When it comes down to it, having this surgery in your mid-twenties just isn’t too mainstream yet. You can do as much Googling as you want, but finding good, reliable content isn’t as easy as you’d think. What I really wanted to find was a young, health-conscious chick’s guide to getting through the recovery stage from this surgery while keeping up a healthy lifestyle and mental well-being. So after scouring the Internet for weeks pre-surgery, and now after my own personal experience, here's what I feel compelled to tell you: your recovery will be based on YOU and YOUR body. Don't get down when you're not hitting the gym for the first few months, or be upset when you have a day that you just need to sit on the couch and veg. What's important is to listen to your body. This is a major surgery that requires major recovery.
I continue to say to people how surprised I am at how well I recovered. But let’s cut the BS – I worked my butt off to prepare and to focus on everything I could do to allow a healthy lifestyle positively affect my recovery. It wasn't an easy task by any means but determination and dedication made it possible. This blog post will be the first step in taking some pride in my quinoa-eating, green tea-drinking healthy bod. So here you are, Molly’s 5-step guide on how to prepare yourself and work through your recovery period by capitalizing on healthy lifestyle choices:
1. Prepare your health ahead of your surgery date
Say you work out twice a week. A few weeks, or a few months if you can, kick it up a notch and do 3-4 nights of cardio at the gym. I've read multiple articles that suggest the better shape you’re in before the surgery, the easier it will be to bounce back after the surgery. This, I absolutely believe, is true. I focused on working out, eating healthy and drinking lots of water pre-surgery, which I think in turn made doing all of the things you’ll read below easier and more of a natural routine. My fave pre-mastectomy workout tip: planks, planks and more planks. I read an awesome article on Bright Pink’s website that said some women work on toning their ab muscles pre-surgery so they can stand in for the chest muscles when necessary. I will say ten times over that the only reason I was able to sit up in the hospital bed was because I could use my stomach muscles. Do the planks.
2. Stock up on healthy foods
Disclaimer: I took this one very seriously. Prior to my surgery, I had researched the best power foods to stock in the fridge, smoothie recipes to have on hand, and was determined to stick to eating healthy once I was home. I 100% believe that the healthy foods I consumed post-surgery helped me feel better quickly. Plus, it was neat to try new recipes and have some fun with super healthy foods. Faves: quinoa bowls (recipes to come soon!), green smoothies and the always yummy Greek yogurt with berries, granola and almonds. I’m definitely not saying only eat greens and never eat chocolate (I have to have chocolate or I’d go crazy) but as my mom always says, “everything in moderation.” The healthy eating will pay off and what better of a time to get healthy than when your body needs it most.
3. Drink lots of water & no alcohol (yes, I'm serious!)
I love a good margarita like the rest of them, but giving up the booze for more than a month after surgery was surprisingly awesome. Granted, it's obvious that you shouldn’t start chugging beers when you’re on pain medicine and recovering, but it was the few weeks after being off pain meds, and still not drinking alcohol, that seemed to really help. I focused on drinking tons of water (hint: get flavored water or fill yours with lemons and cucumbers if you get bored and need a little variety). I never thought I’d be so happy to ditch the drinking, but it truly did help, and my hair and skin benefitted as well! So focus on the positives of your few weeks of sobriety: saving money on the weekends and no hangovers! (Plus, it’ll make that first glass of wine a few weeks down the road that much better!)
This one could also seem like a no-brainer, but really resting, especially the first two weeks, really helped in the long-run of my recovery. And I mean resting both physically and mentally. Resting your brain (replacing work emails with cheesy DVDs) was just as helpful as resting my body. It wasn’t that I was doing zero physical activity, it was just knowing when my body needed to rest. I was able to take short walks just a few days after the surgery, but I was smart in also following those walks and bursts of energy with napping, reading wedding mags and catching up on TV shows. It can be easy to want to push it when you’re used to being so active, but your body just went through a whole lot, so the least you can do is listen to it when it’s telling you to take a breather. Need a turn-your-brain-off guilty pleasure DVD suggestion? Two words: Tim. Riggins. You won’t be disappointed.
5. Accept the support you are given
I continue to be in awe every day of the tremendous amount of support I was shown in my decision to have this surgery. From my friends and family who had listened to me talk and worry about this for months, to my coworkers who didn’t find out until I was missing from work, I am so blessed. My mental well-being was uplifted constantly from the kind words and messages I received not only after my surgery but as I planned for it. I think having such a support system and allowing people to help me prepare for it enabled me to go into the surgery day with less anxiety. I knew I would come out on the other side with words of love and encouragement. It wasn’t always easy to tell people about my decision, but I’ve yet to find one person in my life that didn’t react with complete compassion and understanding. I hope anyone that goes through this type of endeavor can know that level of support and use it to fuel their positive preparation and recovery period.