I’m a big researcher. I love nothing more than disappearing down an information rabbit hole on a particular subject I’m interested in. So, when it became apparent I would need to have laparoscopic surgery for suspected endometriosis (you can read the full story here), I immediately began to research “what to take to hospital for endo surgery” and “how to recover after a laparoscopy”. I was scared, yes, but after four months of constant pain I was more than ready to get some answers (and hopefully some relief). And after working through my fears during a session with an Emotional Freedom Technique facilitator I actually felt excited for the surgery. It sounds crazy but having never been a patient in hospital before, it kind of felt like an adventure to see the ‘behind the scenes’ and feel that I was taking a huge step towards the possibility of a healthy, vibrant future.
Pack for comfort, entertainment and ease
One of the many mysterious elements to endo is that when you go in for surgery, you never know exactly what they will find, how long the surgery will take or how long you might need to stay in hospital. I ended up staying overnight. The medication they gave me kept me awake the entire 24 hours so I watched a bunch of movies and a heap of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (never fails to make me smile) to pass the time and take my mind off the pain. I would recommend packing:
- your go-to pain killers
- period undies (these are my faves) or pads
- essential oils for calming/sleep, like lavender and frankincense
- your phone or tablet loaded with shows/movies/podcasts/books/games.
- a pillow to put over your tummy for the drive home
- comfortable stretchy clothes to wear out of the hospital
- an electric blanket or stick-on heat pads (apparently hospitals are not actually allowed to heat up heat packs or fill up your hot water bottle for safety reasons.)
- fresh fruit and your favourite snacks (let’s face it, hospital food is never great. Having eaten the anti-inflammatory diet before the surgery I was astounded when the hospital served me a mysterious deli meat sandwich on white bread with not a single vegetable in sight. Yikes.)
Have your support team ready
One of the biggest fears I worked through before the surgery was waking up alone and being in pain with no one to help me. For some reason, I wasn’t all that scared of the surgery itself, but I was terrified of not having people around when I woke up and couldn’t do things for myself. On the flip side, I was also anxious about being a burden to people and struggled with the idea of receiving help without being able to give anything in return! Oh the irony. So it was a challenge but I spoke openly to friends and family about needing post-op support and every single one of them offered to help in some way, whether it was hanging out with me for a day, dropping off a cooked meal or transporting me to an appointment. I planned to take two weeks off work. I ended up taking three weeks, and truth be told, I probably should have taken a whole month. You live and learn. For the surgery itself, I was incredibly lucky to have fantastic nurses who put me completely at ease, a surgeon I trusted completely and my beautiful partner there with me, making me laugh and holding my hand. I would strongly encourage you to:
- Do your research and make sure you choose an expert excision surgeon and hospital that make you feel confident, safe, supported and cared for (check out Nancy’s Nook for more info about how to choose the right surgeon).
- Find a supportive person to take you to the hospital and transport you home. It makes a world of difference knowing someone is right there with you.
- Talk to friends and family you trust and ask for their assistance during your recovery. Let people know what you need help with and remember you deserve to feel supported and you would happily help them if the roles were reversed.
- Let your boss and colleagues know that while you hope for a smooth and speedy recovery, every endo patient has a totally different recovery experience and you are grateful for their patience and flexibility.
Prepare your recovery space
I had an epiphany in the lead up to the operation that my pre-surgery self could actually nurture my post-surgery self. I could put certain things in place to ensure I felt comfortable, nurtured and in the perfect environment to rest and heal. This included cleaning my house, doing my laundry and setting up everything I needed within arms reach from my bed. I made a little healing altar in my room with candles, essential oils, flowers and affirmation cards. My preparation also included ordering some delicious pre-made vegan meals from this beautiful company so I didn’t have to worry about cooking in order to nourish myself. You could definitely cook up big batches of soups and stews to reheat as needed, but I honestly just didn’t have the energy even before surgery. Most importantly, I really thought about how I could mentally reframe my recovery time to make sure I wasn’t wishing the time away feeling bored and frustrated. I realised it was actually like a forced “retreat” from normal life, when I didn’t have any distractions and literally couldn’t physically do anything but focus on my own internal state. Once I finally felt able to do more than just watch Netflix (probably about ten days in), I took the opportunity to meditate, read up on healing endo naturally, listen to podcasts about retraining the brain for healing and dive into my To Be Magnetic workshops. So, in order to make the most of your recovery time, have a think about:
- How can you make your space feel like a sanctuary for rest and healing?
- What food can you have prepared to allow you to nourish yourself easily?
- What can you do to reframe your recovery time as an opportunity?
Mostly, go gently with yourself. This illness forces us to learn how to practice deep self-care and that is a gift. Remember many, many women have been through this surgery and experienced a significant increase in their quality of life. You are strong, your body is amazing and all around the world your endo sisters stand with you. You’ve got this.