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Thursday, July 29, 2010


The thing about being 'under' is that you don't know that you are until you wake up. It's weird.

So there I was, having this conversation with the anesthesiologist, and five seconds later I'm moaning, "Owww . . . owweeee . . ." and wanting someone to stop the pain so I can go back to sleep. Even before I could open my eyes I was saying, "ow ow ow Ow Ow OW OW OWWWEEEEEE!" I felt like a baby, and I'm pretty sure I also sounded like one. I was being forced to take sips of Gatorade and periodically I would get relief from the pain. "What is that?" I asked the voices I heard talking around and about me." "Fentanyl," came the answer. "Oh, good," I said, "That's my favorite."

I was dizzy, thirsty, nauseated, and exhausted. Eventually I was put into my own loose-fitting clothing, and then into a wheelchair and essentially poured into a car to take me back to my hotel. I was vaguely aware that I had a band velcroed around my abdomen. I spent the rest of that day taking in liquids and trying to rest and also stay on top of my medicine. I felt phantom belly pain (I don't know what else to call it) and sent a few drunk tweets and text messages (ie, to my friend Sue who wished me to feel better and I replied, "Thank"). I remember trying to watch 30 Rock that evening, but having to turn it off because laughing was severely painful. A nurse from the surgeon's office came to check on me that night, and again the next morning. I opted to stay an extra day/night in the hotel after hearing that a few of my children had acquired H1N1 (anyone remember that?).

When I got home I took my place in my bedroom, in a recliner, next to the window. I was propped up with pillows and blankets, and had my cell phone at my side to, you know, call my house phone downstairs. I had a schedule for my medications and napped a LOT. 2 days post-surgery I decided to try to take a shower, so I took my brace off . . . and this was a mistake. I moved around too much and ended up vomiting. That's right, 2 days after major abdominal surgery, I vomited. So gross and clenchy.

When Jen arrived, she went to the store to buy a wireless thingey, set up a network in my home, and handed over her laptop and some movies, including Clue. What more could a friend want?

The next six weeks were, essentially, spent in my chair. I'd listen to the radio and watch movies and Arrested Development. I drank gatorade and water and ate soup and crackers and pudding. I watched the landscape out my window turn cold as snow flurries blew in. I heard my children downstairs, sometimes laughing and playing, and sometimes crying and fighting. It was frustrating for me to have other people taking care of my children. I admit that I pushed myself more than I should have; that is, I hobbled down the stairs with my cane, bent over like an old woman, to try to take care of things when I should have been resting and relaxing my body, letting it heal. But a mother's gotta do, right? I was blessed to have visitors, and some friends brought in meals, which is the way to ease a mother's mind.

Slowly, gradually, I re-joined life. Although with my 'do-rag and cane I looked terrible -- even worse than I thought: I later heard that people speculated that I had been horribly afflicted with H1N1, and other interesting postulations.

Before I knew it, I was at my six week post-surgery check up. I went back to the gym immediately and had to be patient with myself. It took me a while to get used to not wearing my brace; when I took it off it felt like my body was falling apart. And I preferred to sleep in my chair rather than flat out on my bed. Each day, my swelling would increase throughout the day, and it took me quite a while to stand up straight. I was completely numb; in some areas, I still am.

My six month post-surgery appointment was this past April. Everything looks to be as it should, other than my belly button, which is almost completely closed (this will be fixed this fall) and is off-center (I'm the only one who can see that). At the time I was going through it, this was all such a big deal in my head, like having the surgery was part of my identity and made me a part of a club or something -- not in an elitist way, just as a definition. Yet, now? I barely even think about it, that is until I see my scar. Or when someone says to me (like at church last week), "You're looking skinny!" I thank them and quickly brush it off because while I work really hard (and I'm not anything close to skinny), I also did this huge thing to help me along.

The surgery has helped me tremendously. I knocked 30 minutes off of my triathlon time. I've gone down at least 2 pants sizes. There are some days when I don't feel any different than I did a year ago, at which point I look at my before pictures and recognize that my waist is significantly smaller. I feel more like myself.

If I continue to lose weight, it's because I count calories, something I never, NEVER thought I would do because 1, I love to eat and 2, math's hard. It's something that has been trial & error (and error and error and error) but it's been worth learning how to do. I'm still learning.

Thank you, as always, for reading. Don't forget to come back for my other posts.

What questions do you have?


cw said...

I will never forget that day when you let me drive you up to your follow-up in Ogden. Beautiful scenery. Great company and conversation. And you invited me to come in with you to your appointment and I watched as they removed your stitches. I said it then and I'll say it again, "What a brave, brave woman you are."


La Yen said...

I still feel bad I was such a jerk when I was up there helping. But it was because I had this alien growing that we didn't know about.

And you DID push yourself, but that is just your nature.

And I don't think you cheated even a little. I would rather work out with Jillian herself than go through the C section pain again--and that is a fraction of your gut bust. Anyone who thinks you did it the easy way is a buffoon.

Rynell said...

You are awesome. And brave. And strong.

Shar said...

You're awesome. And look at you knocking 30 minutes off your tri time! And you look great!

How did your belly button close?

My friend just had this exact surgery 2 months ago and she looks great. One more baby for me and then it's my turn! And I can't wait.

Carina said...

Meals for everyone!

Gerb said...

