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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

I'm going under the knife again, voluntarily this time!

I haven’t done a health update in ages, but I’ve had a problem for over 2.5 years. I developed a hernia behind my buttocks which is known as a Perineal Hernia. It could have been fat or guts pushing through. I saw my original surgeon over 2 years ago, but he was very loathe to do anything about it. Back then, the lump was less obvious than it is now, and as luck would have it, every time I saw a doctor it would mostly hide back inside me, so the hardness I could feel was less apparent! I don’t think my original surgeon did laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery as he talked about my original bum scar taking ages to heal, as the skin was more fragile there due to having had radiotherapy. However I’d spoken with a couple of ladies in the USA on Facebook, who had had theirs repaired successfully by laparoscopy. He suggested I did pelvic floor exercises, and we left it like that.

I only did the exercises half heartedly due to my depression, and I couldn’t see how that was going to help where my bulge was. By the way, if you google perineal hernia, you will find there isn’t very much about it, except for medical reports. Look at images though, and they are nearly all of dogs!! Apparently it’s quite common in dogs, but not so in humans. I read that it is a rare complication of the surgery I had. Parastomal hernias, however, are extremely common - these are openings in the abdominal wall where the intestine pushes through. Like many hernias, they are caused by lifting heavy weights or straining, or coughing/sneezing, and after having your abdominal muscles cut through due to surgery, and having a stoma which weakens the muscles on that side of the waist, they are quite easy to get. I was extremely sensible, wearing my corset for the first month as directed, and whilst gardening afterwards too. I also bought some lighter weight hernia belts which were more comfortable and suitable for summer, and wore them when walking up or down hill. So I managed to avoid one of those hernias ....... but what bloody bad luck to get the other kind!

I’ve had to go back to taking my foam donut cushion with me everywhere I go and using it all the time in the house and car. Now that’s a pain in the bum as it is! Anyway, soon as we decided we were definitely moving, we knew there was a new opportunity to find a surgeon who could repair my hernia via keyhole. I absolutely did not want my butt crack cutting open again. It took 14 months before I could start to go out without my donut originally (I’m only on my second one, they are amazing at keeping their shape) and I don’t want another year or so of that again.

So, we arrived at our new house and after a few weeks started searching for a doctor. There isn’t one in the village, and it seemed all the other doctors in neighbouring villages and towns were not taking on any more patients. Never came across that before! Luckily one of these doctor’s surgeries suggested a doctor who had just moved to the area (20 mins drive away) and she was able to take us on. I had to see a doctor first before finding a gastroenterologist to take on my post cancer check ups, and needed a prescription/introductory letter. Then, I would be able to quiz this specialist about potential surgeons.

However, by the time I got to see the gastro, it was the day before lockdown! How lucky was that?! She gave me the names of the two surgeons in the hospital (at Carcassonne) who do abdominal type of surgery. But of course, making an appointment was delayed by the lockdown and then not wanting to go near a hospital for a while after that.


Can't post without a photo - me at Ile Sainte Lucie recently

So, nearly 10 months after moving, I had my appointment with a surgeon! He seemed very nice and clued up, and ordered an MRI scan, where I would bear down at one point to see what happened. I only had to wait a few weeks for the scan which I had on Friday, with the results emailed to me the same day. Oh joy, it seems my insides are a mess. I have a slight bladder prolapse, pushing against the vaginal wall, but upon bearing down, my bladder moved right down and you could see intestines moving down below my uterus (in a side on view). Apparently it’s the intestines moving that have caused the secondary problems: colpocele - hernia projecting into the vagina, and cystocele - bladder prolapse) because everything is all linked together, in some way or other. I saw the surgeon again yesterday and it was a lot easier to understand what was going on, seeing the MRI images on his screen and having what was what explained. I already had all the images in printed form given to me after the scan, but it had taken me ages to even work out which way was up! 😄

Thank goodness, he said it was not more complicated now than what we had thought originally (just intestines/fat coming through a hole). It will all be repaired with mesh done laparoscopically and I’ll only have to stay in for a couple of days. I do know that mesh repairs have a bad rep as they often fail, but I think it’s worth the risk. The surgeon seemed very positive. However, I am missing certain muscles inside which were removed along with my rectum/anus/remains of tumour so the mesh has to be attached to something. Whilst we were there the surgeon called a urologist, who said it should be attached to my uterus (which seems to be the only thing still in place!). I think the other end of the ‘hammock’ will either be attached to some other muscle, or bone. It’s complicated for us non medical people to understand, and this is all in French!! The urologist will share the surgery with the surgeon, which I’m pleased about. The only worrying thing is that this is an uncommon surgery, where prolapses involve a perineal hernia and certain muscles not being there and probably scar tissue due to the first surgery. But I’m willing to go ahead because I have been in pain and discomfort for a long time, and have been taking codeine/paracetamol for ages, which I would like to stop taking.

I have a date for the surgery in early November, perfect timing as I should be ok for Christmas, and won’t be missing nice weather. I have to see the urologist and an anaesthestist next month, then do the hospital room booking and admin. My insurance (Mutuelle) will cover me having a top of the range private room like last time. 😄 😁

I feel so relieved that at long last something is happening.

7 comments:

  1. Wow - quite a post - you really have been through the mill! I feel as if I got away with things very lightly in comparison. In 1988, I had post-natal corrective surgery for vaginacele, rectocele and cystocele at the same time as a hysterectomy. Not everything was successful and I finally had successful surgery here in Brittany in 2013 to hoick up my bladder again and prevent incontinence. To do that they used mesh and one part was attached to bone so I guess it was a similar procedure to that which you will have in November. I'm so glad you have finally found someone who has correctly diagnosed and is going to act on that so quickly and hope that this will be a final medical invasion for you. xx

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    1. Thanks so much Sandra. I remember you having your previous surgery and reading about it on your blog! I'm so glad it was successful - in fact I have had several messages from friends in Brittany who have had successful mesh surgeries, so that makes me feel more positive! xx

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  2. Oh Mandy - you really have had more than your fair share of problems. It all sounds quite horrendous. I am glad you have found a new doctor and a surgeon and I really do hope the operation goes well. You are one very brave lady.

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    1. Thank you so much Caroline. The aftermath of cancer is generally full of problems from the small to the large, I think you have to have had it yourself or someone close to you to understand how tough it really is both during, and afterwards. But we who have an afterwards are happy just for that! I will keep you posted.... xx

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    2. Caroline, has Amanda's blog (Quiet Walker) gone private? Is she still posting? Cos when I click on the blog link, it says I haven't been invited to read it!! I suppose I could find her on Instagram or maybe Twitter, but would be interested to know first.

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  3. Hi Mandy
    I have been trying to comment on your last couple of blog posts without success!
    Hopefully this one will work?
    All the very best for your surgery, it must be awful being in so much discomfort so
    Alan and I hope it all goes well.

    Philippa x

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    1. Hi Philippa, sorry for the delay replying. Thanks so much for your best wishes. Not long to wait now and yes it will be wonderful to feel comfortable again and not to have to take the bloody donut cushion around everywhere with me! I went through about 14 months doing that after surgery so it is really frustrating to need it again.

      You aren't the only one who has problems posting comments, I don't know what the problem is - must be a glitch somewhere. All the best to you and Alan and your family. xx

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