So . . . how long does surgery or cancer treatment recovery take?

The short answer to my title question?

It depends.

Yeah, that’s not the answer I want, either.

What I’ve found after two surgeries this year and cancer treatment (two rounds of chemo, surgery, radiation) six years ago is that the doctors will give you the best-case scenario.

But they will also say, “It depends. Everyone is different.”

I always hope for the best-case scenario. But what I’ve actually been is often not that.

Age makes a difference. Young people typically heal faster.

Other health challenges matter. I had a hysterectomy in March and then double knee replacement in September. I am quite sure that my body is healing more slowly because of two surgeries. I also wonder if my cancer treatments have slowed down my recovery times – for the rest of my life.

We’re all individuals. All medications don’t work for all people. All therapies aren’t best for all people. The surgery that heals one person might make another person’s life worse. The first diagnosis isn’t always the right one.

One size does not fit all!

I wish that more doctors would do more longitudinal studies of surgery and cancer treatment and other recovery periods. I can (and could) find hardly any information on that, and most of what I found is anecdotal – just like this post. It’s one person’s experience.

I’d like to see a study that lasted a decade or two or three. What are long-term effects of treatment? What are the long-term challenges?

Heck, I can hardly find trustworthy, scientifically-researched information on short-term health challenges for the procedures and treatments I’ve had. There’s very little on the internet.

Personal sharing and personal insights have been more valuable for me. I’ve had more than one knowledgable person tell me that it takes a full year to recover from double knee replacement. That’s helpful to know.

My experience was that it took just over a year for me to recover from chemo brain (the foggy thinking caused by chemo)  after my cancer treatments. I think I might be unusual, though, in that I can wake up one day and an effect be gone. I started AC chemo in September or 2011, and I woke one day in October a year later – and could think clearly again. Literally that happened in one day.

I had a similar experience after double knee replacement. Food tasted weird, and I had little appetite for four months after surgery. And then one day I woke up  and found that food tasted normal, and my old appetite was back. I knew my recovery was about to speed up a bit. And it did.

In general, my knee surgery recovery has been a couple of months “behind” the best-case scenario. I can be hard on myself and think that the “delay” is my fault. That I’m not doing something right. That I’m a wimp. That I’m not working hard enough.

But I know that “behind” and “delay” are just words. There is no set timeline for recovery.

I learned after cancer treatments that pushing myself too hard had the opposite effect from what I wanted. It slowed my recovery.

I learned that not following my intuition was not wise.

So I’ve taken that learning and applied it to my surgeries this year. My hysterectomy recovery was much more a best-case scenario. I didn’t push myself too much, and I still was feeling better along the timeline I expected (it took three months to feel mostly healed and by four months I was pretty much back to “normal”).

This double knee replacement has been a different situation. My recovery has been at least partially slowed by weather changes, which increase my pain level. Two hurricanes came through this area this fall. One is unusual because I live far inland. Two is highly improbable. But this fall, we had two. Barometric pressure changes increase my pain level. And we’ve had many, many of those changes since September. That has slowed my recovery.

And I’d bet that my recovery has also been slowed by factors of which I am unaware – and certainly can’t control.

So I try to be patient with all of that and trust my body and my intuition to let me know when I can do what. And to what extent.

It can be a long journey.

But I look at all improvement as a blessing. And I know that incremental improvements add up.

I try to take it one day at a time. With no specific expectations for the pacing, trusting that I am healing at the best rate for me.

Full-bloom tulip on an unseasonably warm February day. More of the odd weather of the last 6 months.




2 thoughts on “So . . . how long does surgery or cancer treatment recovery take?

  1. That is very good advice and a good approach – it takes as long as it takes – one step at a time
    Have been dipping into Buddhist philosophy a bit recently – meditation – helps me
    Your posting has a very positive air – Happy for you x

    • I had a 17+ year daily meditation practice. Which went away during this past year. I don’t know why I’ve let it go, but I feel it’s okay. I’m hoping another daily practice will come to me. That’s also connected with the positive air you noticed. Thanks for that!

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