You may have put a lot of work into selecting a surgeon and hospital facility, or, like me (in the Kaiser HMO system), you may just have had a very positive feeling about the surgeon you were assigned at random. That’s not completely accurate. I did interview another Kaiser surgeon, and I did call around to other surgeon’s assistants to learn that mine had a waiting list at least as long as the others. Want to get more comfortable about your choice of surgeon? Ask your scheduler if they can put you in contact with someone who had the surgery fairly recently and is fairly similar to you. I was lucky to connect with someone in her forties (like me) who had yoga and dancing as personal practices (as I did) who had the double surgery with my same surgeon. It was deeply settling and calming and we corresponded occasionally through the process. I will further suggest that you afterwards make yourself available to others for such conversations.
But here’s the thing about your surgeon. Once he’s completed the surgery, he’s got dozens more ahead of him, and guiding you through this process is outside his scope of work. Your general physician? They may not know very much about this topic, and how available are they to you, anyway? And the PT your insurance/hospital provides may (rightly) be most focused on your avoiding falls, not optimizing your recovery and integration. Plus, your PT visits may be once/week at first and then even less frequent.
Hopefully you will also have a hotline you can tap for urgent and less urgent questions about your care and recovery. But I’m advocating here that you take a whole-person approach to your healing, and assemble the REST of our healing team. Of course this is all out-of-pocket, but how much is it worth to you to have this experience not suck? How much is it worth to you to shorten your period of debilitation and achieve the greatest possible outcomes?
Physical aspects: Structure and Fascia
- In a perfect world, you would have on your team a gifted personal trainer, a talented bodyworker, and a soft-adjusting chiropractor. [I will be adding posts about each of those soon!]
- To address mindset and how you are processing all your new experiences, both positive and challenging, I urge you to start with Peggy Huddleston’s book and daily use healthy mindset CD (It’s $15. Just buy it. Not the kindle edition… you need the CD), and supplement it with other mind training recordings from Monroe Products.
- If you find it very difficult to slow down your mind, consciously relax your body and harness the power of your imagination, consider scheduling some visits with a hypnotherapist, so you aren’t driving with the parking break on.
- If you are beset by anxiety, overthinking or catastrophizing, I’ll suggest you enlist a therapist trained in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). It is the most empirically validated approach to mental health and is particularly well-suited to those issues. In my case, I found that the other practitioners I was visiting were also providing nonjudgemental listening and reflection, coaching, helping me see my unhelpful habits, and generally supporting me in maintaining my mental and emotional hygiene.
- I found it very nurturing and calming to use some mind training recordings focused on opening and nurturing my heart. Peggy’s CD has it already, but I recommend alternating Peggy’s with other recordings that focus on the emotional aspect.
Vitality and energetic aspects
- Nutrition and diet are complex and fraught, and I will address them at length as soon as I can. But for now I will suggest you include a nutritionist to look at focusing your diet on functional foods. When you look at what is on the conveyor belt at the supermarket checkout, you are literally looking at your health. You should be seeing primarily or exclusively plants and lots of different colors.
- Community Acupuncture: During the months leading up to my surgery, I found very helpful weekly visit a community acupuncture clinic, where for $20 and without a scheduled appointment, I could get a deeply relaxing and nurturing treatment in a shared environment with other people. These places are basically rooms filled with people snoozing away in recliner chairs. Something about being together in a room creates an atmosphere so conducive to deep relaxation that even if you’re not prone to naps, you may find yourself snoring away. And you need lots of rest if you’re doing the prehab and preparations that I’m recommending.
- Acupuncture: Two months into my recovery, I visited the other kind of acupuncturist, who does a more comprehensive intake and gives a more sophisticated treatment. In retrospect it would have been great to have her on my team more regularly, but I had to economize somewhere, and my sense was that the other modalities were more critical for me. During that first visit, Frances managed to move the stifffness/stuckness/stagnation that I had for weeks been feeling in my hips/pelvis, and that the other practitioners had had no effect on. It’s my best example of how we have these various aspects.
I haven’t forgotten about your Anesthesiologist
- In Peggy’s book, one of her top recommendations is to make contact with your anesthesiologist and make a plan with them for that part of your process. In my case, with Kaiser, that was not an option. In fact, even during the ninety minutes I spent in pre-op, it was a different anesthesiologist who visited me (mine was involved in another surgery at the time), so I didn’t meet mine until I was nearly unconscious. A note about anesthesia: they will ask if you want to be more or less sleepy. Since you will not remember anything, I suggest you ask for lighter, as that will be less toxic stuff to clear later.
- Last but not least, you will read in Peggy’s book about asking your Anesthesiologist to read affirmations to you while you are going under and as you come out of your sleep. This is an easy and peace-of-mind supportive step that you should not get any push back about. Peggy will suggest you tape these on a note to your gown. My daughter was kind enough to draw on one side.