• Pjb's Avatar

    Curious about typical amount of time needed to recover from surgery

    Asked by Pjb on Tuesday, August 8, 2017

    Curious about typical amount of time needed to recover from surgery

    I was told by my surgeon that I would recover in 3 to 6 months. Its been 8 months since my surgery. Before the surgery I was very fit, and jogged about 6 miles a week.. Now, no matter how consistently I excersise, I get fatiqued easily, especiaaly my legs. Is this typical? In a few ways my recovery has been difficult, but it would be easier to handle if I could see improvements in my endurance. It would be nice to walk without the fear of my legs collapsing.

    17 Answers from the Community

    17 answers
    • lh25's Avatar
      lh25

      How long ago were your chemo and radiation Pjb?

      4 months ago
    • BoiseB's Avatar
      BoiseB

      I cannot really go into how much time because just as I was about to feel fit. I got another aggressive cancer (you don't have to worry about that one, uterine sarcoma) I think it might be very hard for you to realize how much you have recovered because you were very younger at your time of diagnosis. I also want to talk about something we all must come to terms with "the New Normal" It is different for all of us. I am a seven year survivor of stage IV EC and I still do not consider my self fully recovered, It took me almost two years to recover from Chemo Brain. I am due to have my esophagus stretched for the third time. This is a ritual I shall probably have to go through for the rest of my life. I will never be able to eat more than a cup of food at a time and that takes nearly an hour to get down. Then there is the aftermath. I believe the term is late term side affects. Last year I had a very serious surgery site hernia and an obstructed bowel (due to scar tissue from the hysterectomy) I also have difficulty walking due to neuropathy and degenerative disc disease. My teeth are rotting because of radiation.
      My oncologist suggested I enter the cancer survivor program at the YMCA it is free to members and some insurances pay for it I go to two arthritis groups but I am considering working this into my schedule.
      Cancer nutrition isn't just healthy eating, and that goes doubly for EC survivors. I consulted with a cancer nutritionist every three months for a year after my esophagectomy. I also asked to have my blood tests interpreted to me. I then researched what foods contained the vitamins I needed. I also take B12 tablets. If you are suffering from fatigue you might be lacking in B12 and Iron. I have embarked on what I have named the Cha Cha Cha recovery system. That is two steps forward, one step back and Cha Cha Cha.
      Most of all don't give up. Survival is hard but doable .

      4 months ago
    • Jenvivace's Avatar
      Jenvivace

      I understand where you are coming from. I am assuming you had an esophogectomy to some extent depending on your exact cancer spot. I lost half my stomach and a third of my esophagus at that point. I had a feeding tube for 7 weeks afterward and gradually gained my weight back and my ability to eat. I would say by 3-4 months I felt I was eating pretty normally, but would still have gas pains a lot after I ate. By 6 months I was pretty much back to normal eating wise. I have some issues I had to learn about what foods I could no longer tolerate, but I had a handle on that between 6-8 months. I have been fortunate that I can eat 3 square meals a day with only occasional snacking. I am small though so I think my calorie needs are much lower than most people. Activity wise though, at 6 months, I was still pretty tired easily. By 8-10 months I really felt like I was about 90% back to normal me. I was not a runner, but an avid hiker, cross country and downhill skier, and I have two small children, so I was also quite active. That 10% I count off I attribute to getting tired/fatigued easier. And that became a new normal for me. I realized my stomach is in my ribcage and fighting for space with my lungs. My lungs cannot inflate fully because of that. One of my lungs also partially cannot inflate all the way because of one of my surgeries. Once I realized my new physical structure and issues, I was gentler on myself when I became winded. I am not sure why your legs might be so fatigued. Probably just a long road from surgery. Abdominal surgery with reconstruction like we get is one of the most major surgeries and it throws your body down for the count for a while. Did you say how long it has been since you resumed running? Be patient with yourself. Your legs probably got very weak if you lost a lot of weight, and even if you have gained it back, that muscle tone takes a long time to regrow. And being fatigued is going to be par for the course for longer than you would like. Best of luck getting back into your routine. Before I knew it, I was easily able to do most of the things I did before, and with patience, you should be able to as well!

