Saturday 22nd January 2022

Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51. #LifeThisWeek. 84/2020.

Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51. #LifeThisWeek. 84/2020.

Last time I wrote about self-care, I was about to have some more surgery. It was a success and it was wound debridement then application of a VAC system to help health both faster and cleaner. More about this as the post goes on.

Self Care: the Mental Story.

I cannot lie. Knowing that I needed more surgery on August 24th to fix the wound from the first abdominal surgery some 5 weeks before did not make me a happy camper.

It also was a messy situation. Literally. I had no idea that a wound could ‘dehisce’. I had also never heard of the word. My GP mentioned it as I anxiously awaited the result of her examination of my very messy & leaking wound area the Wednesday before. I literally could not see it as it was at the junction underneath my tummy where the upside-down T incisions met.

To better explain: from my search:

Dehiscence is a partial or total separation of previously approximated wound edges, due to a failure of proper wound healing. This scenario typically occurs 5 to 8 days following surgery when healing is still in the early stages.

Wound dehiscence is a distressing but common occurrence among patients who have received sutures. The condition involves the wound opening up either partially or completely along the sutures – basically, the wound reopens to create a new wound.


Our urgent appointment to my colorectal surgeon the next day confirmed that whilst the wound (stitched internally) was opening up, it was NOT exposing the inside of my abdomen nor impacting on the surgeries I had just had. Phew. I guess.

Trust. I had to have trust in both the surgeon and his work (along with the support of the specialist wound nurse) to come through this second surgery. I had to have an additional surgery post head and neck cancer and I remembered the disappointment very strongly. I also remembered that “if it had to be done, I needed to accept that”.

Relieved patient and doctor!

This time, it was a shorter surgery where he cleaned out the wound area (debridement) as I was under a general anaesthetic, leaving an area of 8cm long x 3cm deep and 3cm wide to be covered with the VAC system dressing, tube and ‘me attached’ to the VAC machine itself. I woke with all that done and by the next day, had the lessons in how to care for it before I would have my first ‘at home’ nursing. This was new to me and I was incredibly grateful. Our private health insurance paid for the equipment (each wound change used a new section of the VAC and was approx $80 each in value). Her travel and services for 7 visits (as was needed  by me) were paid by Teachers Health who would have paid for 10 but by 7 my wound did not need the VAC system anymore.

About the VAC system: Mine was on me, next to me as I slept, 24/7 from 24 August until 17 September. No showers but I could wash myself in a limited way.

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), also called vacuum-assisted wound closure, refers to wound dressing systems that continuously or intermittently apply subatmospheric pressure to the system, which provides a positive pressure to the surface of a wound.Jul 22, 2020

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a method of drawing out fluid and infection from a wound to help it heal. A special dressing (bandage) is sealed over the wound and a gentle vacuum pump is attached.

I Found It Quite Confronting. 

I admit all of this physical attention by professionals for a part of my body rarely shared with anyone other than my spouse, was hard on me. I knew the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of the reasons. The confrontation I guess for me was about not only the wound itself – not good with them at the best of times – but that my husband or the nurse took photos of me. My body, there, where it is fat and bits of it have weathered a lot – big surgeries for example AND child-bearing. The photos were valuable because they were the proof everything was healing. I just found it hard to ‘see myself’ from this angle. I still have the photos as do my doctors as it is an important record. I have shown a couple of progress shots to family but they are not something I can nor would share publically.


Self-Care: the Physical Story.

In the normal scheme of things I can say that I should have been well on my way to full recovery at about the 6-8 weeks mark post first surgery. This would not be the case with the second surgery. It put me back another 4-6 weeks. I had to learn (again!) to live with:

  • physical restrictions with a tube attached to my wound, which was then wound around the bag, which I had to wear on my shoulder. It was quite heavy too, so I could leave it on the desk while I blogged or did some art. I did have to remember to take it with me though…I did have a couple of times over the 3+ weeks where I almost forgot but the dragging of the tube on my wound soon let me know
  • pain. Not much from the wound itself as it was covered and pretty numb from 2x surgeries. The skin around the wound – and some hair in the area – got itchy and a bit painful but managed with cream. Interestingly I was warned I might have needed a very strong pain killer for dressing changes initially but fortunately panadol was enough
  • recovery from wounds from surgery #1 inside and outside made for (and still does as I write) so stinging, aching and pulling sensations from my belly button area and down and across
  • I need to get some help via an arm from my husband or nurse to easily rise from lying down (when wound was being changed) as stomach area feels like I have overdone sit ups. I haven’t. Apparently it can take another 4 months for this to be better after all the cutting and stitching that went on inside
  • less resilience for staying on my feet and walking. I turned down my Apple Watch walking goals initially and over the past 4 weeks have been increasing them slowly
  • being able to drive again took about 3 weeks post first surgery…and I had just become used to that independence when the 2nd surgery happened. By 2-3 weeks post that one I had the OK to drive again. My husband has been and continues to be the main grocery shopper now and I am loving that!
  • getting more distracted by art, some reading, magazine browsing has helped while away the time during a COVID recovery
  • still doing my best to dress with purpose each day and going out for a walk somewhere or a coffee.
  • now that I have NO MORE visits to the GP for wound care – that ended last week as the wound healed fully, I have been able to drive to Sydney to see my Dad.

