Noone likes to hear that they will need surgery but when you are disabled sometimes that is the reality of life and you may need quite a few while others none are required. It depends on what disability you have and if you have Spina Bifida how many surgeries you have will depend on what form you have because some forms of Spina Bifida will only require one or two surgeries and while others require over sixty plus. I have had probably at least thirty surgeries throughout my life and my guess is about ten or fifteen of those are bladder related or other abdominal surgeries. I have been preparing for another bladder surgery that I will have in about two weeks and as disappointing as this news is it’s not my first rodeo and I am very aware of what to expect. How I prepare for surgery is just as important to me the recovery because the can determine how fast you recover and if there will be any complications. Knowing you need surgery can give anyone anxiety and one of the ways you can reduce that anxiety is to properly prepare to lessen the likelihood of complications. Just like any surgery, there can still be complications even with the proper prep but if you take these steps you can get your body and mind ready for surgery and lessen the likelihood of it.
Visualize- People get nervous before surgery which is completely normal but that is not the problem. The problem lies when you schedule surgery and then the day before chicken out and call your doctor claiming you have the flu. Why did you even schedule surgery if you had every intention of canceling it? Don’t let your anxiety take control and if your doctor says that the surgery you need does not need to be done right now then wait if you are not in the right mindset. If it is really really important and needs to be done as soon as possible then imagine the pain and recovery process being successful. If you have in your mind your doctor is going to make all these kind of mistakes then you will become more anxious. Trusting that your medical team will do the job right will make you less anxious and depressed. You can’t change that fact you need surgery but you can change your attitude about it and that is what will get you through the surgery and any curveballs that are thrown at you during recovery.
Work your core– If you have chronic pain physical activity can be hard and sometimes we put it on the back burner because it can cause a pain flare. I have been doing Pilates for almost ten years and have a very strong core but in the last couple of years, it hasn’t been the same and some days or weeks I am lacking not before a surgery I’m not. My lower body will be pretty much useless when I have surgery and it’s important that I build as much strength as I possibly can so I can support my body weight and help my caregivers. I will completely depend on them and if I can’t support in even the smallest way it will become a problem. Do you need to move your legs? Pain! Do you need to reposition yourself? Even more pain! Do you want to take a shower? You can dream on because that can’t even be entertained until at least a week after surgery. These tasks may seem small but I will completely depend on my caregiver to help me to do them and without core strength, I will not be able to support my body which will make the job of my caregiver harder.
Strengthen your upper body- If you have been following this blog for any length of time you would know that I hate working my body and avoid like the plague! Since having chronic pain it is not the same and do upper body strengthening exercises nearly as much as I probably should but not weeks before abdominal surgery. It’s important that I am the strongest that I can possibly be so I can support my entire body weight and be of assistance to my caregivers.
Get snacks– When you are recovering from surgery people often will bring you all kinds of foods hoping that they will help you feel better. Only to not realize some of these food items will make you feel worse and incredibly nauseous. After you have surgery people want to help but if you have never had surgery often times people don’t know what to bring you and will just bring things that they think you would normally which is normally not wrong but not necessarily appropriate for recovering from abdominal surgery. Before bringing someone who is recovering from surgery food ask yourself two things: Is this something I would eat if I had a stomach bug? Is this food easily digestible? Most people who are recovering from abdominal surgery feel incredibly nauseous and have trouble digesting food after eating meals and will continue to feel that way until they start to feel better. I like to compare that feeling to a stomach bug but let me be clear that the pain you feel after surgery and a stomach bug is completely different the nauseous feeling just may be similar. Bringing meals to families of someone who is recovering is helpful but heavy meals like lasagna will not be as enjoyable to the person in pain as they will be for their families and lighter options are usually the better choice. If you have never had surgery it can be difficult to know what to bring and sometimes you may bring something that the person in pain can’t have right now and that is okay. Save it for later for when you can have and enjoy it and buy a few of your own snacks that you can have during your recovery. You can hope people will bring you things that you can enjoy but you have no control over whether they do so be prepared!
Get your nutrition in check– Before going under anesthesia you want to be the healthiest you possibly can be because if you have high blood pressure, heart problems or any type of life-threatening condition that no one knew about surgery will be postponed unless it is the reason you are having surgery. Have a well-balanced diet weeks leading up until surgery and prevent life-threatening conditions that could be caused by bad nutrition choices. Check-in with your doctor if something feels off and think that you may have something else because if that is so you may not want surgery until you have that issue taken care of.
Knowing you need surgery is a frustrating thought but for some, it’s not a choice and the only way you will get better and how you prepare for it plays a huge role in how fast you will recover. Being as strong as you possibly can is important for transfers but having the right mindset will get you through it without feeling like everything is going to crash and burn. Pain can make anyone feel a little sad but when you change your mindset about it and see all the good that this is surgery will do for you and although it will still bum you out if you look at the positives you will have something to look forward to after you recover. Talk to people that are supportive of your condition and stop talking to all the people who just complain about their lives. I have talked to friends during surgery recoveries and all they did was complain and since I usually have a lower patience level it made me want to lose my mind. You don’t need that kind of negativity while recovering and if someone cannot be a positive influence during your recovery don’t talk to them until you are feeling much better. How do you prepare for abdominal surgery? (This is part one of a three-part series so stay tuned next week if you want to see part two)