Of all my recovery weeks at home, I think the 7th week was the toughest psychologically. Once I learned that I had a stricture around 5mm I had something to blame for my eating issues. It became frustrating to spit most meals back up because I knew the issue was semi-out of my control. The action itself isn’t that bad but the process to get there became old really fast. Attempt to try a food, wait a minute, feelings of it being stuck, wait another minute, excuse yourself from the table and do the deed, return to the table and try again. Repeat. I had my X-ray on Tuesday of last week and by Thursday I decided that pureeing as much as I could was the way to go. I mostly stuck to soft foods and thickened fluids. This helped the spitting up immensely.
Since I knew my caloric intake was poor, I limited my physical activity which was also not good for my psyche. If you haven’t noticed already, I am a ‘mover’. I’m not used to sitting for long periods of time. I kept reminding myself it is all part of recovery but it was tough to limit my activity because physically, I felt like I could keep going.
My week took a huge 360 turn after yesterday. More on that later.
Wednesday was my follow up with my surgeon. My dad, mom and I drove halfway to the big city and took the train the rest of the way in. Since my appointment was at 3pm, we were concerned about rush hour traffic.
The resident and I discussed my weight issue and my upcoming dilation. I let her know about my ‘good’ caloric intake days at 1,400 and she mentioned that that is not close to enough because I am still recovering. Weight loss explained. I again asked about activity limitations in the off chance I would be able to do more…sadly they were exactly the same as before. Surprisingly, it can take up to 6 months for your abdominal wall to fully heal. It takes 6 months for the stitches to dissolve as well. That was a real wake up call. When it came to incisional asthetics, I asked about cross frictions as well as therapeutic ultrasound, vitamin E, therapeutic laser, etc. I am now allowed to cross friction but everything else should be avoided. Good thing, because I started gentle cross frictions about two weeks ago. The physio in me couldn’t help it!
On our way out, we ran into my surgeon and she asked how I was doing. I replied, “very well!”. She then said, “very well even though you can’t eat?” and I said, “yeah, even though I can’t eat, I am still doing really, really well!”. We had a good laugh and went home.
Yesterday it was back to the big city for my dilation. A day that couldn’t have come any faster. There wasn’t a nervous bone in my body. After all, I already had my entire stomach removed…this was like chump change. I was so excited about the dilation that I had forgotten about the other parts of a gastroscopy…the IV line.
Mom and I arrived promptly at 11:00am for my 11:30am appointment. Brandon had borrowed a car from work so he could take us back to the train after my procedure in the event I was too doped up to function. He had the car from 10-3:00pm. Once I checked in, I learned that my appointment was actually at 12:30pm and it takes 2.5 hours for the whole procedure. By this time it was too late to tell him to turn around and go back to work so he came to visit for about half an hour before I was called in. I felt bad because it took him 1.5 hours to get to the hospital (a drive that google predicted would take 16mins), $20 to park and another hour to get back. He was in good spirits though. Again, best husband ever!
I was called in at 12:30pm and gowned up. After feeling my arms, the nurse decided to put warm blankets on my arms to try bring my veins to the surface. She also called in an IV nurse because I would be difficult to poke. After two pokes, the IV was inserted and by 1:00pm I was good to go. At 3pm I was called for my dilation. During the two hour waiting period, I was ‘fortunate’ enough to watch CNN play repeating footage of the Malaysian aircraft crash. It was pretty depressing. I also ran into a colleague who was in my undergraduate class who is now a physician. Small world!
The procedure went without a hitch. The doctor said that I had a ‘pin hole’ space. He said that strictures that develop earlier are worse than later because you are at higher risk for perforation if you do too big of a stretch. He also took a photo of my stricture. That hole should be at least double in size, no wonder no food would go down!. See below:
He was able to increase the size of the stricture from ‘pin hole’ to 10mm. He said that the hole will stretch and then shrink a little so he needs to stretch in series. In two to three weeks, I will return to the hospital for another dilation and then again likely in September. He said that, “We are going to get to know each other real well”.
By 5pm I was recovered and able to walk to the train. Mom had picked up a large booster juice (710ml of smoothie) for me to drink since I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since midnight last night. I was able to drink the whole thing over a 45 minute period without any after effects! Honestly, I would have waited all day in that office to have that procedure completed. The actual stretching and scoping only takes 30mins.
By 7:15pm I was home and really looking forward to testing my new pipework. I ate left over Indian food that I had struggled to eat the night before without any issues. Score! It was like night and day! Spirits lifted. Feeling good. I just need to watch I don’t eat too fast because I believe the stricture acted like a sphincter that regulated food to my small intestine, now it’s a free for all. I expect some nausea follow as my small intestine adjusts to increased food volume.
Since I am now two months post op. I have a sore throat from yesterday’s work but honestly, I could care less. I can eat! I am going to try eat as much as I physically can in case the stricture shrinks again. I have to return to my family doctor for more blood work to ensure that my nutrient levels are normal. I wish I had better veins but there are worse things in life to have.
To end off, here are two pictures of what I typically eat for breakfast and second breakfast: