Featured image: Spring in a London park – reflecting on my recovery so far.
In my post “Achalasia – The Unanswered Questions I Have” I posed the questions I had before my surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Achalasia. It is now 1 month on from my Hellers Myotomy with Nissen Fundoplication surgery and I now have most of the answers to those questions.
- Will I be able to eat a normal diet, or will I continue to have to be careful about what I eat?
- Will I put back on some of the weight that I have lost?
- Will I be able to sleep on a normal bed without the need for my head to be significantly higher than my stomach?
- Will my asthma improve?
- Will my general health improve?
Will I be able to eat a normal diet, or will I continue to have to be careful about what I eat?
My diet will never be completely normal. Prior to committing to surgery, my surgeon asked me to promise that I would never eat bread again. Also the dietary advice after Hellers Myotomy is to avoid fizzy drinks and gristly meat. That means no more crusty french bread and prosecco! However, the list of things I can eat is growing every day as I continue my recovery. I’ll just have to console myself by eating medium/rare sirloin steaks washed down by a fine red wine. Maybe not too much of the red wine, though!
Since the first week of post-operative recovery I have not had a reoccurrence of the stomach discomfort I’d had three times in the first few days after surgery. I have since learned not to eat just sweet things as a snack or instead of a meal. They tend to pass through the stomach quickly and cause wind which isn’t much fun. Therefore, if I eat anything sweet it is always after a savoury meal or snack.
My soft diet started with Weetabix, scrambled/poached/boiled eggs, vegetable lasagne, mashed potato and stewed apple with custard. In the second week I added in porridge, pasta with ratatouille, vegetable and beef lasagne, turkey meat balls in tomato sauce, mild quorn curry with brown rice. For puddings I’ve had small portions of tiramisu and cheesecake. For snacks between meals I have been having cream crackers with pork liver pate, soft cheeses such as brie and camembert, and almond butter.
In weeks 3 and 4, I continued with a similar diet, but also managed to eat out a few times in week 4. I had a sunday lunch of roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, broccoli and lots of gravy. Later the same week I had grilled salmon, crushed boiled potatoes, carrots, swede and broccoli. Finally, I even had a Signature Afternoon Tea at Cutter & Squidge – in Soho, London to celebrate Mother’s Day with my wife and two daughters. My younger daughter did arrange for me to have naked sandwiches – just the fillings with no bread! That was fine, but I did enjoy the scones and cakes! I drank lots of tea to wash them down.
Drinks wise I have stuck mainly to water, tea and coffee. I have had apple juice which I have enjoyed a lot. The one glass of orange juice I had, however, I found too acidic and sweet. In terms of alcohol, I have had a couple of glasses of red wine and a pint of real ale. Not all in one sitting, though. I’ll definitely keep away from gassy beers and give sweet and fizzy drinks a wide berth.
Will I put back on some of the weight that I had lost?
I’ve put on a kilo so far. This is a bit surprising considering that I’m having 3 meals a day with puddings and 2-3 snacks in between. However, it’s the size of the meals and snacks that I’m able to eat that is probably meaning that I’m not putting on much weight. Also the meals and snacks are generally quite healthy, and of course I’m not eating any bread.
Before my achalasia diagnosis, and for as long as I can remember, I had had trouble recognising when I was full from eating. After the Hellers Myotomy surgery I now start to feel full as I’m eating and stop when I’ve had enough.
I’m not rushing to put any weight back on, though. Since I retired from competitive sport in my late 20’s I have had trouble keeping my weight down and ballooned from 83kg (13 stone) at 28 to a peak of 111kg (17.5 stones) in my late 40s. When I was 48 I did manage to go on a diet and lose 14kg, but couldn’t get much below 95kg until achalasia struck in anger. My current weight is around 77.5kg (12.25 stones) which means I am a little thin at present, but hopefully I’ll put some muscle back on over time.
Will I be able to sleep on a normal bed without the need for my head to be significantly higher than my stomach?
To start with I kept my bed just as it was before the operation, i.e my head about a foot higher than my stomach and sleeping on my back with aid of my V shaped pillow. This was more comfortable for my stomach and beneficial to the healing of the wounds from the surgery. I didn’t want to tug on any of the scars!
Once my stomach muscles had knitted back together after the first 2 weeks I experimented with lowering the head end of the bed and sleeping on my side. I found I was able to sleep comfortably with my head only raised a few inches. After 4 weeks I was able to lower the head end completely and sleep happily on either side.
I feel really pleased that I can now think about going away with my wife and not worrying about where/how I’m going to sleep.
Will my asthma improve?
This has been one of the revelations of my recovery. My asthma control has improved dramatically. I no longer wake at night wheezing or coughing. I take my inhibitor inhaler night and morning and apart from one occasion, when my inhaler ran out, I have not suffered any wheezing. Maybe I will be able to back up a level or two in the strength of my medication, soon.
Will my general health improve?
Since the first two weeks of my recovery I have had more energy, feel more alert and have been able to concentrate for longer periods. We’ll have to wait and see if my atrial fibrillation goes away. I’ll hopefully find that out in June/July once I’ve had my next scheduled 24 hour heart monitor at the end of May. Before that I have my 6 week check up with the surgeon next week so will write an update after that.
In the mean time I will build up my exercise routine, mainly walking at the moment, with the aim of starting some gentle running soon. Then I’ll start to find out how much my health really has improved!