Caring for someone having surgery

If someone you care about is having surgery to treat cancer, it could be an anxious and uncertain time for you too. It can be difficult to watch someone go through this experience – you may want to help them, but not know how.

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Being a support person

You may want to offer to be the support person. This involves providing practical and emotional help to the person with cancer before, during and after surgery.

Before surgery, you can accompany the person to appointments and help them make an informed decision about their treatment. Once they decide to have surgery, you can help them follow any instructions they are given, organise their personal items and paperwork, and provide transport to and from the hospital.

On the day of the surgery, you can stay in the surgical waiting room during the operation. The surgical team may ask that there is only one support person, as there may be limited space in the waiting room.

The nursing staff can give you an idea of how long the wait will be. You may want to go outside for a walk and some fresh air, or to meet a friend or family member for support. The staff can take your contact details and call you when the surgery is finished.

For information about carers’ services, see Caring for someone with cancer, or contact Carers Australia on 1800 242 636.

Visiting someone in hospital

Seeing your loved one after surgery can be frightening and overwhelming. They may have drains, drips, tubes or monitors attached to them, and the anaesthetic may make them groggy, sick and confused. Most people soon return to their usual self.

Each hospital has different visiting policies. As a general guide:

Recovery room 

In some situations, such as when a child or a person with special needs has surgery, nursing staff may allow visitors into the recovery room. There are strict rules in these circumstances. Often only one visitor at a time is permitted; you should wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before entering the room; and you may only be allowed to stay for a brief time.

Intensive care or high dependency unit 

Visiting hours are more limited and visitors are usually restricted to immediate family members. Staff will need to let you into the unit. You may also have to wear special clothing, and wash your hands when entering and leaving.

Regular hospital ward 

If the person is moved to a hospital ward, you will need to follow usual hospital visiting hours and procedures. The medical team can give you updates about the person’s recovery and when they are likely to be discharged.

Consider having one person who rings the hospital for updates, and shares the information with family members and friends.

Caring for someone after surgery

When the person returns home, you can provide valuable physical assistance and emotional support to the person you are caring for:

Be encouraging – Help the person manage their expectations about recovery by urging them to take it easy and reinforcing that they don’t have to “bounce back” right away.

Help with bathing – Assist the person to shower, if they need help.

Exercise together – Do some gentle exercise together, such as walking.

Be thoughtful – Listen to their concerns and feelings if they want to talk, but respect their confidentiality and privacy.

Attend follow-up appointments – You can take part in the discussion, take notes or simply listen.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on surgery

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2019
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