      4 months ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar
      GregP_WN

      I have found that the Doctor's version of "recovery" and ours, are two entirely different things. For me, recovery is getting back to where I was. And for a lot of us, it never happens. For the Doctor, recovery means getting past the point of needing constant care every day and not having to take meds for the pain, etc. Once we are past the point of needing to be looked after by the Doctor, they consider that "recovered". My neck dissection surgery took a month to get me able to get off the couch and not be gagging on drainage in my throat every hour. That was considered recovered, I had other ideas though. We hope you do better with time!

      4 months ago
    • Luvspuds' Avatar
      Luvspuds

      I am 7 years out from radiation, chemo and surgery. I can honestly say for the first 6 months I never thought I would be the same physically and became extremely depressed and suicidal. I am an outside person, gardening, walking, etc. However, after learning to take it slow and start with small walks at a time, about a year later, I was able to push mow my grass again and go for my 4 mile walks 4-5 days a week. Give it time, do not get discouraged and keep going.....you will get back to at least 90% of what you were before. Also, the leg issue I had for a very long time and that will in improve in time also. I promise!!!!!

      4 months ago
    • Rangermarc's Avatar
      Rangermarc

      At 67, I am almost three years out from a complete esophagectomy, with no follow up chemo or radiation advised. I was in good shape going in and never had a j tube placed, relying on body fat until I could fully recover. That never happened, I still tire easily (subjective term) and must be extremely careful of the calories I burn up. My docs advised that the biggest challenge I would have for the rest of my life would be maintaining a healthy weight. Now at a steady 132 lbs, I have never been able to regain a healthy weight despite eating 6 times a day and consuming enough calories to support an active 200 lb young person. Nevertheless, I fall within "normal" limits on the BMI charts, despite looking extremely thin. As well, I have been to the ER six times for bowel obstructions, which I (the docs were clueless) eventually determined were the result of a lack of hydration causing bowel spasm. They were/are found to be especially likely if I "indulge" in a cup of coffee or glass of wine, etc. because of the dehydrating effects of such beverages. Summer just exacerbates dehydration risk, so I must remain extra vigilant and carry and sip water all the time and be careful not to consume roughage like hard vegetables, lettuce, etc. So now there is a standing note in my record that if I present to ER with such complaint, just dispense morphine, push IV's and mark time. Also, because I must still separate liquids from solids by a least an hour to avoid dumping syndrome, there are just not enough hours in a day to do both adequately and I suspect that dehydration might also have some effect on energy levels. So, my new norm is that I accept being "tired" and, all in all, am happy to be writing these thoughts. Question to you- are you truly being adequately hydrated? If not, this could be one of several factors effects energy level.

      4 months ago
    • BoiseB's Avatar
      BoiseB

      Hey Marc, Have you tried a little ginger tea to relieve the dumping syndrome a bit.
      Pjb, Have you tried physical therapy for your legs. Although, I have not enrolled in any of the "cancer programs at the Y" because I have been working on more serious back issues, my oncologist is now recommending that I take the LIVESTRONG program. The instructors at my Y have physical therapy training.
      Another thing that might be causing your fatigue is the need to sleep upright. It took me quite a while to get used to sleeping sitting up.

      4 months ago
    • BoiseB's Avatar
      BoiseB

      I highly recommend physical therapy. Just jogging isn't enough. You need to work to strengthen your muscles from the ground up.

      4 months ago
    • Luvspuds' Avatar
      Luvspuds

      Yep, I am still trying to get used to sleeping elevated and is causing me to have back aches that the chiropractor is working on helping.

      4 months ago
    • BILLY22's Avatar
      BILLY22

      What do you call recovery?
      I was a 65 years old, just retired in good health and diagnosed with stage III (T3N1M0) esophageal adenocarcinoma at GE junction.

      I had a (MIE) minimally invasive esophagectomy at UPMC (removed 22 lymph nodes) and was in hospital 5 days sent to family house with a j-tube which I use at bed time only for little over 2 months.

      I was shopping downtown Pittsburgh on the 8th day with my wife. We spent 2 months traveling the state of PA and WV and I did all the driving and then went home to VA.

      My recovery time was fast and minimal with no complications.
      I am 80 years old now and feel like I am 40.

      I wish this on all my EC friends.

