When I left you last time, I had some ‘stop-press’ news that I would be going back into hospital for an operation to sort out a hernia.

But I never imagined that I’d be back in the same bed in the same ward at James Cook University Hospital exactly seven weeks after my bowel cancer operation.

However, that’s precisely where I found myself on June 2 after speedy surgery to fix things.

The incisional hernia repair, as the medics call it, was needed between my belly button and pelvis region – unfortunately this was the same part of my body as my earlier open surgery.

What happened?

Trouble started three or four weeks after I was discharged following a successful operation to remove part of my bowel, which scans had shown to be cancerous. (See my last “Cancer-talk’ blog on ‘Handling your cancer operation and the after effects!’ published on May 23)

Complications during my bowel cancer operation meant the expected keyhole surgery turned into open surgery and I needed to be stitched and glued back together again afterwards.

At first everything went smoothly, and I was out of hospital in four days.

Everyone admired the surgeon’s neat and tidy work, including my own GP and visiting district nurses keeping an eye on me.

However, beneath the surface all was not well. The area towards the bottom of the wound started to swell and the skin there got thinner and thinner. It was also pretty hot to touch.

Consultant surgeon Doug Aitken (L) with Nic Mitchell

Consultant surgeon Doug Aitken (L) with Nic Mitchell

I thought it would settle down given time, but when I went for my routine check-up with Mr Doug Aitken, my consultant surgeon, on Friday May 22, he immediately identified the problem as an incisional hernia.

Oh dear, I got an incisional hernia!

According to the Boots website, ‘Hernia: types, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment’ there are at least eight different types of hernia. Mine was an ‘incisional hernia’, where tissue pushes through a surgical wound in the abdomen that has not completely healed.

All I knew was that it was pretty painful and made movement difficult.

Mr Aitken said more surgery would be needed as soon as possible, especially as I was about to start a six-month course of chemotherapy and had to be well enough before that could begin.

But this was the start of the May bank holiday weekend and Mr Aitken was away the following week; so June 2 was the earliest available date for the second operation to fix the hernia.

I needed a pre-op health check first to check I wasn’t suffering from anything else nasty and that was rushed through at 8am on Thursday May 28.

Operation number two

And so, there I was at 7.30am on Tuesday, June 2, going through the motions again to get ready for my second operation in less than two months.

Being familiar with the surroundings and seeing the same anaesthetist and having the same surgeon made things easier and the hernia operation went pretty smoothly to the best of my knowledge.

By midday, I was waiting in one of the transit wards for a bed to become available on the main Ward 7 surgical ward about cancer patients.

If I’d known, there had been an emergency admission, and that I’d be there for about four hours, I would have had a nap as the bed they put me in was much more comfortable than normal hospital beds.

But instead I kept a beady eye of what was going on and had some good chat with the nursing staff.

Staples across my tummy

staplesAfter the hernia surgery, it looked like someone had been let loose with a staple gun across my tummy.

Reassuringly, one of the district nurses who popped him when I was recovering at home said: “Oh good, they are much easier to take out than stitches”.

So dear reader, I realise you might have been expecting a blog about my full recovery from bowel cancer and that I am swimming again and going out clubbing (well, perhaps, at least going to the pub).

But instead, just like in a game of snakes and ladders, I have found myself back on the first line of the recovery process.

Once again my old adage that ‘nothing goes exactly to plan when you are fighting cancer’ proved to be a pretty precise prediction.

  • I’ll let you know how I got on with the staples and the other twists and turns in my recovery battle in my next blog, which hopefully will be a week or two. Sorry about the delay between this and the last one, but I have been through the wars, you know!

SEE my archive of ‘Cancer-talk’ blogs here.

Hope you found the blog useful. Here is the next blog to the series.

See earlier ‘Cancer-talk’ blogs by Nic Mitchell here.

See previous blogs in my Cancer-talk archives.