Monday, March 21, 2016

Ten Strategies to Prepare for Surgery, Part 1

In the last 24 years, I've had four somewhat major surgeries: two bowel excisions and resections for Crohn's disease, an ankle tenosynovectomy, and 18 months ago, a double mastectomy without reconstruction.

I guess you could call me a comeback kid - if "kid" applies to someone fifty-three years old. :-))  With each surgery and rehabilitation, I've learned some very important lessons.  Here are Ten Steps to Bouncing Back. The first five deal with before the surgery. If you have the luxury of planning a surgery, these are important. If you don't, think about not being able to take care of these in an emergency and get busy. Preparation wins this battle.

1) Create an exercise program that appeals to you that includes strength and resistance training, stretching, and coordination and balance challenges and stick to it. Even twenty minutes a day - five minutes for each of these skills - will pay enormous dividends the day you find yourself incapacitated from surgery.

2) Consult with a Naturopath or Nutritionist. Some supplements should not be taken before surgery, like Vitamin E, because it can cause bleeding. Plenty of supplements can help with the healing process after. Alternative medicine is being used more and more in conjunction with allopathic (western) medicine. Get a team together: acupuncturist, massage therapist, chiropractors can all help get your body in could shape before, and get you back on track after.

3) Line up help form friends, partners, family for the first week or two after your surgery. Try not to rely on only one person. My partner was a dream and totally there for me, but it made him feel better having my sister there as well. Many hands make a light burden. Let people know ahead of time so they can prepare. Have people bring food so you and your caretakers don't have to cook all the time. People really do like giving a hand.

4) Get the down and dirty info on your procedure and condition. I know - this can be scary. But it's better to know and be prepared so you can make the best decisions for yourself.

5) Set your affairs in order!  Do you have a Living Will? This tells your doctors what you want should you be become unable to communicate, as in coma. Do you want to stay plugged in indefinitely? Do you want hydration only? Tube feeding? You get the picture. Most hospitals have these forms handy. They need to be witnessed though. And you will need to appoint someone to take responsibility for you and advocate for you if you're not able, so get a Durable Power of Attorney. Have you made a will? Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney can be downloaded from Stevens-Ness (  for a small fee. Before my surgery, I bought a small notebook and listed all my bank accounts, numbers, passwords, utility accounts, landlords, etc. so that if I kicked the bucket, my dear ones wouldn't be left with a mess. It gave me peace of mind and them as well.

Stay tuned for the next five pointers on how to bounce back!

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