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Life after an oesophagectomy or gastrectomy

               and often, the throat. Recovery takes some time; if you were working you are
               going to be off for some months and it could be more than 12 months or so before
               you are really at your best, although hopefully you will feel pretty well long before

               You will be helped to start exercising very quickly after the operation; the
               Physiotherapist helps to get you taking deeper breaths which will help to move
               any mucus that can gather as a result of the operation and anaesthetic. This may
               feel hard work at the time, but effort put in at this time is well worthwhile. As you
               get out of bed and feel so weak you see the challenge. Walking is about all you
               can do at this stage. Any effort exhausts you and going up stairs is like climbing
               Mount Everest but try walking a little further each day and it will get easier. Activity
               that includes gentle upper limb and lower limb exercises are encouraged.

               Progressive exercise during this early period should be taken by increasing speed
               or distance – not both. Bear in mind that outdoor walking is more difficult – there
               may be slopes, a wind and heavier clothing to wear – and don't forget you have to
               get back again!

               Look after yourself at this stage, not the housework! Continue the breathing
               exercises the Physiotherapist taught you in hospital. It can be done sitting up
               straight or standing. (If there is still phlegm coming up you may have been given
               extra exercises to do – don't neglect them!)

               Back home
               Progress may seem slow but pushing it too hard will possibly do more harm than
               good. Don't try to prove anything; it's not worth it, the body will take its own time.
               During this early stage, coughing, perhaps occasional sickness and movement
               generally will be painful and you may feel that things will come apart inside. Be
               assured – they will not. If you have had an open oesophagectomy the ribs do take
               time to repair and it will be a month or two before you can sleep on the side
               affected. Muscles too have been stitched together but these heal well in about two
               months; bones and cartilage take rather longer. Nerves, which are necessarily
               severed in any operation, repair very slowly indeed and some areas around the
               wound may remain numb.

               Surface pain at the wound may occasionally occur for years. Nothing to worry
               about – it's the raw nerve endings. However, if you experience continued pain,
               you should request a medical review by your surgeon.

               You may feel able to tackle the odd bit of housework after a few weeks but don't
               aim to complete it all in one go.

               You may find that your ability to concentrate has been affected. This can be very
               frustrating, but it will gradually return. It may help to take up a new hobby that is
               not so demanding while you have got time on your hands.

               The recommendation is not to drive until 6–8 weeks after the operation. The real
               test with regard to going back to driving is that you must be capable of making an
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