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12. May the Operation be ever in your favour.

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.” - Anonymous

This blog entry is dedicated to the Girl on Fire, although fictional she provides me with motivation and inspiration in my darkest of times. Thank you Suzanne Collins and Jennifer Lawrence for Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.

My first night in hospital was sleepless, foodless and with a touch of unexpected nudity. Similar to colonoscopy preparation, I drank copious amounts of laxative solution and spent the majority of the evening in the bathroom ‘flushing out’ my body. Just when I thought it was finally over and I could actually get some sleep, the nurse told me it was time for an enema. You could only imagine my face as I hesitantly laid on my side and endured the procedure; it’s safe to say that I now know why hospital gowns are backless.

Despite my lack of sleep and having been forbidden from consuming anything (including coffee), the next morning was surprisingly buzzing. My family and a series of medical professionals all visited me before the clock struck 7am. My surgery was going to be an unpredictable gamble, without knowing which, nor how many organs I would lose and how much cancer would remain afterwards. I was nervous for the coming hours and was almost hoping that Effie Trinket would magically appear to confirm the unknown, by reaching into an ‘unlucky dip’ and announcing which body parts would be sacrificed in my war against Ovarian Cancer.

Instead, I had to hope that the odds were in my favour and prepare for all of the possibilities. My Surgeon went over my consent once more, an Anesthetist then advised the risks of the operation and then my Stoma Nurse discussed strategies, i.e. stomach fat folds and clothing options. To finish off with; she then drew two X’s on my abdomen to mark the possibilities of either an Ileostomy or a Colostomy. I looked like a treasure map and desperately hoped that my surgeons would find and dig out the Cancer without having to use either of these markers.

I was then wheeled off to the operating theatre and into the realm of unconsciousness. My surgery took place over 11 agonising hours. My parents spent some of the cold London day nearby at the British Museum and my sister tried to keep herself distracted at work. They were kept up to date with the progress of the surgery throughout the day. As the evening set in, they were called in to meet with my surgeon and were informed that the operation had been mostly a success. I was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and being cared for on a one to one basis. As I was still heavily sedated, I have very little memory of the night.

The next morning, I felt more conscious and in tune with reality. My surgeon visited me and explained organ by organ what had happened during the operation. My scans had previously indicated tumours affecting my entire womb, large bowel, small bowel, liver and spleen. Once I was on the operating table, the surgery team were able to see first hand, how the tumours were attached and whether they could be removed.

My surgeon then uttered the most blissfully sweet words that I could ever hear “we removed all of the visible cancer”. My liver, small bowel and spleen had also made it through the surgery unharmed. I was ecstatic and said thank you, over and over.

This prognosis came at a cost however, a full hysterectomy and one of my dreaded treasure map points, an Ileostomy. These scars would no doubt have awful side effects and impacts on my life, but I was so desperate to live that I simply accepted this news by smiling, nodding and thanking my Surgeon again and again. I knew that my life post-surgery would be a hard and painful adjustment, but at least I still had life itself.

Despite the 59 staples and my newly altered anatomy, the fact that I was bed stricken and unrecognisably puffed up from all of the drugs, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Perhaps it was the morphine, or perhaps the realisation that my survival odds were shooting higher and higher.

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