When my mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer, the medical team recommended she have a right hemicolectomy to remove the affected parts of her bowel.
Before surgery, we went to the hospital to see the surgeon for the pre-assessment appointment. My wife and I went along to provide support and help Mum understand the surgeon’s instructions.
The surgeon talked to the three of us about the potential risks and benefits of the hemicolectomy. Mum’s elderly and she had heart problems a few years ago, so she takes low-dose aspirin daily. The doctor explained the risks of bleeding during the operation and told Mum to stop taking aspirin for a week before the surgery.
Even though it was stressful to ‘download’ all the medical information and instructions, the pre-assessment actually eased our minds. I walked away knowing that although it’s a major operation, very few people die. I also knew the practical things we had to do to help Mum prepare.
On the day of the surgery, we all felt nervous but ready. Mum was in theatre for a while, but she got through the operation without any problems. Over time and with the dietitian’s help, she resumed eating.
When I look back, I think Mum was calmer than us. It can be really nerve-racking and stressful to be the support person for someone having surgery. We found it helpful to ask the medical team questions about what was happening so we felt in control and knew how to look after her.