Good recovery from surgery starts with good preparation. Preparing for your top surgery procedure well in advance will help to give you a great head start in your healing process. In this blog, I will share my tips on how to prepare for top surgery*.
When I had my top surgery, there were several things I did in the lead up to the day, which helped me to be well prepared. I also brought a number of items which served me well during my hospital stay. All of these things helped me to make sure I was in the best mental and physical state for the surgery procedure and to make my hospital stay more comfortable. In this blog, I will share these tips and items with you*.
Just a little note, that you should always consult your doctor, consultant or surgeon, and follow their advice as to what they would like you to do in the lead-up and after surgery.
One of the most difficult things about going through gender transition is the long waiting times. However, you can use the wait to your advantage, by using the time to get yourself physically fit for surgery.
The most important thing to do is to make sure you are a healthy weight for surgery. Being at a healthy weight and BMI lowers your risk of complications and can improve your surgical outcome. However, it isn’t advisable to restrict your calorie intake to much right before surgery, so make sure you do any dieting well in advance of your surgery date.
Regular exercise will not only help you to shed any extra pounds but will also strengthen your body for surgery. Additionally, doing some weight resistance exercises can help to define your pectoral muscles. This may then help the surgeon to follow the line of your chest muscles in surgery and give you a better scar placement. Do speak to your consultant about this beforehand, as they each differ on how they create the incision line.
If you are still smoking, do yourself a massive favour and use surgery as your motivation to quit. Smoking increases your risk of surgical complications and makes it harder for your body to recover afterwards.
I stopped smoking many years ago now and I am so glad I’m finally free of that! I used ‘The Easy Way’ book by Allen Carr and I haven’t smoked since!
I was so excited for my top surgery, most trans people are. However, I was still very nervous about the surgery and about the pain and recovery time. It is really important to remember that it is OK to be nervous and it is completely natural to be worried. Of course, we want the outcome, but nobody ever wants surgery. Acknowledging your worries, talking them through with a friend or loved one that understands, is a really good idea.
When I am feeling anxious or stressed, I find meditation to be incredibly helpful. Additionally, I have found that meditation helps me to manage pain. A friend recommended this fantastic meditation/self-hypnosis CD, ‘Stress free surgery’ and I have used throughout all my surgeries.
Recovery times after top surgery can vary so do make sure that you book yourself adequate time off from work or study. During my transition, I have studied with The Open University. Studying by distance learning has been such a blessing because it has allowed me to flexible around my surgeries.
If you are a student like me, make sure to get some work done ahead of your surgery. I found concentrating post-surgery to be really hard, and that combined with limited movement, meant studying was slow. Make sure to inform your tutors so that they can help you organise your workload around your recovery needs
Make sure to do plenty of research ahead of time. If you have your top surgery date, you will likely have already researched your preferred surgeon. If you haven’t, then do make sure to do that well in advance.
It is important to research things such as how you will travel to and from the hospital. Additionally, you might want to research places to stay nearby if you live far away and want a few more days recovering before dealing with a long journey. I always use Airbnb because they are cheap and often provide more suitable amenities than a standard hotel or bed and breakfast.
Usually, top surgery is an overnight procedure. However, it is still a good idea to take some home comforts and some items to make your stay more comfortable
You will not be able to lift anything immediately after surgery. Ideally, you will have a friend or loved one to help you, but if not it’s important to think about how you will carry your overnight things home.
You won’t be able to carry a rucksack on your back and you will struggle to drag a suitcase too. Therefore the best solution is a four-wheeled small cabin suitcase, which you will be able to push with much less effort.
If your hospital stay is just overnight and you are travelling home straight after, you won’t need to take a lot of hygiene products with y0u. Just take a few essentials such as:
Take a few small items with you, such as your smartphone, tablet or kindle, to help keep you occupied while you wait to go to surgery and in your recovery afterwards. Also, make sure to take a long charging lead, as getting up to plug things in might be annoying! Taking a battery pack means you can stay constantly topped up with power, without having to worry about finding a plug.
A few other things you might find helpful, are plastic straws, as lifting your arms after top surgery can be challenging in the early days! Also, a travel pillow can be a good idea, especially when travelling home. You can use it to support your neck and travel comfortably, or use it under the seat belt to protect your chest from the strap. If you are travelling alone, an inflatable travel pillow is a great lightweight and space-saving option.
During your hospital stay, you will likely stay in your gown so you may not need to worry about bedclothes. What you will need, is suitable clothing to travel home in. It is really hard to lift your arms after top surgery so the best solution is to wear loose items that do up at the front, such as casual shirts or hoodies.
I hope these tips, ideas, and product suggestions help you to prepare for your top surgery and help the day itself to go well. If you have any questions or suggestions, I would love to chat in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to check out my other gender transition blogs and guides.
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