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10 Things to Do Before Bowel Surgery


Updated July 15, 2012

Your bowel surgery is scheduled and the date circled in red on your calendar. Should you just sit and wait for the big day or is there something you can do in preparation? Learn what 10 things you should get out of the way now, before your surgery, to help pave your road to recovery.

Check Your Medical Insurance

It's no surprise – surgery and hospitalization can rack up astronomical fees. The hospital stay, medications, surgeon, anesthesiologist and nursing care add up. Even if you're positive your health insurance is in good standing, it doesn't hurt to give them a phone call. You can make sure that the surgeons office has obtained preauthorization for your surgery and associated expenses and review your prescription coverage. It's much, much easier to get authorization for a medical procedure before the fact. Don't hamper your healing with worries about hospital bills!

Get Your Affairs in Order

You can call it getting your ducks in a row or whatever name you give the preparation for your impending sick leave. If you don't have a medical power of attorney or living will, now is the time to consider getting one done. Chances are, you will come home from the hospital without one problem – but it's good to be prepared. If you already have advanced directives or other medical legal documents, make sure your significant other knows how to access these documents if needed.

Take Care of Your Finances

Don't laugh – it's absolutely horrible to lie in a hospital bed and wonder if your electric bill is going to be overdue, or worse yet have your power turned off. Get your accounts balanced and your bills paid prior to your surgery. If you have the means, you can also opt for automatic deductions for most utilities nowadays. This way your bills stay paid and current, and you won't have to sit at your desk for hours catching up after surgery.

Talk to Your Employer

It's probably a good idea to let your employer know that you will be taking time off for your surgery. He or she can help you arrange vacation, paid time off or sick leave, or you can talk to human resources about disability pay if appropriate. Let your employer know the date your doctor suggested you can return to work and then keep in touch from there.

Get Grocery Shopping and Cooking Done

Your diet will change for a brief time following your surgery, but eventually it should return to your normal fare. If you don't have anyone to help with your shopping after the surgery, think about stocking up on at least three weeks worth of non-perishable food. The last thing you will want to do is push a cart and go shopping after bowel surgery, not to mention you may be encumbered by activity and lifting restrictions. You can also cook up meals and freeze them in plastic containers. This way if you have a hankering for home-cooked food but lack the will to cook it, you can zap a meal in the microwave and warm it up.

Finish Household Chores

Get laundry washed, put away and finish your household cleaning before the big day. You may want to keep some comfortable, elastic pants and t-shirts handy for after surgery. If you have friends or neighbors that offer to help, household chores are a handy way for them to feel of assistance and keep your home livable.

Things to Quit

Your surgeon probably already spoke to you about stopping smoking and tobacco use before coming to the hospital, but he or she may not have mentioned oral contraceptives or alcohol. Both oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and drinking alcohol have the potential to impact how your blood clots and your rate of healing. Talk to your doctor if you drink moderately or use oral contraceptives.

Arrange for Child Care

If you are a single parent or your spouse is unavailable to help, you may need to arrange child (or other dependant) care for your time of hospitalization and recovery. If your family lives locally perhaps they can offer assistance. Otherwise, you may need to consider flying a relative into town to care for your underage children or adult dependants. Talk to your doctor if you don't have any family or friends to help; he or she can set you up with a social worker who can help you discover more options.

Improve Your Diet

Why wait until after the surgery to start eating a colon-friendly diet? Slowly start increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet. Reduce the amount of processed and red meat that you eat weekly, as well as full-fat dairy. You can eat more healthy proteins (think skinless poultry, tofu or fish) the weeks prior to your surgery to get your body primed to heal after it.

Take Walks if You Don’t Exercise

You're going to want your circulation to be in tip top shape for your bowel surgery. A healthy circulatory system can help you heal more efficiently after surgery. The best way to give it a boost is through regular daily exercise. If you don't have a regiment in place now, you can start by taking short walks daily and gradually building up the amount of time that you walk. If you have a medical condition other than the colorectal cancer however, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.


American Cancer Society. (2006). American Cancer Society's Complete Guide to Colorectal Cancer. Clifton Fields, NE: American Cancer Society.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. (n.d.). Colorectal Cancer. Accessed July 15, 2012.

Cambridge University Hospitals. (n.d.). Major Bowel Surgery. Accessed July 15, 2012.

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