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Preparing for surgery during a pandemic – 11 tips

Preparing for surgery during a pandemic is just weird. There is an extra layer of stress added. Okay, more than one layer. Like preparing for surgery during normal times isn’t stressful enough, right?

I hesitated (again) to even publish this post. I have noticed other bloggers and folks in general expressing hesitation to write/talk about non-covid related personal issues and struggles during this time too. I mean, there’s a global pandemic going on, for crying out loud. Plus, there’s an economic crisis and a racial injustice movement happening too. The big stuff matters. Not all that “little stuff” going on in our worlds.

Have you felt this way too?

If so, remember your “stuff” matter too, and it’s okay to talk about it. Think about it. Worry about it. Blog about it. And yes, even complain about it. (This doesn’t mean you are ungrateful.)

I’ll also add, even if a surgery is elective (mine is and also is not), this doesn’t mean it is insignificant.

Pandemic or no pandemic, life continues. The good and the bad. Including cancer. Cancer doesn’t give a shit about a virus. Nor does a virus give a shit about cancer. Cancer Havers still face diagnoses, surgeries, radiation, chemo and whatever else they have to deal with in their lives.

Non-cancer Havers have stuff going on too, of course. Everyone does.

Our hearts remain with those who are directly impacted by the pandemic. So many lives in turmoil. So much suffering. So many lives lost. We cannot become numb to the daily death tallies. We just cannot. (Yet I fear we are.)

You might want to read, COVID-19 (& MBC): Are we becoming numb to the deaths, the numbers & the grief?

Since I keep saying my goal is always #KeepingItReal (and it is), I decided to go ahead and publish this post too. So, thank you for bearing with me.

Things were a go surgery-wise last April to deal with my implant rupture situation. I was ready. Who am I kidding? I wasn’t really ready, but I was set to go nonetheless.

Then the pandemic happened. Surgery was cancelled.

And now, here I am again. Set to go. I’m ready. I’m not ready. I think this is normal. (I hope so.)

Regardless, the countdown til surgery day (July 28) has begun. (Actually, it began quite some time ago.)

How do I get ready this time?

Honestly, I do not know. You’d think having been down this road already, I’d sorta know how to do this. At last count, this will make cancer-related surgery number six or seven. I can’t even remember for sure. So again, I should know how to do this, right?

I re-read my post, How to Prepare for Your Mastectomy, 12 Tips. Let’s just say, it seems inadequate.

Oh sure, I know I’m gonna need some button-down shirts and comfy recovery pants. I’m gonna need my freezer stocked. I’m gonna want my house in order. Okay, sorta in order. I’m gonna need some reading material. I’m gonna need to figure out a sleep location alternative. I’m gonna need to figure out what to pack (definitely less this time). I’m gonna need some pillows and other miscellaneous stuff.

But what the f*** else do I need?

And how do I prepare myself mentally?

That is always the hardest part. The mind is not always cooperative. And with this pandemic, everything feels weirder. Harder. More uncertain.

Am I more afraid this time or less afraid?

I think it’s a different set of fears. Old fears, yes. But new fears too. (I know too much now about this stuff.)

I’m not so much afraid this time, but worried, yes, I am that.

You might want to read, I am afraid.

Another weird thing is that I am not so worried about surgery and recovery. No, I am more worried about Best Mother-in-Law Ever, my senior dog whose health has been declining, Deary Hubby having to deal with all this crap (again), having the Covid test and actually getting Covid-19 before or after surgery.

Like I said, it’s weird.

But enough about me.

If you are facing surgery during this uncertain time too, here are some tips for preparing:

1. Plan for the parts you can plan for.

Get the groceries bought, or better yet, delivered as you should be staying home as much as possible prior to surgery. (Reminder, we should all be staying home as much as possible during the pandemic.) Stock your freezer. Clean your house (or get someone else to do it). Have on hand things that will make you more comfortable. Perhaps fill a recovery-care basket with some of your favorite stuff so it’ll all be within easy reach when you get back home and settled in your spot – wherever that might be. (Thank you for the latter tip and all your others ones too, Terri.)

