Unfortunately, surgery is something that every endometriosis patient has to endure in order to find lasting relief for her symptoms. The phrase many doctors use to introduce surgery, “Well, let’s go in and take a look” sounds simple enough, but there are deeper implications of what that means to the patient.
I just recently had my 6th endometriosis surgery, an endometriosis excision with Dr. Seckin. The idea of having surgery means something very different to me now than when I first learned I had to have my appendix out almost a decade ago. I don’t know if it that I have gotten better at having surgery or it is just that I now have a better surgeon, but these past couple of recoveries have been a lot smoother overall. I also attribute my post-op success to knowing what to expect during surgery and being able to physically and mentally prepare for it.
Here are 5 things I do before every surgery
Get your body ready
My past surgery was an extensive one, so I wanted to make sure I was in the best shape possible going in. I tried to go for walks when I felt up for it just to get my body moving and feeling strong. I made sure I drank at least 64 ounces of water every day starting two weeks before the surgery to be nice and hydrated. Drinking so much water also made my bowel prep go smoother! I went to my chiropractor faithfully leading up to the surgery knowing that surgery and recovery are often rough on my back. I made sure I had enough sleep and tried to eat as best as I could. I made sure I remembered to eat my multivitamin daily and tried to eat foods rich in iron. I also take the time to get a bikini wax. After my first emergency laparoscopy in the dead of winter, I was shocked to learn that a nurse had to “prep my pelvic area” via a bic razor. I now go in prepared.
Get your house ready
Before all of my surgeries, I have certain chores I like to do beforehand that will make my life easier when coming home from the hospital. I wash all the bedsheets in the house the day before surgery. I love coming home from the hospital to clean sheets. I also make sure I have fresh towels available. I also do all of my laundries and make sure I have a top dresser drawer dedicated to post-op clothes. In it I have loose pants, cotton shirts, clean underwear and comfortable bras. I also like to give the house a good cleaning pre-op, knowing it will be awhile before I have the energy to do it again. If you can have a friend or relative gift you a pre-op and post-op cleaning service, even better!
About two weeks before surgery, I like to create a master shopping list of things I will need post-op. I make sure I have all the food I need in the house in order to prepare for my bowel prep and other light foods I will eat immediately post-op. I take an inventory of my clothing and note if I need an extra pair of sweat pants or a new pair of slippers. I make sure I have my favorite shampoo, deodorant, and moisturizer on hand. These little things make such a difference. I also make sure the house has plenty of things like toilet paper! Few things are worse than running out of toilet paper in the middle of bowel prep! I also make sure I have things to entertain myself. I often will go to the library beforehand and get a few good books to read or DVDs to watch.
Preparing your workplace
Hopefully, your job is understanding and respectful of your needed surgery and leave. It is so unfortunate that endometriosis is such a misunderstood disease and is not recognized by so many. I think the following questions are good to ask yourself when thinking about postop work: are you able to work from home post-op? Can you start back with half the days? Is there work you can do ahead of time to make things run smoother when you are gone? Are you able to be honest with your boss on what kind of surgery you are having? Can a co-worker cover for you? I always find having a work plan before the surgery leads to much less anxiety post-op.
A patient often feels a lot of anxiety and sometimes even sheer panic when faced with an impending surgery. For weeks leading up to my past surgery, whenever I would become anxious I would do a little medication. I would take a deep breath in and say in my mind, “breath in peace,” and as I exhaled I would say, “breathe out stress.” I would repeat that until I felt calmer. I also made it a point to schedule a meeting with my therapist to talk about the stress and anxiety about the surgery a few weeks before. Reaching out to family and friends is also a big part of being emotionally supported. About a week before surgery, I made sure I sent an email out to close friends and family explaining what I was going through and how they could help. Like many other endometriosis patients, I value my independence and have a hard time accepting a lot of help. Obviously, when you have surgery accepting help is inevitable. I am not sure what I would have done without people cooking for me and my family, going shopping, sending me cards, and taking me to the post-op appointment in those first weeks. It was nice to feel their emotional support.
Excision surgery is currently the best way to help improve the quality of life for an endometriosis patient. Although it can seem daunting, I have found often the anticipation of endometriosis surgery is sometimes worse than the actual surgery and recovery itself. Mindfully preparing for endometriosis surgery, both physically and emotionally, can often help with those pre-op jitters and lead to a less stressful recovery period.
Casey Berna is a patient of Dr. Seckin’s and an endometriosis and infertility counselor and advocate. To learn more about her story and her practice go to www.CaseyBerna.com. If you are a patient of Dr. Seckin’s and want to share your story please contact Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.