HERNIA SURGERY: GOOD / BAD NEWS

Hernia surgery results showed good news and potential for bad news.

The follow-up visit with my hernia surgeon went as well as can be expected.

Dr. Reger explained that there was a split in the ‘posterior muscle wall’ (the inside layer) which allowed my guts to push out between them. Those muscles tensed and scrunched to the sides. The ‘anterior muscles’ (the outside layer), however, did not break, but stretched and gaped with the pressure of my guts. Voila, the pot belly. Through the incision, Dr. Reger had to reach in and grab the contracted muscle and forcibly pull each side back together, stitch, and reinforce with a strip of mesh. He illustrated all of this with his hands in the air, so I do not have a good visualization myself, let alone a diagram to share with you. However, I do trust Dr. Reger did an excellent job.

I got two pieces of news, good and bad.

The good news first– Healing from the surgery is on track and everything looks as it should by now. Activities I can participate in include walking, hiking, taking it easy and wearing a compression belt (affectionately referred to as my girdle or belly bra) to keep my guts in place. After one more week I can add:

M&M-Light-Hike

Light Hike

– more walking and hiking
– light swimming, to keep muscles stretched
– light stationary bicycling, again to keep muscles stretched
– light weight lifting
– taking it easy some more

In six more weeks, I will add activities as my body tolerates like bike riding, lifting, strengthening and other exercises light on abdominal use.

The bad news – The fix should be sturdy and strong, however, we do not know what caused the incisional hernia in the first place. Dr. Reger cautioned that the stoma incision next to the hernia incision (closed up on July 14, 2012) could give way to another hernia. In other words, I should watch for signs of a hernia over the next two years. When the hernia repair was done a few weeks ago, the tention added to bring the split muscles back together could add to any weakness at the stoma incision. If, he says, a hernia is caught early, it is an easy fix. If it does not happen in the next two years (!!), then it probably won’t happen.

ACK, I say! That’s two years of paranoia! Ie. “What’s that I feel?”, “Is this normal?”, “Should I call the doctor about this, or will it go away?”, etc. When I thought all of this worry and anticipation was over, it has been delayed! Well, it is nothing new given the past year’s worries. Besides, I will take that over cancer concerns anytime.

Dr. Reger has a very conservative approach. I admire this and chose him for that reason. Therefore I will stay on the conservative side of recovery because to face another surgery is unappetizing, and, boy, I do not want to start over on insurance deductibles if I can help it!

Recovering from hernia surgery takes sometimes years of incredible patience. When you feel good, you still must resist strenuous activities.

HERNIA OR DIA-WHA-?

Pot belly: Is it a hernia or a diastasis, or… BOTH?

The look of it is like a bowl that was slid underneath my belly button. I’ve had a good month and a half to wonder about, and fret over what is happening inside my belly to cause this. I finally scheduled a surgical consultation to find out what the heck…

Matt & I met with a surgeon at St. Vincent’s in Portland, and got the lowdown on my disfigured tummy. The verdict: A hernia… AND diastasis!?! Well, why choose between the two when I can have both! That has been my fundemental philosophy since birth, mainly when it comes to desserts, but it also seems to be true for medical conditions. For example, many years ago my dentist informed me that rather than the standard four wisdom teeth, I had six, which would all be removed at once. (A little extra Percodan for me!) There are some ways which you DON’T want to be special.

Hernias

A hernia happens when the delicate lining of the abdomen pushes through damaged abdominal wall, as how an inner tube pushes through a damaged tire. About 600,000 hernia surgeries are performed around the US every year. The two methods used to treat hernias are “open”, where a full incision opens up the abdominal wall; or “laparoscopic”, where small incisions allow the surgeon to perform the fixes through small tubes without a large opening being necessary. Hernias will not get better over time. Here’s more on hernias.

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Laparoscopic Surgery

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Laparoscopic Equipment

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Laparoscopic Equipment

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Hernia Mesh

Diastasis

A diastasis happens occasionally during pregnancies or rarely after an abdominal surgery. When the abdominal muscles separate down the center, due to access during a surgical entry, and the delicate facia tears, the muscles spread apart allowing organs to push between the muscle wall. This is not my tummy pictured, but the doctor was able to do this to my belly. More on diastases.

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Diastasis

This procedure will be painful, I am told, it can be out-patient, but I will likely stay over night in the hospital, then it will take two to four weeks before I will be active again. It is a simple and quick procedure, and it is covered by insurance. Very likely I will schedule it for late October

There goes Halloween!

WELLNESS WITH A POT BELLY

Wellness has arrived along with fall, however there is a pot belly bulging underneath my shirt that will need another surgery. Ugh!

Pot_Belly_Wellness

Really, it’s not what you think.

I arrived home in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday after 1-1/2 weeks of travel up the west coast touring small towns and visiting friends. As soon as we hit the Redwood Forest, it struck me how much I missed the Pacific Northwest. The trees climbed taller and grew denser, enclosing the road ahead of me. The sun peaked between the branches, shimmering like gold glitter. My heart met the scene with excitement and inspiration. I’ve been away too long.

I feel great. Everyone who knows me says I look better *now* than I ever have. In spite of nearly seven months of cancer treatments, I suppose being free from illness means feeling elation, enthusiasm, pride and gratitude reflects in my outward appearance. Truthfully, if you woke me from a nap right now, I’d say it never happened.

But I get reminders every once in a while. For example, when I overexert myself, I spend about two days with diarrhea, a product of post-surgical inflammation. Also, I have this pot belly that I’m told will not go away on its own. Right underneath all the scars, the pot belly sticks out about three inches from my musculature, making it conspicuous. It is tough, and about eight inches in diameter, my belly button centered perfectly. No pain, so I would not know that it’s there, unless I look at it. Some would say it looks as though I’m 3 months pregnant, that is not the case.

The doctor called it a diastasis. This is commonly associated with pregnancy as a side-effect. It means that the muscles (in my case, in the abdomen) have split apart, everything behind is pushing out between them. The surgery should be a simple, laparoscopic and cosmetic procedure where a mesh is inserted behind the abdominal muscles to hold back the protruding guts. These next few months will be spent healing from the most recent surgery, then the cosmetic surgery will be discussed and scheduled.

In the meantime, I will enjoy wellness and giggle when you poke me in the tummy.

pillsbury_doughboy

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