(I will mention right here that Terri has a TON of useful, practical information along with compassionately offered advice and tips for any sort of breast reconstruction, as well as the going flat option, on her site, DiepCJourney: Reconstructing A Purposeful Life.)

All that other stuff you cannot control (and let’s face it, there’s a lot), you gotta let that go. Okay, try to.

2. Go ahead and imagine the worst-case scenario (you will anyway). Then imagine the best one.

Hopefully, you’ll land in the latter or at least somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

3. Acknowledge your fears and worries.

Talk about your fears and worries with your partner, if you have one, with a family member or with a friend – real time or online. Give them an opportunity to voice theirs as well. Ask your doctor(s) the questions you’ve been hesitating to ask. Patient portals are great for those last minute ones that always seem to come up.

Don’t fake it, at least not all the time. You don’t have to be stoic, so go ahead, swear, cry, vent, rant. Just about anything (within reason, of course) goes here.

Or write down all that stuff in your head that’s driving you crazy. Keep a journal. Trust me, it helps.

4. Keep busy while you wait.

Work if and when you can. Get outside. Watch Netflix. Read. Clean. Exercise. Cook. Bake. Nap. Text. Make calls. Write. Journal. Repeat.

5. Eat healthy and sleep as best you can to better prepare your body and mind.

6. Trust your medical team and caregiver.

At some point, you gotta say, it’s outa my hands and I’m putting my trust in others to do their best to care for me. Others really are there to help you through this. Let them. This includes the professionals and your dear one(s).

7. Ask what your hospital/clinic is doing to protect YOU from contracting Covid-19.

It’s entirely reasonable, no, it’s imperative, to find out what your hospital’s or clinic’s protocols are. Know what they are doing to keep you safe. So, ask.

8. Be clear on what protocols you need to follow.

Will you need a Covid-19 test? (Probably). Will you be allowed visitors? (This can vary.) Will you have to be dropped off at the door or will someone be allowed to accompany you to pre-op stuff? (This also varies.)

9. Ask your doctor what happens if you opt to put your surgery on hold, if this a possibility, of course.

Maybe you can wait. Maybe you can’t. Maybe you want to wait. Maybe you don’t. Be sure you understand expected outcomes should you proceed or if you do not.

10. Remind yourself how resilient you are.

You’ve likely been through a lot already. This will be one more thing. (You can do this too.)

11. Remember, you can cancel.

My wonderful PCP reminded me of this. As patients, we can opt out of any surgery right up until the time they put us under. You don’t need to feel guilty should you decide to do this. This is even more true during a pandemic.

You might want to read, Why My PCP Is My New Best Friend.

This is your body. This is your life.

So, those are my tips for facing surgery during a pandemic. If you are facing surgery as I am, I hope they help.

Be sure to add your tips too. (No, you don’t need to be facing surgery to add them.)

Finally, have I mentioned lately how much cancer sucks?

Yeah, I probably have. But it’s worth mentioning again. It sucks. Ten years later I’m still dealing with the fallout. And yes, I totally realize I’m fortunate to be here ten years later to deal with said fallout. But having to still sucks. This is one more example of why the breast cancer experience, regardless of stage, is never over. Never.

You might want to read, Cancer Sucks. Period.

I will be ready. I will do this too.

P.S. Should things be cancelled again or whatever, I’ll update here. I’ll update at some point when surgery is over and done with too. Implants out. DIEP Flap it is. Gulp.

Update: Surgery completed. Yay! Read about it here.

Now add YOUR tips. (I’m gonna need ’em. Somebody else might too.)

Thank you!

What tip(s) do you have to prepare for surgery during a pandemic? (or any time, cuz surgery is always stressful)

Have you had cancer treatment or any medically-related procedure put on hold due to the pandemic?

Have you ever cancelled a medical procedure at the last minute? (Share why if you want to.)

Preparing for #surgery during a #pandemic - 11 tips to help #cancer #medical #breastcancer #breastreconstruction #mastectomy #DIEP #womenshealth #covid19

If you like this post, why not share it? (Thank you!)


