I will start by saying I am not a trained professional. I do not have any certification or qualifications to dispense advice on your recovery or nutritional needs! This post is not about what foods your should eat and what exercises you should do. I’m simply here to pass along tips on making life a little easier during your recovery. For advice on what you should eat I suggest you see a nutritionist. You may also choose to reference this guide by the Canadian Cancer Society. For exercise you can reference their Exercise after Breast Surgery guide.
I do strongly recommend you follow the instructions given to you by your surgeon, oncology team, and your GP.
Prior to surgery I was a gym rat. I love fitness and yoga! I had a solid routine of taking classes at the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and following each class with an hour Yin yoga to help reduce muscle soreness. I went to hot yoga on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays as well. I was very active. I also kept a relatively clean eating plan. The day before surgery I noticed that for the first time in 20 years I had abs!
Cancer brings on all kinds of emotions. Seeing your body mutilated for survival will bring you through all the emotions and back again on repeat. There just aren’t words to accurately describe those feelings. For me, the fact that I had finally attained abs-level physique less than 5 days prior to standing in front of a mirror with a foreign growth where once was a beautiful breast was absolutely devastating. I can’t even begin to imagine what others who had a mastectomy felt. The anesthetic had such a negative affect on me that getting out of bed for more than 5 minutes took all my strength. I got dizzy quickly. I felt nauseous frequently. Between that and the cording, I was unable to get back to any physical activity for an additional 8 weeks. Those abs were quickly replaced by fat.
I wished I’d have planned ahead, but I had no idea what to expect. It’s important not to be hard on yourself or blame yourself during recovery, or ever for that matter. These things are out of your control. No one could have guessed I’d be unwell for so long. It is my hope that this post will help anyone going into surgery to prepare for an easier recovery.
If you’re fortunate that you have family and loved ones to help you during your recovery, take the help. Ask your medical team about resources available to you and then use them. Most of the services are paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars so don’t be shy in using them. You already paid for them. If you want to give back you can always volunteer your time once you’ve recovered.
Here are some tips to help in the days or weeks after recovery. These same tips can be useful in everyday life as well.
Make a list of the meals you would like to eat. Shop for the ingredients and be sure to have freezer bags on that list. Then spend time getting those meals ready. This is called meal prep. A good example is spaghetti. You can make a pot spaghetti store meal sized portions in your freezer. Then it is very easy to take out just the portion you need to thaw, toss it in the microwave or a pot and you’ve got a meal in minutes. Added tip: store the freezer bags flat. It helps thaw faster.
If you can, wash and cut vegetables in advance so you have healthy meal options. You can also buy vegetables that are already cut. Some cities have delivery options as well. I use Grocery Gateway through Longo’s. There are many stores that will delivery to your door and the price is very reasonable. There are also many places that make meals in advance and deliver to you so you only need to heat and eat.
It is important that you not shame yourself for your eating during recovery. If you can only eat french fries because that is what your stomach will allow, then eat french fries. You’re beating cancer, you’ve earned fries!
Aside the recommended light exercise, you may find yourself unable to do much during recovery. Set up your main recovery space so that you have easy access to entertainment. You may wish to have a television or a laptop nearby. Make sure you have easy access to remotes, adapters, devices, etc. If you like to read, have some books in reaching distance. Or magazines, puzzles, knitting, anything you like as a hobby.
Have comfortable clothing set out for yourself. Make sure it’s easy to put on and take off. Think of any items you use on a daily basis and make sure they are not stored somewhere that will require reaching to get to. All these routine things that we take for granted can be difficult during recovery. Housework is not an option during recovery either, so bribe people in advance to come clean for you during recovery! If you can’t bribe anyone, then let it be. The house work will still be there when you recover. You don’t need to be a martyr.
If you have long hair put it in a braid so you don’t have to do as much brushing and it isn’t in your way.
Whatever you can do to make your recovery more comfortable, go ahead and do it.