Yesterday I was supposed to have my surgery. I had been told that the surgery would be scheduled once I had completed 8 weeks of hormone treatment. I had a provisional date for the end of August but my actual date was eventually set for 23rd October. The weeks leading up to it were rough. I had a short spell in the hospital and lots of painful days. It’s not easy juggling everything and being ill. But, I knew that the end was in sight.
I was all prepared. Its a big operation – Total Abdominal Hysterectomy with Bi-lateral Salingo Oopherectomy. What that actually means is that I am having the remainder of my cervix, my womb, tubes, left ovary, possibly right ovary (we are hoping to save my right ovary to avoid premature menopause) along with all of the surrounding tissues removed via an abdominal incision and an internal cervical incision. While there I am having a small repair on the top of my bowel that has been damaged due to endometriosis. Mentally and emotionally the preparation is huge. Practically, there is work, family and dogs. Work wise, I have been well supported and treated with empathy. Family wise my children are not little children so I don’t have to worry about childcare. The dogs, well they will have to learn not to jump up! I won’t be able to drive for at least six weeks or lift anything, clean or really be of use! So the planning that goes into the preparation is quite detailed. I have all sorts of things to make me comfortable afterwards. We really have covered everything that we can think of so are well prepared. My hubby has taken two weeks off of work for when I get home to help me and I have other family and friends ready to step in as needed. I also have some great support via a hysterectomy pre and post op forum that I found on Facebook – it has been great to connect, share and get advice from women going through the same problems, pain and decisions.
So the day arrives and I am ready. Then comes the problem. The hospital has no beds due to an influx of emergency admissions. Eventually they cancel the operation. I am given a provisional reschedule date of 27th November. Provisional in my experience with the NHS means add on at least a month. Then there is no guarantee of a bed so the worry of another cancellation. For me, that wasn’t good enough. I have been in pain for months amongst suffering other symptoms that combined render me useless for 2 weeks of every month. The endometriosis that I have suffered for years is widespread and running rampant. I have a condition called adenomyosis which is equally as painful. More recently a very, very small area of cancer was discovered in my cervix. Its very early stage and very contained but there none the less. So, it needs to go. I have been told that provided there is no nastiness anywhere else this operation will completely deal with each problem with no need for further treatment – I am lucky that I have a solution. In fairness, its the endometriosis and adenomyosis that cause all of the pain and suffering – they are my biggest problems at the moment.
So I consider the impact that this cancellation will have on my life. I want my life back and to be pain free. I want to know the cancer, although tiny, has gone and is not able to spread or develop into something more sinister. I want my job back. I have worked hard to get my career to exactly where it is right now and can’t risk it suffering. I have been so well supported at work despite my to-ing and fro-ing and not always being able to be where I am needed and indeed having to take time of with my symptoms. They deserve not to be put upon by this for any longer than they have to. My husband has been amazing but hates to see me in pain and is worried for me. My wider family also hate to see me suffer and provide no end of support and help. My friends are great but I always feel like I am moaning! My GP and Nurse are great but unable to really do much other than support with adequate pain relief. I use a lot of pain relief for half of the month. The last two months have required regular morphine on top of other strong painkillers. I can’t plan far ahead as I don’t know if it will be a good or a bad day. I can’t let it continue, of that I am certain.
So I decided to opt out of the NHS on this occasion. I asked to see my consultant to discuss paying for the operation and him treating me privately. It turns out that he doesn’t practice privately but his colleague does. He speaks with his colleague immediately. Within 20 minutes the new consultants secretary has telephoned me and offered me a private consultation in an hours time. I head off to the consultation. Now, the difference between an NHS hospital and a private one is immediately obvious. The new consultant has been googled by myself and is very qualified, experienced and has a special interest in the conditions that I suffer so I am reassured. Within minutes I am sat in his office. He is brilliant. I was so impressed with him. As he also works in our local NHS hospital as well as privately his secretary has already obtained the items needed from my notes, faxed them across and he is aware of my situation. I decide there and then that we will pay and that it will be worth every penny. He wastes no time getting on the phone and re-scheduling my surgery for just two days later. I sit in his office whilst he books a bed, a theatre slot, informs his secretary and so on. He has NHS commitments that day but will come to do my surgery straight afterwards. He is actually coming just to do my surgery. What a man. He goes through the operation, explains everything in great detail. He also explains that it may be a long and difficult surgery given the amount of endometriosis and tissue removal and that the decision to opt for private treatment will result in a better outcome. He wont be rushed with a list, he won’t have a set surgery schedule – he can take as long as is needed to do the best that can be done. I will get one on one care in the days after the operation in my own room. My husband and family can visit any time they want to, my husband can even stay all night if he wishes. I appreciate that not everyone has the option (or family support) to pursue this route and I feel for anyone that has to suffer because of it. But for me this was the only option. I am actually happier and more confident about having the operation as a result. It may just be that this was the way it was meant to be and I am eternally grateful to everyone who has rallied to make it happen. Again, I am lucky.
This isn’t a blog to rant about the NHS. In an emergency they cannot be faulted. They saved my daughters life a few years ago and she literally had the best that money could buy, without it costing us a penny. It is testament to them and their skills that she is alive, fully mobile and 100% recovered. Both my husband and myself have had emergency treatment resulting in an unplanned admission at the very same hospital in recent months and had positive experiences. We have never been able to say a bad word against them and will always be grateful to it being there when needed. Sadly, the demand is outweighing the provision and it is struggling to cope and shrouded in bureaucracy for many reasons. But, it is there when needed.
My biggest annoyance and only wish to rant on this occasion is that I strongly disagree with the fact that my surgery is still classed by the NHS as elective. None of this is being done by choice. I have not chosen to have this surgery. I have exhausted all other treatments none of which have had any long lasting relief. I have not chosen to have the conditions that I have. You just don’t chose to have this type of surgery for the sake of it. But that is by the by now.
So tomorrow at 5pm I will have my operation. Naturally I am nervous, even a bit scared but am looking forward to it all being over. At least the soreness following surgery will be because I am getting better, rather than worse. I will know that my recovery has started and normal life will follow as a result. That part is what I am excited about and looking forward to.
In the words of Arnie himself … “I’ll be back!” 🙂