Preparing for Cancer Surgery? Try This


A guy who knows breast cancer shares some surgical tips.

I’m getting ready for my third major surgery in three years. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have learned a thing or three through my experiences. I hope that by sharing, I may help someone going through a similar experience.

Let’s start with breast cancer surgery—the notorious mastectomy. Yep, I’ve had it. We’re learning that issues of recovery and recurrence are different in men and women. As an example, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine site: "The survival rates and prognoses for men is not as good as it is for women. Men have a 25 percent higher mortality rate than women.” Science is showing that males and females respond to some chemotherapies differently, also.

But the fact remains — the surgery for men or women is essentially the same, with sentinel node surgery being performed most often.

It should be noted that I don’t do well with medical procedures. Bloodwork is borderline terrifying for me, based on some old childhood issues that just won’t go away, and I am generally quite ill at ease in any hospital setting. But I am determined to be rested, ready and trusting once I arrive at the hospital. In approaching surgery by being well prepared, I feel I do much better with it.

So here are three useful tips I swear by to aid in making a rendezvous with our surgeon a little less stressful.

1. Do your homework.

The Internet is a good starting point, but beware, there is plenty of cancer fake news making the rounds. Read the research that is published by trusted, established sources. The major cancer organizations are a good place to start. Watch out for those reports that are sponsored solely by drug companies. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be in your recovery.

2. Get your body ready for some hard labor.

Any way you look at it, surgery creates stress in our bodies—and in my case, in my mind as well. I begin in earnest 10 days before surgery, to concentrate fully on the health of my body. Nutrition becomes a major obsession. Though I am vegetarian to begin with, I cut back on sugars and carbs and cut out alcohol altogether. I drastically reduce my reliance on aspirin, Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter drugs that I find useful in managing my pain.

3. Meditation. Exercise. Laughter.

With a long-time practice in Zen Meditation, I find the value in this peaceful and insightful exercise to be invaluable. Trained as Laughter Yoga Teacher a decade ago, I can tell you that the benefits of laughter for your mind and body can be extraordinary. Laughing for 10 minutes is a “wonder drug,” lowering the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies while increasing endorphins. There are plenty of free laugher clubs on line and on the phone. My wife and I have been offering free Laughter Yoga sessions in 20-minute phone calls with the help of a team of volunteers for a decade.

And exercise, even if it’s walking around the block, will put you in direct touch with Earth and Spirit as you enjoy the wonders of the natural world. And you’ll be getting your heart rate up to a healthy level, too.

I’m pretty certain that nobody enjoys surgery. But for the millions of us who are alive and thriving today as a result of surgeries, we can be thankful that modern medicine has progressed as much as it has. All three of my surgeries, including my mastectomy, had me over and done with and back home before the day was over.

So, if a guy who shudders at the thought of having his blood drawn can do it, anybody can. And hopefully, you’ll get a surgeon with a sense of humor who can joke about those new sutures of yours—and keep you in stitches.

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