Being referred for surgery comes with an onslaught of emotion. On one hand, it’s a privileged and hopeful pursuit, but that doesn’t make it any less worrisome. For eight years (almost the current average time it takes for a diagnosis), I was screaming into the void, about the plethora of cyclical symptoms I was experiencing and the impact that was having on my physical and mental wellbeing. Time and time again, I sought medical advice, only to be told I had, unfortunately, pulled the short straw on ‘woman’s problems.’ I then came to internalise the belief that my experience of womanhood was synonymous with the anguish of menstruation.
Unfortunately, the staggering figures and implications of endometriosis do not lie, but given the lack of representation, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an uncommon disorder. Quite the opposite - it affects a staggering 1.5 million women and those assigned female at birth, in the UK alone.
The day I was told I’d need surgery is forever etched in my memory. I prepared to be met with everything from disregard, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, to yet another ultrasound scan. However, within moments I was propositioned with a terrifying intervention.
The way it left my gynaecologist’s mouth so nonchalantly left me perplexed. Sure, they operate every day, but I hadn’t so much as pulled my elbow as a child. I was a complete novice in this arena, and it struck unimaginable fear within me. Given it was my first ever procedure, I knew little to nothing about what to expect. The notion of surgery was foreign territory. Up until that point, I was naïve about the complexity of my illness, nor did I feel deserving of treatment.
What followed thereafter, was my first operation and I was completely unaware of the recovery process. The lack of endometriosis awareness, (particularly at the time) meant that everything was a trial, error and consuming all apt youtube content on the subject. Now, fast forward seven years, three surgeries down the line, I feel more confident about my choices.
In my experience, hospitals don’t provide patients with a comprehensive packing list, therefore my tips have been gleaned amongst the endo community over the last few years and personal experience.
Whether you're packing for your first, third or fifth laparoscopy, the overwhelm never falters. Are you packing enough? what if you fall short of a knicker or two, is a suitcase too over the top for an overnight stay? (the short answer is never). It’s no wonder if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s a daunting process, which is why I’ve provided a customisable, thorough packing list, including my must-haves and some home comforts. print it out, or save it for referral, whenever you need a friendly guide from someone who knows exactly how you’re feeling. Good luck and be extra gentle with yourself for the next two weeks!
Before you pack
Some things to bear in mind:
- a low maintenance hairstyle will serve you for days post-surgery.
- remember to remove polish and acrylic nail extensions
- don’t forget to bring a few days’ worth of your current medication, and a written list for medical records.
- arrange a lift home.
Firstly, you’ll need an overnight bag or suitcase
You'll likely be in overnight with this surgery. Sometimes this can extend to two, depending on your post-op recovery (mine did). Usually, you’re required to pass urine and have a few rounds of physiotherapy, before you’re discharged. It’s important to pack things that make you feel most at home - whatever helps. Whilst packing, I like to dream up a fantasy scenario, like I’m embarking on a luxe holiday excursion, sans the operating.
You may have heard murmurs on the benefits of peppermint tea amongst the endo community. It truly is a recovery staple. during the procedure, carbon dioxide is administered into the abdomen, to separate your abdominal wall from the bowel and provide your surgeon with a clearer view of your organs. Post-surgery, this can result in discomfort in the shoulders, ribs and chest, specifically. Peppermint tea helps to alleviate the pain of trapped gas and encourage it to reabsorb.
It’s common to experience vaginal bleeding after surgery. In addition to big cotton knickers, ohne period pants will leave you feeling dry and comfortable. I recommend sizing up, to make room for your adhesion sites. After you’ve recovered, you can wear these for bloating and bleeds.
Entertainment & electronics
- downloaded entertainment – audiobooks, music, a light-hearted tv show /film. it can be hard to concentrate on a book after anaesthetic. i recommend feel-good shows like gilmore girls, friends, gbbo, queer eye and orange is the new black.
- a charger with an extended lead (to prevent bending down)
- a fully charged portable charger
As fasting is required 6-12 hours beforehand, it’s normal to feel dehydrated and hungry after you come around. I’ve seen many amusing videos of fellow endo warriors pleading for water at a glimmer of daylight, which I wholeheartedly relate to (recovery is thirsty work). Pack your favourite snacks to look forward to. Chocolate never goes a miss and ginger sweets are useful for nausea and settling stomach pain. Lozenges will also help with a sore throat if you’ve had a breathing tube. The humble water bottle often goes under the radar, but I’ve found that coupled with a reusable straw helps with ease and prevents strain from exaggerated movement.
When it comes to toiletries, bring everyday essentials that’ll have you feeling more like yourself. Although it’s not likely you’ll have a shower, you can always freshen up by your bedside, when you feel up to it.
- hand cream
- lip balm
- compact mirror
- adhesive heat pads (for shoulder pain)
cbd balm (gently rub on your diaphragmatic area to soothe discomfort)
- cotton/reusable pads
- eye mask
To avoid compression on your incision sites loose-fitting clothing is advised after you part ways with your comfy, (albeit revealing) hospital gown and enter the real world.
- button-down/wrap clothing for ease.
- button-down nightgown
- slippers with grip (a cosy companion to accompany you to the theatre)
- bed socks
- dressing gown
- v-neck pillow (use this as a barrier between your stomach and seatbelt on your journey homebound. afterwards, it’s helpful for propping yourself upright whilst recovering at home)
Written by Avalon Afriyie, a london-based freelance writer with a penchant for art, literature, style and travel. She spends her days writing to her heart’s content (for business and pleasure) and dreaming of residing by the ocean. Follow her on Instagram here and explore more of her work online here.
Image Credit: Jannes Jacobs (Unsplash)