Eighteen months ago I had a double mastectomy for breast cancer. This has been my fourth surgery in 24 years, and of all the surgeries I've had - see Part 1 - this has been the easiest recovery yet. In my previous post I mentioned five things to do to prepare for surgery, assuming you're lucky enough to know ahead of time. Sometimes that can't happen. But if you haven't done those things, now might be a good time to implement them. Below are five strategies that really helped me bounce back from this last adventure.
6) Enjoy taking it easy, and let others help you! Relax - what a concept! As a self-employed person, I rarely take more than ten days off a year. What a girl has to do to get three weeks off, huh? How about a double mastectomy? LOL! The point is, if you're recovering from surgery, don't fight it. Enjoy the time off. Read books, watch movies, do nothing. Just Be. And don't feel guilty or worry about it. Let people help you. It gives them a good feeling. Relaxing will help your body heal.
7) Start moving right away. (In hospital, they will make you do this.) At home, you can start by taking some full, deep breaths that expand and lift your ribcage on the inhalation, and let it drop and relax on the exhalation. Do this lying down, seated, and standing. Stretch like a cat when it's been curled up a long time - you know, where your toes spread and your muscles contract and vibrate. Even if this makes muscles that have been cut suddenly hurt, don't worry about it. It's getting blood to those muscles that helps them heal.
8) You have a new body. It's changed and it will feel different. Be kind to yourself. This is a tender time. Don't be afraid of this - even if you're now missing parts, or have new parts. Try to cultivate an attitude of curiosity and inquiry rather than aversion and hostility.
9) Be real. If you're a type-A energizer bunny, lower your expectations a bit. For God's sake, your body has just been cut and invaded! Give yourself a break. You're probably going to overdo anyway, so back off already. You'll slow yourself down with setbacks if you push too fast. If, on the other hand, you're a slug, then you need to move more than you want. Movement circulates blood and lymph and helps the body heal. Capisce?
10) Prioritize during your recovery time. As you start to feel better, you'll find yourself staring at a pile of bills, laundry, and other tasks, but you won't really be up for much. Put aside time in small bites, like fifteen or twenty minutes to deal with a bill or a phone call, then rest. You're taking time off, remember?
Surgeries are not often experiences we're delighted to have, but they can be uplifting experiences. A surgery may save your life, give you renewed capabilities, or buy you time. These are all gifts. If you enjoyed reading this, pass it on to a friend. If you've recently undergone surgery and need some help getting back your physical strength, contact me.