Jump to content

Looking for some tips


Recommended Posts

I am being scheduled for a thoracotomy (sp?) soon. I will have my upper right lobe removed and several lymph nodes.

In trying to plan for this. I was wondering what advice others who have had the same surgery can give me. Things they wished they had in the hospital, things they wished they had done ahead of time, things at home that could have been different. Whatever.

Also- how long in the hospital? I was told 7 or 8 days if all goes well. And then 4-8 weeks recovery at home.

Ladies - what kind of undergarments. I'm told I won't be able to wear old faithful for a loooong time. How doo I keep the girls in check? :oops:

Any advice/tips will be greatly appreciated.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jackie: It's me again. Can't help with the surgery questions but happened to tune into The View last week and Whoopie who doesn't wear a bra was raving about "Flexies." It's a one piece with snaps where you need them. I wore one pieces for years before my girls needed taming!

Good luck with the surgery, and it's Sunday, hopefully members who have more info for you will wake up and respond soon.

Judy in Key West

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jackie.Before I went home from hospital I dont remember anyone telling me about the side effects of pain killers.Make sure you ask about stool softners.I know its not a pleasant subject but severe constipation can be a side effect. Im so happy you are able to have the surgery.Prayers for the best to you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


First of all Good Luck with your upcoming surgery.

I had my RLL removed last May. I was in the hospital for 6 days. The one thing I personally appreciated having with me was my mP3 player. I know that they discourage these kinds of things, but the music and meditation I have on mine was a GREAT help. If I took a walk around the floor I just took it with me.

As far as doing things ahead; I stocked up on food staples and made a few frozen meals. I had a lot of family and friends bring meals the first few weeks and that helped a lot. Since I am a bit anal, I did some heavy household things I knew needed to be done. I did not want my husband to need to think about certain things during my recuperation as he was going to be the cook, maid and laundry person on top of working full time and taking care of me. My daughter came a stayed with for about 5 days after I was discharged. This was an amazing gift and helped both myself and husband. It was good to have someone there those first few days.

I was off work for about 8 weeks and worked half time the first 2 weeks back.

As far as keeping the girls in check. I wore tank tops for a while and then wore a bra only when I was out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Jackie. I spent some time in the hospital in the fall having exploratory stuff done. Not as invasive as yours and it didn't take me as long as it will you to recover. But here are a few things I remember. Bring your own pillow! Bring ear plugs for a good night sleep. Stay ahead on painkiller meds..once you start feeling the pain...it is too late. Make sure you get a "constipation" protocol from hospital or clinic. That was actually the worst unanticipated side effect after getting out of hospital..jump on that one fast if need be..painkillers are really bad for that.

And I understand the "girls" problem completely...can't be avoided with location of surgery. I wore NOTHING for way too long as it was extremely painful. That unfortunately for me meant I couldn't get out of the house alot. I wasn't driving either as a result of painkillers. So was about a month for me before I was really out and about on my own. And I tried to do too much too soon when I went out...and then you just simply pay the price...so need to start with little outings and avoid heavy shopping bags.

Hope that helps some. Good luck with your surgery..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Jackie:

I can't help you with the last part of your question, nor would I want to even attempt! But the first part is tailor-made for an item I posted at OncTalk some time ago. Here it is, and note that one of my points emphasizes the constipation issue as did beatlemike:


I had an exploratory thoracotomy (right side) on 8/31/06. It began as a thoracoscopy, but all the tissue samples taken during the scope procedure were inconclusive, and the surgeon deemed it necessary to proceed with a full thoracotomy (muscle-sparing incision, ribs spread). This did confirm lung cancer, moderately-differentiated adenocarcinoma. Because of the various periods waiting for pathology, I was under anesthesia for a good while, and when I started to awaken in my room I was very groggy for what seemed an eternity. I was also overwhelmingly thirsty, and while not allowed to drink water, I took great pleasure sucking on a sponge stick moistened with ice chips.

After I was more fully awake, I was surprised to find that the pain was not nearly as bad as I had expected. In fact, there was no pain at all except when I was moved for checking the incision and drains or for washing. When I became more mobile, I never had any pain while lying or sitting in a stationary position -- only while coughing or moving to get off or back on the bed. The epidural was removed from my back a couple of days after the surgery and oral medication was quite adequate. A five-day stay had been programmed, but I was able to go home after four days. There have been no complications. Today, 10 months after the surgery, there are still some numb areas on my chest and side, and maybe once or twice a month there is a random twinge from the incision area, but nothing more.

I have some suggestions for things one can do before the surgery to make it easier when home from the hospital:

1. Make some advance preparations for sleeping. I found it much easier to sleep in a recliner chair than in a bed, mainly because getting up from or back into the chair did not involve any rolling to the side. If you have a favorite recliner chair you might consider moving it to the bedroom before going to the hospital so any furniture rearranging can be done while you're still able to participate.

2. As you go about your daily routine now, take notice of the items which you are frequently taking from shelves, cabinets, or drawers, and place these items in accessible locations that don't require any bending down or reaching up. When you get home from the hospital you'll be able to carry on many of your normal activities without calling on others for assistance.

3. Stock up now on the medications, food items, and supplements you and others have found most effective for preventing or relieving constipation. Many (if not most) pain medications tend to cause constipation, and I believe it's as important to stay ahead of that as it is to stay ahead of the pain itself.