      A BLESSED and satisfied SURVIVOR

      4 months ago
    • Pjb's Avatar
      Pjb

      Thanks for all the help. After reading the above comments, and doing more browsing on this site , I think my problem is a combination of things. First, even though I was in great shape, I think I'm just healing slower than others (this is hitting my ego!). Also, I need to adjust to a new normal, whatever that is. Last, I stopped chemo in Nov 2016, and had surgery in early December. Apparently, there can be a delayed effect of the chemo. While in the hospital I complained of intermittent numbness, which was dismissed at the time mostly because it was the least of my problems. Since then the mild numbness continued. I'm think maybe its all related, but I'll talk to the Dr. I have to adjust to the fact that everyone is different, and even though I exercised a lot, ate well, was very healthy, that is not related to how I feel now. Bummer

      4 months ago
    • BoiseB's Avatar
      BoiseB

      Pjb, that numbness is neuropathy. My oncologist sent me to a neurologist to help until the second cancer. There medications that relieve that.
      I believe that "recovery" is a relative term. It takes people who were healthy and conscious of their health longer to "recover" because their standard of "recovery" is higher.
      Another thing a "healthy lifestyle" is different after cancer than before. You can't just go out and start jogging you need a few weeks of physical therapy. A healthy diet is different because cancer robs you of many essential nutrients. notably potassium, magnesium and calcium.
      See if your oncologist can refer you to a neurologist preferably one with an interest in oncology. Also see if you can get a referral to a nutritionist to help you work out a diet to meet your nutritional needs.

      4 months ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar
      BarbarainBham

      Pjb, in addition to all of the above great ideas, I need to add that you should make a list of your symptoms for your Oncologist and even your Primary Care Physician to consider. Please suggest additional bloodwork because that's an easy way to check for deficiencies like B12 or anemia.

      Remember that "new normal," but it doesn't mean you can't gradually work on improving your strength! Your body has been through a lot. Ask if physical therapy would be a good idea for you. Best wishes.

      4 months ago
    • Jenvivace's Avatar
      Jenvivace

      Yes, make sure they are checking your electrolyte panels. We (people who have lost part or all of their stomach) often don't metabolize nutrients as well as we did before. Iron and B12 are most notable but potassium and magnesium can be problems as well. I seem to do alright on all my nutrients except for iron, but everyone is different in how their body was able to adjust to its new situation. You usually have to ask your doctor to check your electrolytes when they do your bloodwork. Iron is pretty par for the course, but they don't automatically do the others.

      I got neuropathy pretty badly in my feet and notably but less so in my hands from a course of oxaliplatin that I had. I was told it might go away because everyone is different. Mine never has. It doesn't hurt luckily, but I feel very clumsy (in my manual dexterity) and my feet feel like I have huge fuzzy shoes on or something. Gabapentin lessens those feelings but I have been stuck with the neuropathy for 2 years now.

      4 months ago
    • Pjb's Avatar
      Pjb

      I have been taking some medication because of pain, but thankfully I've been able to start reducing those meds in the past 3 weeks. The last meds that I am trying to reduce was Gabapentin. I didn't realize in some cases it can help with numbness. I have an appt with Neurologist, and I'm hoping they don't automatically blame my numbness on diabetes. I've had well controlled diabetes for 15 years, no complications, and I'm wary of Doctors just choosing that as an easy diagnoses.

      4 months ago
    • BoiseB's Avatar
      BoiseB

      Pjb don't completely rule out diabetes cancer sometimes causes our other illnesses to get out of hand. My neurologist actually told that my pain and numbness were a combination of cancer and previous illness I am on gabapentin 2400mgs daily for life.

      4 months ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar
      BarbarainBham

      Pjb, please remember to ask for the extra bloodwork. I also had a partial gastrectomy and learned if you take medicine for gastric reflux, that it decreases your magnesium, which can make you feel tired. As Jenvivace posted above, we don't absorb everything the same now, plus we may not eat the same diet we used to.

      I also think if your legs are collapsing or feeling like it, you need to tell your doctors asap and find out why. Be sure you eat enough protein for muscles. I often drink a High Protein Boost drink before bedtime for extra protein. Best wishes.

      4 months ago

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