My Approach to a Healthy Surgery

A few months ago, I had surgery.  It wasn’t something I’d planned far in advance, and I only had 20 days to prepare.

If you know me at all by now, either IRL or through this site, it won’t be surprising that I was determined to have the healthiest surgery ever.  A few close friends encouraged me to share everything I did because my recovery was incredible.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, but I know my body, and I trust my intuition to guide what’s right for me.  I don’t judge people for doing something differently than I do.  We are all unique with unique bodies.  If this post helps you, great.  If you don’t like something, ignore it.  

Here you go:

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Surgery Preparation

The first thing I’ll say is my baseline is already healthy.  Yes, I was coming off of holidays and vacation and a work trip, but I have healthy habits that I do no matter what, no matter where.  At any given moment, I’m pretty much ready to run a 5K, get into a bathing suit or in this case, have surgery.

Next was selecting my surgeon.  If the practice didn’t have an emphasis on before or after care, then they weren’t for me.  They also needed someone who specialized in exactly what I was doing.  Since I live right outside NYC, I had options.  If I lived somewhere with fewer options, I would have traveled for the right surgeon.  

Finally, I needed to get a physical and bloodwork done to be cleared for surgery, especially since I would be under general anesthesia.  

Before Care

Some of these things are because my surgeon recommended or required them, and some are things I took it upon myself to do.  In most cases, I would have done this whether I was told to or not. Same with after care.  Surgeon guidelines are in bold.

As soon as surgery was scheduled, I:

  • Continued to eat super clean and cut out common inflammatory foods: gluten, dairy and any sugar besides those naturally occurring in whole foods like fruit.
  • Eliminated alcohol and caffeine.

2 weeks out, I:

  • Stopped taking any supplements that could thin my blood (ie. omega 3 oil).
  • Reduced sodium.
  • Had an appointment with my surgeon to go over any questions I had and communicated my preference to avoid as many drugs as possible. 
  • Ordered everything I needed before and after surgery.

1 week out, I:

  • Started eating high protein foods with most of my meals.
  • Started taking arnica internally. 
  • Spoke to some people who had a similar surgery for tips and to help me mentally prepare.

1 day before, I:

  • Took a covid test.
  • Had Sakara meals delivered for the week so I’d have the most nutritious food to eat – that I wouldn’t have to cook myself – while recovering.
  • Stopped eating or drinking at midnight.
  • Picked up the antibiotics from my local pharmacy.  During our appointment, my surgeon supported me not taking antibiotics “preventatively” but recommend I have them on hand just in case an infection occurred after surgery.  Spoiler alert: I didn’t need them.
  • Ate a ton of pineapple for the bromelain.

The day of surgery, I:

  • Wore dark, loose clothing and slip-on shoes.
  • Removed all jewelry, except for a couple of ear piercings that are nearly impossible to remove (we were able to cover the piercings with the surgical cap).
  • Had my husband with me for emotional support and a ride home.

A brief interlude to discuss the surgery experience…

After I checked in, I went into the examination room.  First, I met my anaesthesiologist.  She went over any questions or concerns I had.  When I refused any narcotics or even Tylenol with the anesthesia drip, she became the one with concerns.  She asked me multiple times if I was sure.  I said if it’s to serve the purpose of keeping me safely unconscious or to save my life, it’s in.  If it’s for comfort, it’s out.

Next, my surgeon came to examine me and mark my body for surgery.  She asked my husband if he wanted to leave because she said men have the tendency to faint at this part.

While she was marking me up, she asked me what music I wanted to hear for the 15 minutes before I would be unconscious.  If you’re interested, I chose Lord Huron, and it was an excellent choice.  As soon as I was in the surgical room, my surgeon held my hand the entire time while chatting with me.  The last thing I remember is looking around and noticing that every single medical professional, from doctors to nurses, were all women.  I felt nurtured and safe.

As soon as I woke up, the nurse who was assigned to my recovery was attentive to my needs.  This was great because I was thirsty and STARVING.  After all, I hadn’t eaten since midnight the night before, and it was around 2pm by this point.  She gave me water and two applesauce squeeze containers that I happily sucked down after checking that they were unsweetened and organic…because of course I did.

The nurse monitored me for about an hour, making easy conversation the entire time, and she allowed my husband to see me briefly.  She asked if I felt pain, and I told her that I felt sore but not too bad at all.  It felt like I’d done a tough workout.  This is when I learned that apparently, there’d been a bit of a to-do over me refusing pain medications.  Some of the nurses were worried about who was assigned to my recovery, and I’m happy to say their worries were unfounded.  

Refusing the pain medication was why I was so alert and had my normal appetite, which was still ravenous.  My husband took me home, and I ate a giant container of pineapple as soon as I got in the car.  I even had a conference call during the ride, less than 2 hours after surgery.  When I got home, I ate two Sakara meals for dinner, two hours apart.

The week following, I:

  • Drank celery juice the first two mornings after surgery.
  • Continued to eat a high-protein diet and take the arnica supplements.
  • Wore the provided compression garments pretty much 24/7 to help with the swelling, bruising, blood circulation and to avoid blood clots.
  • Walked around and did basic, light housework to keep my blood flowing.
  • Did very gentle exercise and stretching.
  • Had lymphatic drainage massage and learned some self-massage techniques.
  • Massaged arnica gel anywhere I had bruising or swelling.
  • Applied manuka honey to my incisions for the antibacterial and antimicrobial benefits.
  • Took my own concoction of supplements to help with recovery and to ward off infection:

My surgeon called me the morning after surgery and was available via text all week, but at the one week mark, I had an in-person check-up.  Everything looked great, and she even cleared me for exercise since I healed more quickly than expected.  Later that day, I did my usual Tracy Anderson Method workout and felt surprisingly normal and have ever since.

After that, I was back to my usual routine.  I mellowed a bit on the protein, relaxed with my diet and tapered my special supplement regimen.  Technically, I didn’t need the compression socks anymore, but I grew attached to them.

A Final Note About My Experience

For someone who won’t even send back her food, I have no problem advocating for what I feel is best for me and my body.  I’ll ask questions and push back on protocol in a respectful, yet firm way.  My favorite question is, “Will it kill me if I don’t?”  

If you’re wondering why I try to avoid drugs, it’s because drugs have side effects and those side effects have consequences on my body.  Therefore, I prefer to take drugs only when absolutely necessary.  There are many natural herbs and homeopathic remedies that can be just as effective without these side effects. 

It’s possible that because of this, I’m more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I didn’t want a single painkiller after my surgery, not even ibuprofen.  This is not to shame people who take drugs at the first hint of pain.  As I said in the beginning, everyone has to do what’s right for them.  My intention is to share a positive healing story with alternative options or even just to create awareness that it’s okay to ask questions and make something really major, like surgery, custom to you and your needs.

1 thought on “My Approach to a Healthy Surgery”

  1. Katy Buskirk

    Look at you just a glowing in this photo… 🤩 Your loved ones were so right in asking you to share this. Your story(this specific one and of course your story in general) are SO powerful, Jen!! Thank you so much for sharing! You have inspired me to ask that now when docs try to push xyz : “Will it kill me if I don’t?” I am so happy to read your powerful healing story. May more and more learn that healing can be many things. Thank you for showing the world there are possibilities. So much love and many thanks to you always, Katy

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