Recovery and Exercise

I have to admit that my recovery has been going well, although a little slower than I expected. Well, let me rephrase that; it’s going slower than I planned for. As for what I really expected? Well, I didn’t expect anything. I hoped and assumed, but didn’t necessarily have any expectations.

When I was in that six-week period of no exercise, I found myself getting upset more easily, feeling grouchy, feeling out of sorts, and feeling myself get pudgy and soft. I watched my arms get thinner, and my legs getting more tired after mundane activities; all things that I worked hard to fight against. Mentally, it was tough (and I posted about that aspect here quite often, as it was a struggle I had to deal with). Once I was given the green light to resume exercise, I was elated. But, my doctor was quick to point out that I needed to take it slow and easy.

I initially set out a rather aggressive reintroduction to exercise that I believed was going to be a gradual progression back to where I was. What I failed to take into consideration, however, was that I needed to listen to my body and take it from there. Any plans I made had to be flexible.

What ended up happening was that I have been running far less than I initially planned for. What was supposed to be a run day/rest day cycle turned out to be 1 run day followed by 3 rest days. Then, a run day followed by 2 rest days. Another run, and then another 2 days of rest. So, in the past 10 days, I only ran three times. While that sounds really bad, in actuality, it’s been necessary. I felt so much pain after that first run that I needed those 3 days to let my muscles feel better. Then, the following two runs had 2 day rest periods which turned out to not only be necessary, but actually helped me make increases in both speed and stamina. The last run I had (yesterday) felt amazing, went well, and I increased my pace and the distance ran.

My next run is scheduled for this weekend. I don’t know whether it’ll be Friday or Saturday, but I’m not pushing it. Well, not yet. I know that the time is quickly coming for me to start really pushing myself toward being able to take the ACFT again (for the third time), but for now, it’s all about getting back to a base level of fitness that will be the foundation upon which I can build. That also means I’ll start my weightlifting next week which is a week later than I had planned for. At first, I felt bad about that, but now, I’ve accepted and understand the importance of listening to my body. I wasn’t ready this week, and you know, maybe on Monday, my body will tell me to take it easy, but then again, it might say, “Let’s do this!” in which case, I’ll be ready.

Recovery is tricky as it’s different for everyone. I know people who have had the same procedure I had and they were back to exercising three weeks after their surgery. They’re also much younger than me and they may not have had the same amount of work done internally as I had. But for me, recovery has been a long process that I understand can’t be cheated, shorted, or quickened. It has to be ridden out, and it has to be respected. I’ve hurt myself in the past trying to do too much too soon. I won’t make that mistake again.

Eating Well to Heal Well

This is where my wife keeps her recipes for our amazing meals.

Something I think a lot of people overlook when they are recovering from injuries or surgery is their diet. What you eat directly affects how you heal: how fast, and how well. Case in point: my incision scar. When I went in for my three-week appointment, the nurse was amazed at how well my scar is healing. Most people my age heal slower than younger people, and often, an extended period of healing is advised. To the contrary, my scar has not only been healing well, but the nurse had to look at my chart twice to make sure she was reading it right.

“So, it’s only been three weeks?” She asked me.

“Yes, three weeks today,” I replied.

“Wow. It’s really healing nicely. I’d have said it’s at a month, based on what it looks like.”

She marveled at how well I’m healing, even considering my age. I asked her if diet could have anything to do with it, and she replied enthusiastically that diet directly impacts healing, and that many people don’t eat to heal. She said that people who eat healthier foods made from whole ingredients tend to heal better and faster than those who eat fast food or fried foods.

Since that appointment, I’ve also been adding a scar cream twice a day to the incision scar on my abdomen, and it’s been healing up very nicely. I’ve also been very careful with the food I eat, and I’ve refrained from smoking my pipe at all (as nicotine inhibits healing). I’ve had some alcohol on the weekends, but not more than a few drinks, and even then, only on one day per weekend over the past two weekends. All the food I’ve eaten has been healthy.

My wife has been very supportive throughout the process, and that support extends to the amazing foods she makes based on recipes listed on her blog, Our Daily Bacon. All the recipes on her blog are among our favorites, and we use her site weekly to decide what our meals will be for the week.