Lennox Saunders

Monday 3rd of August 2020

Oh gosh, I can so relate to the conflicting emotions you must be going through. I had to go in for minor surgery three months ago and all I could focus on was the Covid and whether or not I should cancel. The decision was made for me when I got a phone call from the surgeon's office saying that they were cancelling all non emergency procedures. I can't tell you how amazing I felt as the relief flooded through me, (nothing like a burst of endorphins to boost your mood), but then I had to face the whole trauma again when the hospital had their protocols in place and were ready to receive patients. I have to say, once I was through the door I felt completely safe and protected. My heartfelt wishes go out to you Nancy. Take care, rest easy, and be kind to yourself. We are all sending positive energy your way.


Friday 7th of August 2020

Lennox, It is good to hear from you. I felt that same relief when my surgery was cancelled back in April. I felt a whole bunch of other ways as well! I'm glad your surgery went well and is behind you. I have to say, just like for you, once my decision to move forward was made and once I was in the hospital, I felt safe and protected too. Sometimes we have to put our trust in others to do their best to take care of us and keep us safe. Thanks so much for your heartfelt wishes. I appreciate them very much. You take care too.


Thursday 30th of July 2020

I hope your surgery went extremely well, Nancy, and that you are on your way to a full recovery. Take good care of yourself and remember how many of us are pulling for you.


Friday 7th of August 2020

Julia, Thank you so much. Feeling stronger every day. It is lovely to know y'all are out there. Helps more than you realize.

Heather Hogan

Tuesday 28th of July 2020

I'm a lung cancer person so I can't relate to all you are going through but the whole cancer journey that never ends is such a true statement. Regardless of the cancer dx, we go through such similar journeys especially if your cancer has metastasized. I appreciate your honestly and believe that people want honestly. I'm reading this on the 28th so I hope your surgery is going forward so your recovery can begin. Sending positive thoughts that it is a very uneventful and smooth procedure. Looking forward to hear from you.


Friday 7th of August 2020

Heather, I really appreciate your feedback. Cancer of all types and stages sucks. As you well know! I'm sorry you're dealing with lung cancer. My surgery went well. So far, so good. Thank you so much for the good wishes. You might want to read this post: Take care. Thanks again for commenting. Hope you're doing alright.

Claudia Schmidt

Monday 27th of July 2020

Hi Nancy, Best of luck with the procedure. I think you are very well prepared and I know you are a really good self-advocate, so I think you're going to do really well but I sure am sorry you have to go through with this all over again. I have heard from several others that having the surgery redone, with implants on top of the muscle vs underneath, is much more comfortable, and I hope you are going to be happier with the way they feel (and look) afterwards. I'll be looking for your next post to hear how things go. Wishing you an uneventful surgery and a speedy recovery, Claudia xo


Friday 7th of August 2020

Hi Claudia, I actually went ahead with the DIEP flap surgery and so far, I'm very happy with my decision. I appreciate your good wishes. Thank you so much. Hope all is well with you.


Monday 27th of July 2020

Hi, Nancy -

Just want to chime in with well wishes as your de-implantation date approaches. I hope it all goes more smoothly than imagined and that your recovery is a breeze compared to your earlier surgeries.

Both my husband and myself are faced with elective/non-elective surgeries (mine's way overdue) and the question of whether to go ahead during this time or wait (for months? many months?) is one we've both struggled with so I really understand what that throws in to the the whole pre-surgery anxiety soup and empathize with you.

I think the one given, Nancy, is that you will almost certainly feel greatly relieved to have this over with and that having one less issue to deal with will lift your spirits and energy. Good luck tomorrow.

PS - I definitely second the recommendation of "Enchanted April" and I think most libraries have it.


Monday 27th of July 2020

Julia, Thank you so much for the good wishes. I don't expect the recovery to be easy, but I'm trying to focus on the big picture. Yeah, it's difficult to make decisions regarding any kind of surgery these days. I hope you and your husband are able to have your surgeries on your timetables. I will definitely be relieved to have this over with. I plan to hunker down at home for a while. I'm pretty intrigued by "Enchanted April" now. Might have to look into that one. Thanks again. Stay safe.

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