It's now been 20 months since the surgery, and I haven't had any discomfort from the incision for a long time. The skin surface from the incision around to the front under the right breast is still a strange combination of numb and touchy, something I hardly ever notice until the washcloth reaches that area when I'm in the shower. Best wishes and Aloha,


Link to comment
Share on other sites

After my surgery I was more concerned about the pain in my back from the surgery more so than the girls. I did not even attempt to wear a bra. When I did I wore a lose exercise bra. If your surgeon is not doing the VATS surgery you might ask him to give you a kind cut so that your bra won't touch the incision area. Mine does not and that I think helps alot. It has been almost three year for me and I am fine now, by the Grace of God. I found the Alleve over the counter pain medication worked better for me. Hope this helps.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


One word - Lots of Pillows - (okay, 3 words!)

I actually sent a friend and my daughter out to the store to buy about 6 pillows - I could not lay on my back in bed without about 6 pillows propped up around me.

I was in hospital for 6 days - back to work in 9 weeks. Take pain meds as prescribed, in hospital use pain pump regularly - don't be a hero! Use torture thing that you breathe into often (spiro something or other).

As far as the girls - I couldn't wear anythign for months, so I layered. At about 6 months I was able to wear sports bras about 2 sizes too big, and after 2 years was finally able to get back into a bra - although underwire is a thing of the past. I always say that they should throw a boob job in free with thoracic surgery- then who cares if you can't wear a bra? :shock:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I spent nine days in the hospital, couldn't get the pain under control - discovered I'm allergic to vicodin...

Stay ahead of the pain, for the first week of at-home recovery, at least, take the pills right on time, whether you feel you need them or not. You do need them, why let the pain convince you?

Be aware you may end up with heartburn. Plan accordingly.

The best position for me to sleep in was reclining on the couch - not quite up, not quite down. Sure were odd noise in the living room, though - not quite like sleeping in your own bedroom.

The girls -

When you first get home, roll up a hand towel lengthwise and put under the girls, like a soft shelf. I had a friend who had just had a breast reduction and she suggested a mastectomy bra. These hook in the front and gently lift the tender zone...not quite the mushing effect of a sports bra.

Oh yeah, and some other things you may find annoying - for a while, your right arm doesn't want to work. I didn't mind (too much) help with the shower, but I gritted my teeth through the pain to handle the "paperwork" after sitting on the potty. And the mental - one thing I experienced my first night home was the fear of falling asleep. For some reason, my brain convinced me that if I went to sleep, I wouldn't wake up! For the first week, I stayed awake all night and napped off and on during the day due to sheer exhaustion (and pain pills) - nothing like growing up and becoming afraid of the dark!

Watch comedies. Stock up on funny movies, watch America's Funniest Videos, Whose Line is it, Anyway?... You're going to be a bit depressed when it all sinks in, combat it with laughter.

AND GET A PRIVATE ROOM if you can - I had two roommates in my time in the hospital and they were BOTH nut cases! :wink:

Best of luck to you! May your nurses be hot young studs!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My mom was wearing a post surgical bra after recovery from her bypass for awhile, it has no underwire.

Also when she came home she slept in the recliner for awhile.

Coughing or laughing hurt her awhile, she found if she squeezed a soft pillow to her chest, it helped the pain. She had soft pillows in all the areas she might be sitting.

Good luck!! Don't be shy to ask for pain killers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All of you rock. :D These suggestions are all excellent. I know what you mean about the not "going" but I thought it was from lousy hospital food and just laying in bed - I didn't know it was also from pain killers. Guess I better pack my psyllium husk, huh?

I wonder if this should be a Sticky Note. So many folks have gone through it. I just keep thinking of more questions. Did it hurt to eat? Do I just have liquids for a while? Some of the lymph nodes near my esophagus are being removed.

We don't have an easy chair - perhaps we'll have to get one - maybe with a vibrator. Hmmmmm :wink: And a cup holder

I am very, very blessed and fortunate because my friend, Debbie is coming to stay with me for 3 weeks. She was an LPN and nursed her husband through his ordeal with throat cancer. I don't know how I will ever repay her.

Thank you all so much for all the great tips.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Can't help you with your questions since I never had surgery. And I certainly can't help you with the other questions - my "perkies" have never needed taming :cry: BUT.......

Just wanted to wish you good luck. Hope all goes as well as it can.

Hugs - Patti B.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, you guys for the great tips and prayers and good wishes. (((Everyone)))

It's been scheduled for May 9th. (Yikes :shock: ) A little sooner than I was told but that's OK. Got a lot of things to do now!

Love to all,


PS - Patti, sure wish I could divide em up and parcel em out... I'd say they're a big pain in the butt but that wouldn't be anatomically accurate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jackie....first off...so happy you can have surgery....For me the surgery was very successful...didn't even touch my ribs....scar only about 5 inches long...away from the girls...hee..

Came home from the hospital on the 5th day...and never got out of hospital garb and all my pretty nighties came home all nice and clean.....Had a RLL and back to work in 5 weeks and back to bowling in the sixth week...Threw the painkiller's away after 2nd day home....made me very nauseous...tylenol was just as good....

I wish the same for you...prayer's for all going to surgery....and of course ALL of you


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.