J: Progress Report

A number of people have kindly asked how I am getting on after my operation, so here is a progress report.

Mobility: Very good. I was able to drive within a day or two as the muscles you need to emergency brake etc. were unaffected. Just as well as my wife suffered a detached retina as I was being discharged so I needed to drive her to Bristol a couple of days later for her operation (we won’t know if that is successful for a couple of weeks). I needed three extra pillows initially as I could not easily lie down or twist, but reduced these by one a day. After a day or two I could bend down to pick something off the floor, though lifting a basket of supermarket shopping was a bit more difficult. Stretching is not a good idea.

Scar: The clips – a couple of dozen of them – came out yesterday and the wound is looking healthy though still quite scabby and a bit swollen in places. This is to be expected.

Digestion: This has been the most difficult thing and I’ve had a couple of sessions with the local GPs on the subject. The digestive system has taken quite a pasting from the drugs (mostly of which cause constipation), the epidural, moving the stomach etc. around during the op and the inactivity of being in bed so much in hospital. Also I think the pain/fear of pain has kept my stomach muscles tensed for long periods which can’t have helped either. It made me quite anxious as it was unexpected and I felt it was holding back my recovery and getting back to normal. There is too a real risk of peritonitis and not being able to tell the difference between abdominal pain and surgery pain increased the concern; I don’t like not knowing what is going on. With medication this is now getting better but I expect that it will take a few days yet to get back to normal.

Pain: I was sent home on a dose of 1000mg of codeine and the same of paracetamol 4 times a day. I scaled down the codeine after a couple of days and after a week eliminated the paracetamol except at night where I find it’s harder to ignore any residual pain. Just now I’ve had to go back on the paracetamol as the scar is hurting at times. This is presumably because the clips are not holding it together so the wound itself is under more stress. This will help it heal faster and I expect it will settle in a few days. I still get occasional abdominal pain and it is difficult to tell whether that is due to digestive problems or surgery. The occasional lung pain I had before surgery has come back as I expected but manageable, and no worse.

Stamina: Strangely I feel a bit weaker now than when I came out of hospital. I think this is because I was eating very little for a while. I ate little in hospital but left at 13st. 1lb having gone in at 12-6 (a couple of pounds above my recent norm). Presumably due to retention. As I felt about to explode I reduced my food intake further (you need to give the system something to get it going). I kept it to soup, fruit etc. which has led to steady weight loss down to 11st 10lbs today. In the last couple of days with improvements in digestion I have started eating a little meat to up my protein intake and am feeling less fatigued. Nevertheless I still get quite tired and out of breath after half an hour’s walk. Yesterday I got back to a painting job but had to stop after an hour. I am confident this will improve with diet, exercise etc.

Next steps for treatment: Readers may recall my concern that my next appointment is with urology on 22nd June. I range the Macmillan Lung Nurses at Bath who said I was now off their books as I am a kidney cancer patient (it’s still kidney cancer even though I now it is, hopefully, confined to my lung). I rang the urologist’s secretary who just said the appointment is the appointment and could offer me no more information. I rang the Macmillan Kidney Nurses who said that my 22nd appointment is for both urology and oncology. So I am happy to live with that; my main concern was to fetch up on the 22nd just to be told “nice scar”. This all reflects my general experience with the treatment where the individual specialisms have been great but no one is really responsible for giving you an overview and sense of a plan (the hospital would probably say that’s the GP’s job, but given how little they are involved other than getting copy letters I think that is unrealistic).

So the next update will probably be after 22nd June. Thank you for reading and for your support.