Preparing for Surgery

Steps you can take to prepare and create a plan for recovery and success after surgery.

Consult with your health care team

Your health care providers will have information that is most relevant to your unique situation. Have a consultation about what you should do to prepare for surgery, what to expect during the healing process, and how long it will likely take to recover. This resource outlines common questions and topics to cover. If possible, set up appointments for your post-operative check-ups in advance. 

If you are travelling across a border and your gender presentation does not match your identification, consider asking your primary care provider to write you a carry letter. A carry letter is a document that you can show to a border agent if you are questioned about your identity.

After your surgery and recovery, ask your primary care provider about what preventative screenings and exams they recommend for you over the long term (cancer screening, bone density screening, etc.). If they aren't sure, inform them about the Rapid Access to Consultative Expertise (R.A.C.E. Line) that they can call to receive rapid assistance from a clinician with experience in trans health.

Prepare with pandemic safety in mind

Take time to review checklists with your GP or NP and the people who will be supporting you after surgery.

Prepare emotionally

Gender-affirming surgery is a big deal! It's common to feel a wide range of emotions, from excitement and relief to anxiety and depression. It can help to have people to talk to about your experiences and feelings as you plan for, and recover from, surgery. Many people find it helpful to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. You might meet people who have had gender-affirming surgery through friends, support groups, or online networks. Lots of people find it helpful to talk to a counsellor during this time.

  • Contact our health navigation team for recommendations of counsellors who are knowledgeable about supporting trans people. 

Prepare physically

The healthier your body is, the better your surgical outcomes will be. Where possible, eating a well-balanced diet in the period before and after surgery will help support in your recovery.

You can talk to your health care provider about physical activities you could engage in before surgery that would promote healing later on. If you smoke cigarettes, consider making a plan to quit. Smoking interferes with your body's ability to heal and can cause complications following anesthesia and surgery. Check out the BC Smoking Cessation Program for support.

Develop a support system

‎You’ll benefit greatly from having a strong support system around you after surgery. Identify the people in your life who can help you as you recover. 

  • Share this resource on support before and after surgery.
  • Ask someone with a driver’s license and car to pick you up from the hospital or airport, bring you home, and stay with you for the first 24 hours.
  • Ask a handful of people to help with meal preparation, laundry, cleaning, and errands until you are able to do these tasks yourself. It’s helpful to have a schedule worked out in advance.
  • You may also want to have visits from people for entertainment and emotional support. 
  • Consider whether you want to have a spare key to your home made ahead of time to facilitate your support people’s visits.

Prepare financially

If you have a job, you'll likely need to arrange time off work for your recovery. You may need to get a letter from your primary care provider or surgeon to give to your employer to request a leave. This letter will not need to specify the reasons that you will be away. 

Depending on the kind of work you do, you might want to negotiate some lighter work during the period when you first return. If you have a health care plan that covers the cost of medical supplies, you may need a letter from your surgeon or primary care provider to document what is required. Be sure to save your receipts so you can get reimbursed. You might want to check if you qualify for Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits.

Prepare your home

Do your laundry ahead of time so you can come home to clean bedding and clothing. Comfy, loose fitting clothing will be best. Since you'll need to rest when you come home, you might want to get other household chores, like cleaning, done ahead of time, too.

Stock up on non-perishable groceries. Prepare some meals and freeze them. Collect all of the medical supplies your surgeon has directed you to have on hand. We also suggest putting any items in areas that will be within a shoulder-level range for you, so you do not stretch or strain following your surgical procedure to get the items you will need.

SOURCE: Preparing for Surgery ( )
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