Allow yourself to heal..
Being discharged from hospital can invoke mixed feelings. My experience reflected this as one minute I was so excited to see my children properly again and get back to normality, next I felt so exhausted I feared that I would not be able to look after them properly. This is all normal apparently. It is best to accept these emotions for awhile until you adapt to your “new normal” way of life. Again here are some tips that may help you in your recovery phase. They are a supplement to what information you will have been given by the breast care nurse in your hospital.
- Rest, rest, rest! Listen to your body. Do not push yourself. Ask for help if you need it. Your body needs to recover. A fellow breast cancer patient recommended to me to go to bed for one hour in the afternoon each day to allow myself to recover. I didn’t listen and paid for it afterwards.
- Accept graciously any offers of help. I found this part difficult as I always liked to be in control, so much so that I was caught trying to hang washing out on the line 5 days after surgery! Definitely not recommended.
- Nowadays many people are discharged home from hospital with their drain(s) still in place. This allows any fluid to drain and minimise seromas from forming (collection of lymph fluid under the skin). Follow the instructions for maintenance of the drain as given by your nurse. If in doubt, contact him/her as soon as possible. I had the misfortune of the tube puncturing which then caused an infection. This led to sepsis and being readmitted to hospital. That episode was a very upsetting time for me as I feared that it would delay my chemotherapy. I learned the hard way to rest.
- Practise your post-operative exercises as prescribed. Nice gentle movements for the arm exercises are better than jerky, vigorous moves. I still perform these exercises from time to time if I am experiencing any twinges.
- As soon as you feel able start walking again, get out into the fresh air and exercise. I started by walking around the house and slowly increased my activity from there.
- Driving may be a problem for a few weeks. Discuss with your nurse when it is safe to do so. If you are not allowed drive use this time constructively to rest!
- Returning to work varies from person to person pending on what type of employment you are in. Obviously if you are self employed the urge is to return to work as soon as possible. However if you can, take as much time as you need. Discuss with your employer with regard to sick leave entitlements.
- Don’t forget to continue breast self-examination. Get to know your scar. They are all unique. You will become confident when checking regularly and recognise if there are any unusual changes. Contact your doctor or breast nurse if concerned. I had myself convinced I had skin mets but it turned out to be stitches!
- If you can, find a bosom buddy, someone who has experienced breast cancer and can empathise with you. My bosom buddy is still living a full life, despite a few hiccups along the way, for over thirty years!. She advised me to “allow yourself to heal”early on. It took a year after my recurrence to fully understand what she meant. We so need to be kind to ourselves especially after a traumatic year of intensive treatments.
So now I urge you to allow yourself to heal..