The Night of Day 12: Three Steps Forward, One Step Back

After a shower and a trim of the beard, I feel more human.

I felt like a new person yesterday, in more ways than one. I was able to sit at my desk and work like a normal person, had some moments I used to take very much for granted that proceeded without issue, and then I laid down for sleep. That’s when the trouble began.

I’ve been spending so much time in bed that my glutes get really, really sore. Painful, in fact. It’s not consistent, though, and that’s quite strange, but last night, they were more painful than usual. Enough to keep me awake for most of the night. The hardest part mentally was knowing that, sitting on the table within arm’s reach were opiates that could have taken away all the pain and put me to peaceful slumber. Knowing what those opiates do to my digestive tract, however, have kept me from taking them any further. Constipation coupled with post-operative abdominal muscles do not go well together.

So I laid on my side as best as I could until I was able to get sleep here and there. It worked, although I also have pain on my sides, but it was lesser pain. As I sit here now writing this, my glutes are still very sore, and I have no idea what I’m going to do to help this situation, but honestly, compared to how I felt this weekend, I still feel like I’m two steps ahead. It’s all about perspective.

On a very big plus side, I was able to take a shower alone yesterday for the first time since the surgery and I got really clean; squeaky clean. I found that the skin above and below the incision line is still numb. I’m not sure if that’s from the long-term anesthetic that was put into the tissue or if it’s a result of the skin being cut and severing nerves. Either way, it felt very weird although I have to admit, despite the residual swelling I am still experiencing, it already looks really quite good.

I’m also much more mobile now, which is nice. I can get around the house much more easily, and I can do some simple tasks on my own. I still can’t lift much (like a gallon of liquid is too much weight for my core to handle), but I can at least carry my iPad, iPhone, and a cup of iced tea from room to room. I’m glad I bought a set of dumbbells prior to this surgery; I’m going to need them to augment my free weights to regain the strength I’m losing right now.

So, tomorrow will be two weeks since the surgery. I had a very bad weekend within that two-week period, but my hope is that I’m past the worst of it. I continue to do what I’m instructed to do, and the doctor said I’m healing nicely, so I’m optimistic.

Finally Feeling Much Better (Again)

Actually sitting at my desk at home and working

I finally feel well enough (again) to be back at my desk and working. I had a doctor’s appointment this morning where the remaining drainage tube and catheter were both removed and my quality of life has greatly improved.

Mobility is surprisingly negatively impacted when you have tubes sticking out of areas that typically don’t have tubes sticking out of them. The diet change has really made a huge improvement, and I am able to function normally in ways that I have taken for granted my entire life.

The pain of my abdominal muscles is still present, but not nearly as bad as it was yesterday. Each day, it actually does seem to improve. I haven’t taken any pain pills stronger than Tylenol since Friday, and I don’t feel that I’d need anything stronger at this point. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the edge. It looks nice there.

As for what the doctor had to say today, my incisions/stitches are looking great, I didn’t do any muscle damage (that they can see) last Friday, and everything is healing up as it should be. That means I should be on schedule to start exercising again in four and a half weeks. My bike won’t look at me so longingly for too much longer.

Once again, thank you to everyone for your kind messages throughout this process. It hasn’t been easy, but never underestimate the power a smile has when someone is in pain. Sometimes, it’s that little bit that’s. necessary to make it past a rough spot.

Feeling a bit better, but still worn out

The longest my beard has been since I banished the beard.

I didn’t sleep very well last night because I slept all day yesterday. I finally fell asleep sometime around 2 am and woke up at 6:30 am. Sherry and my son Brendon helped me with my bathing (that was not a pleasant experience due to nearly passing out) but they both were very helpful, supportive, and gentle. After getting me back into bed, Sherry made me a small portion of farina with half an orange on the side. I took my morning medicines and went to sleep for four hours.

I am worn out. I lay here in bed, alternately standing up to exercise my legs and massage my sides as instructed by my doctor, and then I lie back down to rest again, only to repeat the process a few hours later. Through it all, Buddy is guarding me, which is nice. He knows something is wrong and he doesn’t want to get too close to me; he prefers to stay by my feet watching the door and the windows.

