9 Ways to Treat Yourself While Recovering From a Gastrectomy

Health Writer
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Chances are you spent much time and energy preparing for surgery as a gastric cancer patient. Now that the main event is over, you may find yourself at a loss for how to prep for post-surgery life. But don’t shortchange your recovery. First and foremost, it’s essential to give yourself time to recover, and that should include relaxation. Here are nine ways to treat yourself while convalescing.

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Be a foodie

Even renowned chefs enjoy food post-surgery. In fact, eating quality, delicious food is critical for your health: By cooking food high on flavor and aroma, you’re likely to eat more and keep your calorie intake up. And high-quality foods are more likely to contain healing nutrients. To whet your appetite, read these tips for restocking your pantry and sharpening your kitchen skills.

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Go pro

If delving into a chef-driven diet sounds overwhelming, hire a nutritionist. Experiences with recovery from gastrectomies vary widely; it’s hard to know what food you’ll be able to tolerate and what you won’t ahead of time. A nutritionist can help you customize a meal plan that works for you.

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Do the math

Enjoy the mind shift of thinking about ways to add, instead of subtract, calories. Calorie-dense items you may have avoided before (sauces, dressings, butter!) can now be enjoyed guilt-free. Also, know that befriending your blender can simplify meals. Whirl up this raspberry smoothie delight, for example.

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Jump in

In the early days of post-surgery, a warm shower may feel luxurious. It may also soothe aching muscles. You can gently wash your incision with soap and water; just pat dry afterward. (Save baths in the tub until you talk to your doctor at a post-surgery appointment.)

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Schedule a massage

Back massages both eased pain and improved quality of sleep in a study of post-gastrectomy patients. You can even find a masseuse who specializes in massaging cancer patients.

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Swim/walk/cycle/dance

After the initial recovery period, indulge in a non-competitive type of exercise, such as swimming, walking, biking, or dancing. Now is a great time to get back into the routine of physical movement — or to start, if you were sedentary pre-surgery. Just avoid bending down, as it may cause acid regurgitation (a great excuse not to weed the garden!)

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Get intimate — on your terms

If you (or your partner) are feeling anxious about resuming sex after surgery, relax: lots of people in this situation share this worry. There’s no need to rush; after the initial four to six weeks, though, it should be safe. Wait until you’re ready; in the meantime, checking out these tips may restore your confidence.

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Go out

Just because you can’t gobble down 2,000 calories in a single sitting doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a meal out with friends. Suggest a tapas restaurant. Or ask the server to bring you a half-portion (the other half can go directly into a to-go container), or order an appetizer as a main dish. And if you’re craving comfort food, ask for a kids’ meal.

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Nap for best self-care after gastrectomy

Don’t resist the urge to fall asleep in the afternoon. If you feel exhausted, listen to your body and take all the rest you need — even if that means napping and extra sleep at night. Remember that your body is working hard at healing itself while you’re asleep!