Following on from the last two blogs about my thymectomy operation and recovering in hospital, I thought I would complete the trilogy. As a reminder, I had the open chest version of this operation to remove my thymus – the gland that during childhood and teenage years helps to build your immune system. This meant I had my breast bone broken so they could get underneath it and then put back together with wire.
As it’s quite a traumatic experience for the body, the full recovery period is six weeks. Doctors recommend you listen to your body but say it should be at least 3 weeks before you go back to work. Thankfully, I kept my job on part-time and as I worked Thursday/Friday I was able to only take two weeks off and for it to be nearly three weeks before I returned to the office.
So how was recovery for me? Tough at first but actually quite rewarding in the long run. For those that follow the blog you’ll know I’m somewhat of a fitness junkie and the thought of not being able to exercise for six weeks terrified me (and Elaine). What kind of monster would I turn into without getting my fix? In reality though, I struggled to breathe properly for the first few weeks – the effort of walking up a hill exhausted me and I still was struggling for concentration. I had grand plans of doing some writing and lots of reading during the recovery time , but in reality I felt completely wiped by it.
From my first night I decided to try to get back out and about as it would do no good to let myself get scared. My mum, my brother, Elaine and I went to the local cinema to see Proud. While I was nervous about being out and it took me a while to relax, I was able to switch off eventually. I tried to get out for little walks to start with – just around my area – and then built it up gradually. After leaving hospital, I rapidly reduced the painkillers and stopped taking then after four days at home.
Public transport was a bit of an issue because it is jolty – I didn’t get a bus until the second weekend after my operation and had to make sure I got a seat as standing up holding onto a handle would have been difficult. Particularly as you have to stay rigid. Then I finally got a tube a few days before my first days back at work at a non-peak time to test out how I felt – I clutched my chest the whole way for the first few trips in case anyone bumped me. You just can’t stand even a little bit of pressure in those early days.
In recovery week three I went to the Globe theatre which meant three hours of standing in the cold. That was a step too far too soon and I got sick as a result. My body wasn’t ready for it.
Around that time, it may have been partly to cheer myself up, Elaine and I started looking at Camino de Santiago part two. We both needed something to look forward to at that point and looking at the route gave me much needed distraction. It also made me start to think about exercise and getting strong again.
By the fourth week , I was starting to feel good and was able to enjoy my days off work. I did my first full week back at work on week give and survived, but that was only cover. I was able to read, socialise and walk further and further.
By week six I was ready to get back in the gym, if not a little apprehensive. I built up slowly and it was another couple of weeks before I could chest strength work. I took up bikram yoga to help with the strength and I felt fantastic. If not gone, my symptoms were stabilised. The hospital was a distant memory and the bio oil was day-by-day reducing my scar.