I admire you, Jenny. For sharing your story and for knowing yourself well enough to know what was right for you to do. For explaining things to your kids the way you did. I will admit that I have been judgmental once of this procedure (or maybe it was different? I don't know.) and that was when my ex-sis-in-law (just sis-in-law at the time) decided to have it done because she didn't want to have to exercise or diet. Direct quote.

Anyway... thanks for sharing. And I think you're an amazing person for all sorts of reasons.

Kalli said...

and then remember when I knocked on your door a week after and had no idea and then Jen went to stupid trunk or treat and I missed her


I remember that too

Emily said...

Off-center belly buttons are unique. I say keep it. ;)

Christi said...

I know this shows my complete ignorance, but all I understand about the surgery is the desired end result. What exactly is it? What did the surgeon do?

And from La Yen's comment, I'd have to agree. If it's worse than C-sections (which it sounds like) you are a brave, brave woman (cw).

Melody said...

"At the time I was going through it, this was all such a big deal in my head, like having the surgery was part of my identity ..."

The RN in me says: This IS a BIG DEAL. Not just in your head. Major surgery, general anesthetic, reconstruction of abdominal tissue/muscle/structures, body-altering consequences (even if they are good.) And it sounds like you did very well with it.

It seems to me that you are willing to do hard things to move yourself to where you want to be, Little Miss Tri-athlete!

P.S. The several pounds I've lost in the past 6 months have left me "feeling more like myself." I feel it every day and it makes me happy I understand that completely.

Rachel F. said...

Totally fascinating story. I fully expect that someday (post-kids) I'll face the decision about whether to "put my body back together again" so to speak. Thanks for sharing your journey.

I'm curious about the "still numb in some places" part of the story. Is that permanent? Does it bother you? Is it very noticeable to you? I've heard about that side effect but never talked to someone who actually lives with it.

~j. said...

cw - I'm so glad you were there. Remember how I didn't realize how long the drain was? Yeah. Gross.

LaYen - Jerk? What are you even talking about? Yes, I did push myself. And, yes, silly, long, cut-my-body-in-half scar. That was super easy.

Rynell - thank you, Rynell.

Shar - It's not completely closed, but almost. It's because of the scar tissue. It looks ridiculous, and not in a cool way.

Azu'car - Yes. Runzas.

Gerb - thank you for being a listening friend while I was going through it. I remember talking with you in the church kitchen. You are a wonderful friend.

~j. said...

KK - yes, that was awesome. Except for you & Jen missing each other, that was not awesome.

Emily - ha! The off-centered-ness, I like. I will keep that part.

Christi - Here's a video to give you the basic idea. Thank you, Friend.

Melody - yes, it was a big deal at the time, I guess I'm just surprised that it no longer is, you know? Isn't it so liberating to finally feel like you again? I feel that way now, too. You look great, by the way, as always.

~j. said...

Hi, Rachel - No, it's not too bothersome. Time will tell how permanent it is. It was really, really weird at first, but now I'm used to it. It's mainly in areas in my central/lower abdomen which are numb, although sometimes it feels as if the numbness is spread to the tops of my legs. Thanks for reading!

Vern said...

Remember when Tobias joined Blue Man Group and you could see all his blue, smudged fingerprints in the background? Awesome.

Also, I am your soul sister with the throwing up two days after having your gut cut open and stapled shut. I threw up oranges. You?

Kemp Kuties said...

Jenny, I think you watched my girls during your "recovery." I had NO IDEA and I am floored that you accepted and were able to watch them and your brood too.

all I can say is, you are incredibly amazing. And...I'm jealous

~j. said...

Vern - "I just blue myself"? Yeah, I remember. Ew, oranges? That's harsh. I just threw up water and bile. Or something just as appealing.

Kutie - I'll watch your girls any, any time. They're wonderful. Just like their mama.

swampbaby said...

When do we get to see some pictures of you and your rockin' new bod? BTW, not that you are worried about it, but my mom had a tummy tuck and none of us are warped or have any detrimental effects from it ;-) In fact, I like that she knew what she wanted and needed to do to get her body back together and had the guts to do it. So kudos to you!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

wow... don't know what to say. I want to do that someday when I feel I'm ready for it. I definitely will need it. Somethings just can't be fixed with diet and exercise.

But this post scares me. I hate sitting around, I hate drugs that make me want to vomit, and I'm not sure if I could not laugh after surgery cause I laugh all the time, and and... I'm a wimp.

When it gets to that point for me, I'll be calling you or emailing you so that I CAN call you and talk more details.

Love ya girl!

Melissa LeVesque said...

So right around the time that you were doing all this, I myself spent 14 days in the hospital...emergency gall bladder surgery when all my organs decided to try and die on me (glad they didn't use the words "renal failure" until I was headed home!) I too lost some good weight, and I also agree about feeling like myself more now. It's fantastic. There is certainly more to come off, but all in good time...I only have one numb spot, right on my giant scar (surgery could not be done laproscopically, so I got the full slashed-with-a-machete knife wound); at first that was totally numb, but mostly it's just extra tickly now.

The surgical drain ticked me off the most upon leaving the hospital. The NG tube down my throat was far worse than anything else I went through. I found out I have a very high tolerance for pain, not so great on nausea. My surgeon said at the end "if you thought your two c-sections were bad, I bet you don't anymore..." He was so not kidding - there is no comparison.

I am sooooooo glad to hear that it went well and you're happy with your decision!