Buddy on guard duty.

I’m doing my best to stay positive. I am making plans for my workouts and how I will re-enter the world of fitness when I’m cleared by my doctor; not a day sooner. I am looking forward to being able to run without pain in my back/kidneys, and to be able to look good in a dress shirt or my uniforms. I look forward to the pain being gone, replaced by the good pain after a good workout. Four and a half more weeks.

Day Eight: Holy Hell

So, Day Seven went well. I was feeling good. Pain was almost gone, and I had a good visit with the doctor who removed one of the drains from my abdomen. I was told that I could attend a dinner the following evening with my family, and that by all accounts, everything was looking good. I was feeling great, and I remember thinking to myself that this process wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it could be.

Silly me.

That night, I tried to have a bowel movement (something I’d only had once since the surgery) and was unsuccessful. So, I drank some decaf coffee and laid down. The next morning, I awoke and had a regular cup of coffee, took two Swiss Kriss supplements (they usually help “get me going” when I’m stopped up), and then tried to urinate and found that I could not.

Throughout the day, I sat on the toilet being unable to do either function.

All day.

By around 2:45 pm, I told Sherry to take me to the ER. The pain in my bladder was going from extreme pain to excruciating. I was immediately admitted and given a catheter. While that eperience is not pleasant, it did immediately alleviate the pain and a liter of urine came out of me. As for the other issue: I was given three medicines to get things going.

After about three more hours, the medicine started to do it’s thing. The only problem is that my stomach muscles were recently operated on, and part of what the medicine did was to push. I had to push way harder than I would have liked, and the pain I experienced was probably some of the worst in my life. About an hour and a half of laborious pushing, and I was through the worst of it. I was finally able to lay down, although I was unable to sleep due to extreme pain. Since it’s the pain medicine that constipated me, I was fearful of taking any more pain meds, so I stayed awake all night.

This morning, my daughter taught my wife how to make tejbedara, or Cream of Wheat the way my grandmother used to make it for me. Yes, it’s made with wheat which is not Paleo, but they used coconut milk and almond milk as well as a Paleo sweetener. It really helped calm my stomach. I got some pads with lidocaine to wipe my butt with that really helped with the pain and I was finally able to get some sleep. The worst part, though, is now I’m wide awake at 11 pm.

As for how I’m feeling now; it hurts. Without the pain meds, I feel all the cuts, the stitches, and the extra pain from all the pushing I did over the past day and a half. I’m eating much softer foods that should pass through me easier, and I’m being more diligent with going to the bathroom if there’s a hint of needing to go. I’m doing everything else the doctors prescribed, and my next appointment is Tuesday when they will remove the second drain and the catheter.

So, this is my experience so far. It’s not typical. This is just what happens when you eat too much meat and your body isn’t yet ready to process it all properly coupled with not knowing just how much pain medicines and antibiotics can constipate you. I also never knew that anesthesia can make a person have urinary problems for up to a week later.

I know this was probably my most TMI post, but I’ve always endeavored to be brutally honest on this site, and I want people to know everything I go through my my health and fitness journey without sugarcoating or dishonesty. Thank you for following, reading, and I hope to have better news and photos soon.

Day Five Part II

The evening went pretty well also. I didn’t experience too much pain except for the drain on the right side of my pubis area. Where the tube comes out can sometimes feel caught, and it burns, but only for a few moments.

I had dinner, a really good chorizo hash that Sherry makes, and it was delicious. After dinner, I took my Diazapam (aka Valium) and an hour later, my dose of Hydrocodone. We waited about an hour after which I took a shower with Sherry’s help. It’s kind of scary to get into the shower with so many cuts and stitches, but everything is covered by tape, so it was all protected. Sherry gently washed the areas that needed to be washed while I did my best to keep from shivering too much. Even though the water was a good temperature, my body decided that it was a good time to shiver.

