A week not to be repeated

A summary of the last few eventful days. Not edited or cheerful, so feel free to skip!


The clinic is a short ride from the centre of Montpellier by tram (the girls have become seasoned and appreciative tram users).
I’m installed in the tiniest room I have ever seen, but at least on my own. I changed into my exiguous operating gown and we waited, and waited.
The op was due for one pm but it was two before I went down and nearly ten when I got back. The girls were astonished to find me relatively coherent and not in great pain except when I coughed. False impressions given by anaesthetic and morphine.

During the night things got more difficult, particularly as I have to clutch my stomach firmly with both arms to reduce the pain when I cough. Inevitably not much sleep.


Thursday morning I was in the hands of a sweet student nurse, who completely failed to help me do the key movement needed to switch to sitting up on the side of the bed. I got there, but in a complete panic attack, coughing and unable to breathe, so I was put back to bed and was on oxygen for the rest of the day.
In the afternoon the surgeon, Dr Courtieu, plus sidekick visited. He explained that the op had gone as planned- everything removed – uterus, ovaries and all the lymph glands in the abdomen. I have a large vertical bandage from rib cage to pelvis which bears witness to this. He said there was not as much bleeding as he had feared.
Everything extracted has now gone to a laboratory for analysis and the results won’t be known for two weeks. More waiting! He said whatever the results I would be having radiotherapy, probably in June. He warned me that the next week would not be easy.
Otherwise a day in a blur, followed by a night in which I slept about three hours.


Friday morning not in good shape because of coughing, increased pain and lack of sleep. I was visited by a young, petite attractive junior gynecologist (sick making, eh?). She has prescribed an aerosol mask several times a day to bring up the muck in my lungs, which she assures me is not an infection She also supplied a gadget which I have to blow into, to push plastic balls in the air. I’m very aware of my limited lung capacity.
By the evening I was hot, uncomfortable, coughing in pain, restless limbs and altogether feeling sorry for myself. I can no longer identify my various innards, but they all hurt at times.

I had been à jeun since the op – nil by mouth. This is apparently because the whole digestive system was paralyzed by the op (a mixture of anesthetic plus the body’s reaction to trauma) and has to wake up naturally before it can be used. Hence the frequent checks by the nurses as to whether I had gases moving in the stomach or was farting! And my system is taking its time.

Friday night was perhaps the worst so far. I think I slept at most an hour; the rest of the time I tossed – but unfortunately could not turn. The final straw was meeting the first unpleasant nurse, whom I subsequently named ‘the witch’. One shouldn’t describe people’s character by their appearance, but sometimes I can’t resist it. Older than the others, and overweight, she had piggy eyes with not an ounce of compassion in them. When towards the end of the night I said it had been my worst so far, she remarked almost with glee, ah there could be more like that.


Some progress: I got up in the morning and had a shower! Quite an achievement given the tubes attached to my left wrist, not to mention the catheter, plus a drain coming out of my right side, evacuating liquid where the lymph glands had once been.
But by the time Kate and Jude arrived I was not in good shape: lack of sleep and constant discomfort take their toll. Sad, because this was their last day and I would have liked them to have seen me in better shape. I had opposed them coming in the first place but was so glad they came in the end and felt very close to them.
At their behest, Deb arrived in the afternoon, to take their place. Again, I was cross she had been bothered, but is proving invaluable support.
Another bad night, with burning stomach acid, for which the witch said with some glee she could do nothing.


I had already started drinking water the day before. Now, given the signs of ‘des gazes’, I was put on a light diet: toast (French dry biscuits) and tisane for breakfast, vermicelli soup, yoghurt and fruit purée for lunch and supper. I have not wanted food at all since the op and found this very difficult to eat and left most.
The day was not good. The witch’s parting gift was to take out the catheter. My first trip to the loo ended in disaster. Tangled up in my tubes and drains I didn’t make it, and had to ring for help, tearful like a toddler. The day nurses, as kind as ever, cleaned me up, and Deb was given her first lot of laundry. Incontinence is proving a problem when I cough, but the nurses assure me this will pass.

I felt increasingly rotten all day and in the evening, with no warning, did the most dramatic projectile vomiting I have ever seen. Gallons of black stomach acid. All over me, my bed, the nurse assisting and the floor. Once again, a complete change of clothing (more nighties for Deborah), bedding and dressings.

Muriel, the nurse, was sweet and efficient. She said she would phone the surgeon to inform him, and, despite the fact I said I was feeling so much better, added she feared I might be sick again.
She was right. I was sick twice in the night, attended by the witch and her sidekick.

This was the witch’s last night on duty. Proof, if I needed it, that she and the sidekick are not nice came when they arrived in the evening. They had a lively and loud discussion with some colleagues in the corridor. A little old man, just admitted, came out of the room next to me and tottered on his stick up to them requesting less noise. ‘Qui etes-vous?’ they demanded imperiously, and the sidekick chastised him like a small boy for walking bare feet in the corridor and virtually frogmarched him back to his room. They then went on their evening round making more noise than usual.
I can eavesdrop this because like many of the patients I have left my door open, desperate to get a breath of cool air in the hot weather we are having.


Despite another broken night I was in better shape, though not looking great, wearing once more hospital garb which certainly does not cover my back. I think it was such a relief not having all that acid which I realized had been pressing on my lungs and abdomen. I spent a relatively pleasant day dozing and chatting with Deb.

I actually started the night by sleeping solidly for two hours! The first time since the op. Not really a bad night compared with the previous ones. It helped that the witch and sidekick had been replaced by two lovely nurses I had met last week. An increase in the cough has prevented proper sleep. Instead I have written up this blog. Since being sick I have for the first time felt able to read, write and  chat, albeit in small doses.

I have even felt up to having a rant with Deborah about the election results. I have been touched by the flood of emails and messages from friends and amused (if one can be) by how traumatized most of my British friends have been by the election.

I want to say that even if my replies are non-existent or random, thank you. At a very bad time I have felt surrounded by affection.

Lets hope that from now on my accounts will be more positive.


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