Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Conversations Around Surgery

I think I decided that I like when I blog and start a conversation with people. It is less like talking to myself.

I wanted to have a conversation around surgery. I'm going to be having surgery in about 10 weeks and I was curious what people do to cope with surgery. I figured I'd share a bit about what I am thinking and what I am going about doing, and then let other people talk about their experiences and what has helped or hindered etc.

The last time I had surgery I didn't do a lot. That surgery was a lot less scary though. They were taking out an infection that could kill me if I didn't let them out of my ear, and a good chunk of the bones in my ear with it. Since I didn't want to have bacterial meningitis I let them do it. It was my head so there wasn't really any pain. At least not by the time I got out of the hospital. I don't even remember having an active iv overnight afterwards. My prep mostly involved getting really anxious and trying to bring my teddy bear into surgery. Afterwards I felt fine and sat in my house and knit for two weeks straight while trying to keep wind out of my ear. Not exactly a hardship.

This surgery is going to be different. This time I'm allergic to a lot more. The surgery itself is much more complex. The hospital stay is much longer, and the recovery is longer too. There are things that just are, like the part where I am going to have this surgery because I need it and need to be better, and there are things that are more flexible, or that I at least have more control over.

I'm lucky enough that the hospital I am having the surgery in has flexible visiting hours and I'm going to try to have someone essentially stay the night with me for the first couple of nights at least. I'm going to be on heavy pain management and have lots of tubes and little ability to move or be independent so having someone there seems essential to me. I'm a good advocate, but being that compromised and it not being in the hospital that I prefer means the need to have others to help with advocacy.

I'm also thinking a lot more in terms of what is going to happen when I get home. For the most part I know hospitals and how they work. Gradually I'll start being allowed food again (Not like I have any experience with that process or anything *sarcasm*). As my pain gets better I'll be able to knit, watch stuff, read, colour, all of my standard hospital activities. Eventually I'll be able to get up and walk around, get my own water or tea. That kind of a thing.

Before my surgery I am, barring some exceptional reason why it can't happen, going to get an occupational therapist to come to my apartment to assess what equipment I might need to help after my surgery, like supports to get out of bed and in my bathroom and stuff. I am also going to get all of the mobility and other stuff that she suggested last time that I haven't done yet. This will include a scooter. Right now my mobility has improved a lot such that it hasn't been an essential but I feel like it is going to give me a lot more independence and flexibility after my surgery to get out and be a part of the community again sooner.

I'm also organizing friends who can help, the way that I usually do, with laundry, cooking, cleaning, things to give my sister/roommate a break from taking care of me at a time when school is stressful for her. I'm hoping to be able to do things like get my room cleaned and in good order before the surgery, but trying to finish 4 courses at school in 9-10 as opposed to 12 weeks might make that difficult.

One of the other things that I'm trying to do before my surgery to help make after better is to build up my strength. For me this has meant increasing my activity in some pretty measured ways. Unless I am sick (and not sick in the I don't want to way) the rule is that I go walking or swimming everyday. So far that has worked really well for me. I have to be careful not to overdo it too much, and be careful it is the right kind of exercise with my other disabilities but going for a walk with my puppy or swimming at school when I'm there anyway works well for me. Swimming makes me super happy and I'm getting better at it too. I'm surprised how quickly my body has gone from "worrying the lifeguard that I might drown because it's been so long since I swam" to actually having some coordination and while I'm not a competitive swimmer, my body is remembering how to put moving my arms, legs, and breathing together in a coordinated effort to move me from one side of the pool to the other.

These things all sound kind of simple when I write them out, and like they don't actually make up a really coordinated effort to control the parts of this that I can and not have it be terrible. I'm curious what other people have done, especially anyone else who has had pancreatic surgery. I'm curious about what to expect, and what other people have done to make surgery manageable for them. Obviously people survive it and it is supposedly better than all of the pain I'm going through without it, so I feel like I probably have the wherewithal to get through it, but I like to be well prepared and do what I can.


  1. Its not a huge thing, but before the surgery, make sure you go and eat a special, favorite food. Its a while afterward before you feel like treating yourself in that way again.

  2. My last surgery, I sadly didn't have time to prepare for. But if I had, I think I would have made sure that I had brought things with me- I became very bored during my recovery.

    However, one thing I was able to do- my best friend came up and stayed with me for a few weeks post-surgery, because I wasn't even able to push my own chair, or pick anything up, or basically function the way I do now. That was definitely a wise choice, and I'm lucky it worked out!