After getting out of the shower, we put the girdle back on me and I laid back down. Sherry drained the two bulbs and measured the liquid production. Good news; both were down from yesterday. I am also feeling much better when I walk, and I don’t feel too much tightness on the skin over my abdomen. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to remove one of the drains on Thursday and that I’ll be able to attend the dinner Friday night (I did borrow a wheelchair from a friend just in case).

I was asked if I have a high pain tolerance, and I would have to say that I don’t really think so. What I do have is a strong determination to see things through, and the ability to accept discomfort when I know there’s not much else I can do about it. I find that reading or concentrating on other things (like writing blog entries) helps keep my mind off of the discomfort and allows me to pass the time. Oh, and there’s the naps. Thank you to Hydrocodone for the naps.

Day Five: Post Operation

Still stuck in bed.

I am feeling much better today, again. I was able to get in and out of bed alone without much pain, and the only time I really have any aches is as I’m walking, the weight of my body pushing against my abdomen causes discomfort. Nothing horrible, but just a dull pain. Going to the bathroom is getting much easier now too, although I’m still not attempting the dreaded “Number 2.”

I am supposed to have a shower later this afternoon or evening, and while I’m not really looking forward to it, I’m also not dreading it like I did last time. This time, I know I can walk without begging dizzy, I don’t get nauseous, and Sherry will be helping me with the actual shower so I don’t have to look too closely at anything. I’m not squeamish when it comes to seeing wounds, blood, gore, etc, but I’m not keen on seeing it on my own body.

As for getting back to work, I actually think I’ll be able to sit at my desk in my home office and get back at it. I sat down at my desk today to see if I could handle it, and it was surprisingly comfortable. Sitting up isn’t nearly as bad as laying down for the past five days.

Since this is only day 5, I’m much more optimistic for how quickly I’ll recover. Again, I’m not pushing anything. I spoke with the nurse at the doctor’s office and told them my plan, and they said that my healing seems to be on-schedule.

The little plastic bulbs that are sucking the excess fluid out of my abdomen started looking a lot more see-through today, which is a great sign that the bleeding internally is subsiding and now, it’s just the body doing what it thinks it should to heal the wounds. The bruises I have are pretty gnarly; I can’t really see them as they’re either on my lower back or underneath the girdle I’m wearing right now to keep all my abdomen “stuff” together, but I’m sure it should be okay in the next month when I get to take it off.

I will say that on the improved pain scale, I’m at a 0-1 for the most parts of the day. Every now and then, a phantom pain will come up that’s like a 6 for a second or so, but it goes away as quickly as it came.

As for my diet, it’s still Paleo. For breakfast, Sherry made me an amazing Hungarian Lecso which is green peppers, mushrooms, onions, sausage, and eggs with a little salt, pepper, and paprika. For lunch, I had the delicious chicken and apple salad. Of course, I have my applesauce or cantaloupes when I take my Hydrocodone.

I hope to have even more good news tomorrow as I’ll be at my desk. But, for now, I’m not in pain, and I’m actually quite comfortable.

Is The Pain Worth It?

Being silly on one of my walks every couple of hours.

Someone asked me via Facebook as to whether I think the pain I’m experiencing right now post-surgery will be worth the results. Honestly, I can’t answer that question just yet, because I’m still in bandages, and I haven’t even yet had a chance to see what my body looks like. Aside from the bandages, I am severely swollen; the process I went through is quite traumatic for the body, and there’s a lot of swelling and liquid retention (which is mitigated by the two bulbs that are connected to tubes that come out from my pubis area).

I can say that so far, the pain has subsided a lot day after day. Sure, I’m still in some pain, mostly when I get up out of bed or have to lay back down, but when I’m just laying here or sitting up or even standing, the pain is tolerable, and it gets more so every day.

I’m expecting that the results will be worth it. I’m hopeful that the excess skin around my waist, and notably around my back, will be gone. This will allow me to run and exercise without the extra skin getting in the way.

I also expect that I will feel better about my workouts and I will be further motivated now that I’ll be able to actually see the fruits of my labor with weightlifting, running, mountain biking, kayaking, and hiking.

So, is the pain worth it? I think so. The pain won’t last forever, but the results will.