outside, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, in a spot that most likely isn't affecting our fertility. I had asked him before surgery if he was thinking of removing it, but he said removing fibroids can cause uterine scaring, which is probably worse than having the fibroid stay, especially if it's not causing trouble. I am honestly a little worried that it might be weighing things down and causing my tubes to close off when I stand up, but perhaps this is an irrational worry? I suppose it's something we can look into in the future if we are still having trouble.

We were happy to hear that my tubes were completely open, though a little surprised when he said he saw some teeny tiny polyps in my uterus which usually indicate endometritis, or uterine infection. He was surprised to see it because John and I had both just taken a full course of antibiotics to clear it up. So it seems like this infection just doesn't want to go away. He sent off a sample to be tested and we should hear back soon about whether or not I still have an infection.

Overall, I think our news is rather hopeful. Dr. Gray said about 1 in 7 patients get pregnant just from having the surgery. I know statistics are not on our side here, but here's hoping we're in that lucky 14.3%. He also said that the severity of endometriosis does not necessarily indicate its affect on fertility. So, though my case was mild, we could continue to have problems well into the future. Only time will tell now :)

Before he left, he asked us to stop by his office (right up the road) on our way out of town to pick up a video of the surgery. That's right, a video of my insides during surgery. I thought this was a little strange and I haven't brought myself to watch it yet, but I guess it's becoming more common these days.  I think I might wait until our follow-up appointment with him in a few weeks to watch it. He said he'd go over it with us during the appointment and explain what's going on on the screen. Cool, but a little weird. I guess I'll report back on that later.

We packed up our few belongings in the room and a wheelchair dude was called in to wheel me away to our car. I put a comfy pillow between me and the seatbelt and just relaxed the whole ride home. Husband helped me up the stairs to our apartment, another part of the process I was worried about, but it was much easier than I had anticipated. I quickly found my way to the bedroom and crawled into bed for a little while. 

Johnny went out and picked up my pain meds and bought me a most beautiful bouquet of flowers, a recovery gift from him and his parents. Such a sweetheart, right? He helped me move from the bed to the couch and we watched movies and enjoyed each others' company and ate easy-on-the-stomach meals for dinner. 

My home recovery station - flowers from husband and in-laws, flowers
from my parents, water, meds, get well cards. All the necessities :)

The next day, I was already starting to feel better! I took it slow in the morning and put two very simple tasks on my recovery list - walk to the mail box and back with husband and shower. I accomplished both and was feeling so good that we decided to go on a little outing! Johnny and I were both excited about upgrading our getting-old-and-slow phones, so we went to the Verizon store and bought two new iPhones. Quite a treat for a girl 2 days post-op, amiright? We also stopped by our favorite Chinese food restaurant and picked up some take out for dinner. The wonton soup and a liiiittle bit of fried rice were exactly what the recovering belly needed. 

It was great to be getting back to my normal activities, though I think I pushed it a little too much because I was feeling pretty groggy the next morning. And the gas pain in my shoulders was horrible from the start of the day. I allowed myself lots of lazy time, including lots of time with my heat pack and lots of watching online episodes of The Pioneer Women (another guilty pleasure). I gave myself a few more recovery tasks - stop taking heavy pain meds, only ibuprofen, take another shower, and go to mass with husband. I accomplished all three! And husband treated me to Five Guys for dinner, which I figured I'd regret in the morning, but it was not the case! And their fries were SO so good.

That brings me to today. And today I'm feeling back to my normal self, only four days post-op. All I can say is, what a blessing! God has been so good to me through this whole process. I mean, it probably helps A LOT that I was only under for 2 hours, but seriously, thank you, God! And thank you to everyone who prayed with us through this process. I know it was through the power of prayer that everything went as smoothly as it did. 

Here's hoping and praying that the next steps in our journey go smoothly as well. Wouldn't it be so nice to be one of those 1 in 7 that get pregnant right after surgery? I guess we'll just have to wait and see!! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Just wanted to check in and say all is well! Surgery was Thursday, we stayed overnight at the hospital, returned to Memphis yesterday, and I've been taking it easy ever since. I plan on telling my whole surgery story later, but for now, I'm going to continue with my relaxation :)

Thank you for all the prayers. I really could not have gotten through this surgery without all of your love and support. Hugs to you all!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Too Much Time, Too Little To Do...

Strike that.

Reverse it.

Hi! Guess who's been busy.

We spent last weekend traveling to and from the beautiful Johnson City, TN for my beautiful sister-in-law's beautiful wedding. It was beautiful. Seriously.


Bridesmaid & Groomsman

Under the reception tent - magical.

I laughed (when the bride and bridemaids rocked out to the most inappropriate "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus at the church minutes before walking down the aisle. Oops.). I cried (the Catholic vows get me every time). I danced the night away. And I enjoyed spending many moments with parents-in-laws, siblings-in-laws, aunts-in-laws, uncles-in-laws, cousins-in-laws, and my mom and dad, who flew out from Rhode Island to enjoy the celebration too. It was one heckuva good time.

This past week, I've been playing catch up at work. But it's honestly been pretty fun.

And other than that, I've just been enjoying time off with the husband. Last night we made Harry Potter butterbeer cupcakes together. Let me just tell you, they're delicious! And it's a good thing I have a youth group meeting tonight. I'm hoping those teens gobble them up because my waistline does not need 23 more butterbeer cupcakes (though my taste buds think otherwise).

As for the upcoming week, it looks like we're a go for laparoscopic surgery this Thursday. I'm scared, nervous, and hopeful. The husband feels the same. Any advice from any of you kind ladies who have undergone laparoscopic surgery?

If you wouldn't mind, please say some prayers for us! Here's hoping for a safe surgery, a speedy recovery, overall health, and some answers regarding our infertility. I'll post a post-surgery update as soon as I'm feeling up to it. I'm taking a week off from work for surgery and recovery, so I'll likely have a bit of free time to keep everyone in the loop :)

Thanks in advance, for your prayers, love, and support.

St. Anne, pray for us!

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