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of Saskatchewan Since 1995
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Volume 29 Issue 6
March/April 2024

My Thoughts are Turning to Gardening
Featuring the Benefits of Interplanting

Planning Your Open-Pollinated Garden For Seed Saving, Part 2

Jin Shin Therapy
“A Simple Art for Complicated Times”

Preparing for Surgery

Transforming Loss into Legacy: Honouring Loved Ones and Finding Purpose

From Participant to Facilitator: Embracing Holistic Healing Retreats

The Culinary Pharmacy: Intuitive Eating, Ancestral Healing, and Your Personal Nutrition Plan by Lisa Masé

An Easter Fantasy Story


Preparing for Surgery
by Pam Fichtner
Pam Fichtner

When you have a surgery, there are many considerations that are important to take into account—before surgery, while you are there at the hospital, immediately after the surgery, and your ongoing recovery. In our Western culture in the medical model, having surgery on any part of one’s body can be seen as rote, as a standard procedure, and sometimes medical professionals may lose sight that this is a new and potentially traumatic experience for the person. They are in the position to explain the surgery fully and reassure, which they often do, and yet there are other supports that one can bring in to help make the experience fully supportive.

As a massage therapist, I have been taking Somatic Experiencing training over the past few years and it is through this lens that I have come to see how important it can be to prepare oneself more fully before a surgery, instead of just going in blindly, or without wanting to think of it too much.

The key considerations to explore before surgery are strategies that you can do for yourself to feel safe, such as surrounding yourself with family and friends that support you, and keeping your activities to a low stress level. You could also go to the hospital ahead of time to acquaint yourself and your nervous system with the environment you are going to be in, if you feel able to do so. It can help you to see the place where the surgery is done when you are not so activated.

Of course, it is also important to be with your feelings as much as possible, allowing yourself to stay grounded—visualizing a safe, effective, healing procedure with the support of your surgical team, including both the doctors and nurses that are tending to you, and to imagine looking them in the eye and taking in as much as you can of the surgical room, right before you go under anaesthesia, to ground yourself in the space. It can also be effective to work with someone ahead of time on any feelings or symptoms that may be coming up in relation to the surgery.

For example, one client had ductal carcinoma, a pre-cancer in her right breast, and after much discussion, having had many diagnostic procedures done to her breasts over the years, she decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction—part of the movement of many women who are remaining flat after breast cancer surgery.

Before the surgery, we talked about what she was going to do the night before the surgery—various rituals that were going to help her stay grounded and steady. For example, listening to a meditation, having a bath, having a nourishing supper, writing in her journal, and gently massaging lotion onto her breasts beforehand. In the session I invited her to say goodbye to her breasts, and see what she noticed in her body as she imagined doing so in the surgery. Some fear and sadness came up, which we witnessed as it released from her body. She was able to have some tears and realized that she was even afraid that she could die. She felt grateful that she was able to acknowledge this for herself, and come to a deeper sense of peace within, knowing that it was probably not true that she would actually die in the surgery. She was able to calm herself, focusing on what she knew to be true in the medical procedure she was having, and envisioned herself coming out of the surgery alive and well.

Another thing that can be done is to do a ritual ahead of time—whatever is meaningful for you—to prepare your body, mind, and psyche for the experience that you are about to have. Of course, there are varying degrees of surgery. Some can be just small removals of moles, or a deeper incision to repair one’s hand from a fall, or having debris removed after a motor vehicle accident. And, the bigger ones, of breast or uterus removal, or any other body part removed, can obviously carry more trauma, and the need to be given the space and healing time necessary for an optimum recovery. Bringing special objects with you to the hospital once you are out of surgery can be key to create a safe, gentle landing for you—a warm blanket, a book you enjoy, a scarf, slippers, stuffed animal, painting, crystals—anything that helps to connect you with feeling nourished.

Everyone’s experience with surgery is different. There is no need to go deep into the emotion of the trauma, into the grief, if it is not present for you now. The key is to just be with, to notice, what might be present in your body before you go for surgery. For example, if it is hip surgery, the focus might be on relieving yourself of the pain that has been present, so the pre-surgery focus can be on letting go of the pain, giving yourself permission to be pain free!

The key to having a good recovery is being gentle with yourself (and surrounding yourself with and accepting support). It takes time to heal as you can feel impatient to get back to normal, whatever that might be for you now. Letting yourself rest, nourishing your body with nutritious food, doing self-massage, or letting your body be touched in a healing way, such as through massage therapy, lymphatic drainage, or in a Somatic Experiencing session, can all be ways to help you manage and thrive after surgery.

Suggestions for Pre and Post Surgical Events, Anthony Wheeler.

Pam Fichtner, RMT, loves being able to hold space and create healing yoga classes! She works at Broadway Health Collective (Saskatoon), with a focus on breast health, post-breast cancer surgery and oncology care, lymphatic drainage, etc. She teaches Healthy Yoga with Pam, with breast health in mind, and oncology yoga. Please email her if you are interested at sephira@sasktel.net. Classes are taught at Queen Street Health Collective, in a 6-week series or drop-in. For more information, see the display ad on this page, or on page 17of the 29.6 March/April issue of the WHOLifE Journal.


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