Preparing for a major surgery

Odyssa Rivera Abille

Keep those thoughts in check.

On August 12, 2021, I was admitted to the hospital for the first time for major surgery. My OB-Gynecologist found a mass in my body that needs to be removed as soon as possible.

The entire ordeal gave me reasons to fear.

How painful will this be? What if I had cancer? Can we afford cancer treatments? What if the surgery causes complications? Can I still have kids afterward?

I was afraid of my uncertain future. Unfortunately, the surgery was something I could not escape. Aside from knowing that my family is with me in this battle, being prepared kept me from falling apart.

These are 5 things to do before you go through major surgery.

1. Prepare your body.

Taking laboratory tests, consulting with the doctor, feeling afraid about the future, and carrying the financial burden can get stressful. This affects you and your family and close friends. When stressed, it’s easy to lie in bed, think, and wait.

I experienced difficulty sleeping and lost weight. With work, chores, and books, I kept myself preoccupied to prevent overthinking.

Unless your doctor says so, stick to the same physical activities until the day you get admitted to the hospital. Physical movement helps relieve stress.

In addition to helping you enjoy a healthy body weight, exercise can also ward off and possibly reverse mild cognitive decline, boost your immune system, prevent and treat high blood pressure, and improve your mood and quality of sleep, among many other benefits. -Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not To Die

If you can keep doing what you’ve always done, such as housework, practicing pilates, walking the dogs, or lifting weights, keep at it.

This is a great way to love, respect, and prepare your body.

2. Keep your thoughts in check.

This is a stressful time not only for you but for the people around you.

When you drown yourself in negativity, your entire demeanor will be affected. Your family will feel the same way as you do.

When you stay hopeful and optimistic, you carry this aura with you. It can even help you with recovering faster.

I consumed information that was helpful to me. I asked questions to my doctors and refused to rely on Google. I continued watching my favorite Korean dramas for fun.

Before the surgery, do some visualization. Imagine yourself hiking again, playing with your kids, and doing the same old things that made you happy. Read books or documentaries that can inspire and give you hope.

Prepare yourself mentally.

3. Pack comfortable clothing for your stay in the hospital.

You will be provided a hospital gown, but there’s nothing like the good old pajamas to keep you comfortable. While the IV fluid is being administered, I recommend wearing your hospital gown.

Once it’s off, wear something airy and loose.

I brought about 4 loose dresses that double as pajamas. I also brought my most comfortable underwear and flip-flops.

Take clothes you can easily wear and take off. You don’t need to look good.

The most important thing to remember is comfort.

4. Rearrange your living area.

When you get home, you’ll be weak. You will need help with almost everything.

Going to the bathroom won’t be as easy as before. You might even need to take your meals in bed.

My family moved my single bed to the first floor of our house, so I don’t have to take the stairs.

The bathroom and kitchen area are on the first floor. I had my family on standby if I needed help with my things or moving around.

Keep the essentials close to you. These are your medicines, drinking water, toiletries, alcohol, pens, notepads — things that you might need many times a day.

This is a temporary setup for your recovery.

Once you get your strength back, you can bring your things back to their proper places.

5. Find out what you need for recovery.

Your doctor will most likely prescribe painkillers and antibiotics to aid your healing. These will be helpful, especially in the first week after you get discharged from the hospital.

Ask your doctor if you will need supplements. Your doctor should tell you how to clean your wound and change your dressing. You can even set your next appointment.

Being aware that I will need foods high in protein and fiber, I had vegetables and fruits in all my meals.

According to Rogel Cancer Center, protein aids in collagen formation, tissue remodeling, and skin structure. Fiber helps with easier digestion.

Knowing what you need before you even need them can make the recovery period easier for you and your family.

The procedure I went through was myomectomy. The mass was benign. I’m free of cancer and my ovaries are intact.

After my surgery, I appreciated my body even more. It’s amazing to see and feel my body heal itself. As I write this, I am back to walking the dogs in the morning. I can now do a few chores around the house.

To wrap up, these are the 5 things you need to do before a major surgery:

  1. Prepare your body.
  2. Keep your thoughts in check.
  3. Pack comfortable clothing for your stay in the hospital.
  4. Rearrange your living area.
  5. Find out what you need for recovery.

When you get these in order, sit back and trust your doctors. Everything else is beyond your control.

Going through a major surgery is an ending of an old chapter. The recovery period is the beginning of a new one.

Here is your second chance at life.

Odyssa is the author of two poetry collections on love and travel. This article was first published in Medium.

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I write about relationships, the complexities of human life, and writing. I'm a self-published author of two poetry collections entitled "Like A New Sun Rising" and "From Where I Stand" available at www.amazon.com/author/Odyssa.

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