Lessons I’ve Learnt From Life-Saving Surgery

If you follow me across social media you will (hopefully!) have seen my journey to recovery following a spontaneous cecal volvulus (twisted bowel) in mid January, and resulting emergency surgery. I am currently coming up to 7 weeks post-op and getting stronger every day.

Experiences like this can completely shake up and transform your life, and my dance with death has certainly taught me a multitude of lessons. I am sharing them with you in hopes that you can learn a little something from what I went through.


When your health is taken away from you, suddenly the little stresses of life get put into perspective. Those bickers with your partner and worries about work don’t seem quite as important. Instead you realise the true value of having a healthy, fit and functioning body and an incredible support team of people around you. They are the real priorities in life.  

Take Care Of Your Health

Quite frankly, my recovery has been ridiculously fast. I was taking steps one day post-op, whereas most patients need a week before they can do the same. My surgeon puts this down to the fact that before my operation I was super fit and healthy. He says that my body quite literally bounced back after surgery and he hasn’t seen anyone else with so much positive energy after such a big operation! This experience has provided me with buckets of motivation to keep continuing with my healthy lifestyle into the future, so I can bounce back from any further challenges life throws at me.

Humans Are Lovely

At least the ones in my life have been. I have been blown away by how many people reached out after my surgery, the well wishes I received and the knocks on my door to come visit. People have been so generous with their time and I will be eternally grateful for that, as their company made my journey so much easier. 


I have never before experienced so much gratitude. Gratitude to be able to stand, to walk, to move my body. Gratitude to get outdoors, to enjoy green space and to breath in fresh air. Gratitude for the people in my life, the love of those I am closest to and the support I have received. Gratitude for my body for fighting for me every damn day and making me stronger. Endless gratitude in every sense of the word. 

You Never Know

You never know what someone is going through. Since being back in London I have worn a “please offer me a seat” badge on public transport (since long periods standing can make me light headed) and have been met with many glares and confused expressions. Since I look healthy, people assume I don’t need a seat. In reality, so many people have invisible illnesses and you never know who might need a helping hand or a kind gesture. 


Having a 3+ month recovery felt like a long time to me in the beginning and I have used the the end goal of being back to how I was before the operation as my motivation. This has made me realise that for so many people who suffer with chronic illnesses their recovery often doesn’t have an end point, they have to accept a new normal, and I have endless respect for their dedication to living every day with a positive mindset. 

Medics Are Incredible

Surgeons are true super humans, taking peoples lives into their hands. Mine literally cut me open, rearranged my insides and fixed me up. That is damn incredible. I have never before had so much respect for their amazing work. I also hugely respect the NHS. They helped me many-a-time on my return to the UK. I was in and out of my local hospital and GP surgery for the first few weeks due to complications and they always provided the support I required. 

There Is Always Good In A Bad Situation

Honestly, I have taken so many positives from what I have been through; for one, the life lessons in this article are all amazing things that have come from my experience. It has also given me time to spend with people I love, time to reflect on what is important to me and time away from the madness of my everyday life. I have had to slow down and its been welcome relief from my usual fast paced existence. 

Be Proactive

In recovery, you can’t just sit back and hope you will get stronger. You have to take daily actions to work towards that goal. I literally spend hours every day focusing on recovery, from deep breathing through to pelvic floor work and mobilisations. I am working with physios, osteos, surgeons and wound specialists to tap into their knowledge. I am not going to leave this to chance, I am going to be proactive and ensure that I come back stronger than ever.

A Positive Mindset Is Everything

You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. It is perfectly natural to have a few break downs and a little cry every now and then, but you aren’t going to get any better if you spend all your valuable energy feeling sorry for yourself. (Harsh, but true!). You need to pick yourself up and use the power of positivity. I celebrate little wins and am always working towards the next milestone; I honestly believe that my positive mindset has helped my recovery exponentially.

And the biggest lesson of all… every day is a gift. I have never before been so grateful to be alive. I have come face to face with the fragility of life and now I honestly live every day with an acute awareness of how lucky I am to be here. 

Zanna x

1 Comment

  1. Jennie
    April 22, 2019 / 5:52 pm

    Thank you for your positive outlook after your laparotomy. I am a colorectal (bowel surgeon) and it’s so nice to hear some positive feedback about the NHS
    Well done on your speedy recovery. You were very lucky to not require a bowel resection. You are an inspiration .

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