Self-Care Lessons.

  • I can do this
  • I have done this before
  • I have strategies I can draw on
  • I have a loving and supportive husband
  • I know this is temporary
  • I will learn more about myself by coming through this.

That’s it. A much longer self-care post than usual, but I did think it worth sharing.

Getting over anything health-wise always brings up more than we are perhaps prepared for.

I hope you are doing well.


And a lovely P.S. from me!

On Saturday 17th October it was 50 years since we met. As this post goes live, we will be travelling to the north west of N.S.W. to the city of Tamworth where we met, and then to have a couple of days going to towns that were of great significance in our early single, then married lives. There WILL be a post about that you can guarantee it. I may not be on-line to comment or write on your blog until I am back home. 


Link Up 211

Life This Week. Link Up #211

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  1. I had never heard of those issues either Denyse so many thanks for your explanations of the terms. I’m so pleased Teachers Health were able to cover the costs for you, it helps to relieve the worry. I love that you are on a trip and what a beautiful PS to share with us. Enjoy!

    • Thanks Debbie, we appreciate the benefits of our long-held membership of Teachers Health over and over!

      Thank you for your kind wishes, we are home now…a day early but we saw all we wanted to and home comforts called us!!


  2. The hits to the health are as much about mind as body. I think your lessons are great. Esp the ‘I’ve done it before’. It’s a good reminder for when the going gets tough (in the mental hurdles). Great post!

    • Thanks so much Lydia.

      Yes, I sure have needed to apply lots of the strategies I had been taught by the psychologist and others too. I guess, in the end, it is up to US to see these things through and it is all about the mind.

      The mind gets some help to understand and apply thinking….and the body heals so many ways.

      Such a help that I have the skills now for all aspects of my life.


  3. Yay for a love getaway! Hope you are having a lovely time. I can relate to this post as I had to have a second thyroid surgery and I remember how important those self care lessons/reminders were. I’m pleased you’ve come through the other side and that you got the support/care you needed. Onwards and upwards. Enjoy your adventure!

    • Yes Sammie, of course, when you had to front up again! We initially think “oh no, I put all my energy into the first time” …but then again, if it must be done, it must be done.

      We had a lovely get away but we got to do all we wanted in two days so came home a day early to our comfy house!

      Thanks you for your good wishes.


  4. Great self-care lessons, and thank you for sharing your story. I especially like that statement, “I will learn more about myself by coming through this.”

    It’s my first time here, and it’s great to connect. I’m diving back into blogging after quite the hiatus. It’s been a lot of fun meeting new friends these past few weeks and getting reconnected to old ones. Thank you for hosting!

    • It’s great that you have come on in and found this Monday link up. Thanks Jed!

      Yes, self-care is on-going but doing the mental part to complement the physical is essential.

      I am so glad to be completely well again too!

      Hope to see you on a regular basis for linking up. It’s a friendly space here in the Australian blog scene.


  5. Hi Denyse I’m in awe of your strength. I’m sure I would have felt all of this attention to your wounds to be confronting also. Good to hear you’re on the improve. Enjoy your time away. I hope it’s relaxing for you

    • Thanks so much Jennifer. I guess I just had to get through it all and at times whilst it was wearing on me in some way, I had such kind people caring for the wound and they too were pleased when it was healed. A true team effort!

      Our little getaway was lovely. We enjoyed seeing the country side again but we are just as glad to be comfy back at home.


  6. Denyse, I’m glad you’ve come through the other side. Your self-care lessons reflect your positive attitude. Have a lovely getaway!

  7. You’ve had a tough couple of months health wise. I admire your ability to face these issues – I tend to stick my head in the sand. I have finally though begun to do something about my spine and how that impacts everything else. Heavy sighs. Have a great week.

