Ask the Expert: Recovery Following Surgery

"Recovery from brain tumour surgery can be challenging. What steps can be taken during the healing process to make recovery easier?"

Prior to surgery you or your advocate should read as much as you can about what you can expect during and after your surgery. You will have information from your surgeon and hopefully have Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada's Brain Tumour Patient Resource Handbook. Approaches to specific tumours as well as their location can affect the type of surgery. Possibly your loved one can do the research here and explain it to you as concentration can be difficult at this time. The more you know and understand, the less is the fear of the unknown. The time to learn about some of these things is before surgery so that you can concentrate on getting well after.

It is important to have good nutrition prior to surgery if possible. Along with this it is essential to prepare mentally as well. Walks, fresh air, and talking with family or close friends about how you are feeling can all help during the days before your surgery and have a positive effect later.

Right after surgery most patients feel quite good. Just waking up and knowing that it is all over can make a patient feel positive and energized. However, in the days ahead there is much healing to do. In the immediate post operative period it is often the simple things that are the most important of all. If allowed, you should get up (always check) and move around as much as possible, as soon as possible. While in bed, move you legs and change position frequently. Deep breathing and coughing is usually encouraged. Many hospitals will give you an incentive spirometer and will teach you how to use this before the surgery. This will show you how well you are taking deep breaths and expanding your lungs. Because it makes you breathe deeply it improves your ability to expand your lungs and help clear mucous.

Remember that you have not only had brain tumour surgery but you have also had an anaesthetic from which you will need to recover. The anaesthesia alone can make one tired and lethargic and effects can last for up to 6 weeks.

Family and close friends can be a wonderful support in the days and weeks that follow your surgery. Those that love you want to travel this journey with you each step of the way. They will be there to help and support you and they love you enough to understand when there might be times when you need to be alone to think about what you have been through. They will be there to help with decisions, both small as well as those of great magnitude. They will be there to pick up your medications at the pharmacy, help with mobility, prepare meals, read a story with you and yes, even laugh with you.

The steps needed to help one recover from brain tumour surgery actually start as soon as one is diagnosed and not just after the patient wakes up in the hospital.

Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s Brain Tumour Patient Resource Handbook has valuable information that you should read before as well as after your surgery. The Neuro-Patient Resource Center at the Montreal Neurological Hospital in Montreal has an excellent resource available to you online here. It is called Discharge Instructions After Brain Surgery, From Hospital to Home. Look for the title under MUHC Publications.

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You can download this information as a Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Information Sheet (pdf).

A special thank you to Pam Del Maestro, a retired registered nurse and one of the founders of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada for generously offering her time to provide this important post-operative information.

Return to Information Sheets here.

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