    • Yes that is true Jo, but I did have that rectal prolapse surgery on my agenda for some time, I just had to face the fact it was necessary and the body chose that for me. Bodies will do that, hey!

      I did do what my GP recommended though, and it was he who said “get through the cancer surgeries first” then we can turn to this matter. I still put it off but this year, it happened and now, gosh I am glad I had it done..wound complication did not affect the surgery and its success.

      Hope you too can get some relief by going along with what the spine needs. It’s always something that is connected to something else, I know!


  8. Your health issues have had such an impact on your life over the past few years but I love that you’ve been sharing your experiences so others can understand they’re not alone with their own fears.

    • Thanks Deb, if I had not shared, I am unsure of how I might have gone.

      I guess, being a talker and pretty much an extrovert I tend to share when I feel it’s appropriate and safe.

      The blog, and on some social media, has done that for me and now, as I reflect on the legacy of the stories re my head and neck cancer, they help others and me!

      I hope you are OK. I look forward to reading your post now you are back!


  9. Hi Denyse, I can relate to your story very much, not only as a nurse, but as a patient too. You explained dehiscence very well and the VACC drain. Those have only been in common use for maybe 15 years. Before that patients were connected to wall suction so were very restricted to their hospital beds. VACC dressings are now used not only on wounds that have dehisced but also on post operative wounds routinely to help wound healing. They are marvellous.
    As you know, I had to return to theatre twice after my mastectomies. The second time, like you, was months after the initial operation so it has meant starting the recovery process over again. 6 weeks ago I had a washout to control the swelling that remained after I haemorrhaged the day after my mastectomy.
    I still have a wound that is painful and swelling (although that has improved). As a nurse I know that this could mean further surgery. I am still unable to work due to the inability to do my job until I’m 100% better.
    I’m glad you are recovering, and happy 50th anniversary! Regards Christina

    • Gosh, I did not know that about wound care before VAC. Let’s praise the inventors of that. I did think that I would have hated to be in hospital just to have wound care even though I know for some people it might be necessary.

      Your surgeries are sounding like the gift that keeps giving in not great ways.

      I recall after my mouth surgeries, I was often in pain and had some swelling appear in different part of my mouth inside where the skin grafts were. All my surgeon and prosthodontist could say, because everything was healing OK, is that I had to wait it out. Turns out, it’s true and some 18-24 months later ( a long time) whilst I still have skin pulling sensations I have no swelling.

      Fingers crossed for you. Thank you for your kind wishes.


  10. Denyse, you never cease to amaze me! I am so glad your second surgery was a success and you do not have to be on the VAC system anymore. Your first bullet point says it all: “I can do this.” You have a great attitude, which I am sure aids in your healing and recovery.

    • How kind…it’s about time I just had ordinary life stuff for a while I think Laurie.

      Mind you, I am not sure how life progresses with no appointments for post ops etc… I will do my best to find out though.

      Thanks for your supportive words. Yes, I can and will do this…even if I have a little weep first…!!


  11. Hi Denyse – you’ve certainly had a run of surgeries and more surgeries over the last few years. You always bounce back despite the setbacks and that is an absolute marvel that we all are in admiration of. This wound sounds like it was a doozy and recovery would have been hard – but yet you soldiered through again! Well done and I’m so glad you and your husband are taking some time out to go back down memory lane for a stroll. Congrats on 50 years – that’s an achievement in itself xx

    • Thanks for your kind words and on-going support Leanne.

      I sure did learn about patience even more this time around with a second surgery.

      I am looking to have a relatively OK and maybe even slightly boring time ahead.

      No more visits to surgeons for any matters for quite some time.

      Our trip down memory lane was good but we missed our home comforts so came home a day early. Got to see everywhere we wanted, so all good. And yes, 50 years is a pretty big deal we are now realising.


  12. I had never heard of that term either so thanks for defining it. What an ordeal you had to go through! I am so glad you have since been completely cleared and can resume life as “normal.”

    • Thanks so much Joanne, yes I am a bit over all the surgical stuff now and look forward to ordinary times.

      I am sure I can find some enjoyment in those too!


  13. I’m so glad the surgery was successful. I’m also glad you got the wound care you needed and it was paid for by your health insurance. The lessons you took away from this are so valuable!

    • Thanks so much Astrid.

      Yes, we are very grateful to be long term members of our health insurers.

      I am glad to be well…and looking forward to days not filled with doctors and treatments!