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Recovering from Brain Tumor Surgery: Advice for Loved Ones

written by: Kathy Foust • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/23/2011

Use the tips in this article to help you to get through this difficult period. The brain tumor surgery recovery period can be just as difficult as, if not more difficult than, dealing with the tumor itself. These tips were created to make this process a bit easier on you and your loved one.

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    Brain Tumor Surgery

    There are many types for brain tumor surgeries to be performed and many other treatments for the brain tumor than open brain surgery. For the purposes of this article the writer will assume that this was an open brain surgery. After all, the focus at this point is the brain tumor surgery recovery period.

    So, let's assume that the worst is over and the surgery has been successfully performed. You have been told that your loved one may be a bit different and those differences depend on which section of the brain the tumor was in. However, hearing that someone is going to be different and finding out first hand how different that person has become can be completely different things. It's kind of the same as saying you aren't afraid of heights until someone is pushing you out of an airplane with a small parachute on your back. Let's look at some examples of what to expect from someone who has just undergone brain tumor removal.

    • If the tumor affected the areas of the brain that stored long term memories, then your loved one may not even know who you are when they are going through the recovery process. You may be shocked to learn that though they may have once been a chef, they now cannot remember how to boil an egg! It's important that you find a way to deal with your emotions over this in such a way as to not have a negative impact on the patient. It's really not their fault.
    • If the surgery was in the short term memory area, then you may fnd yourself having the same conversations over and over. Please be patient. Remember that the patient is the victim here.
    • If the surgery was in an area that affects motor skills, the patient may have to learn to do basic body movements all over again.

    There are several areas of the brain that can be impacted by brain surgery. Those above are just brief examples. Before you try to help anyone through the brain tumor surgery recovery period, have a lengthy discussion with their doctor and take notes so the surprises are minimal. Review the tips below to help you deal with this issue.

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    Brain Tumor Surgery Recovery Period

    During this period, you will often feel frustrated and may even get angry at the patient. This is entirely normal, but should be kept away from the patient. Therefore, you may want to seek outside counseling for these feelings. Getting angry at someone who is a victim of circumstance will only lead you to feel guilty. In the meantime, use these tips to help your loved one.

    • Find fun ways to help the patient recover. The brain needs to be exercised after surgery. Try doing something like sudoku or crossword puzzles with your loved one. This is a great way to exercise the brain in a no pressure setting.
    • Don't focus solely on the memories of the patient if this is an issue for them. Focus on other things that they enjoy to help them to learn to live again. In part, this is a different person who may even experience different interests.
    • If the patient expresses interest in activities they were very fond of, encourage them to get involved again in those activities in some way. For instance, if the person used to be a sculptor but no longer has the motor skills, let them play with some moist clay to re-experience a bit of the feeling they once had from sculpting. Moist clay also helps develop motor and sensory skills as the patient plays with it.
    • This is going to be emotionally exhausting for both of you, even if the patient doesn't fully understand what's going on. They can still sense your frustration and this will upset them. Make sure you find ways for you to have time apart so that you can each have a break and possibly find outlets for your emotions.
    • Bring in reinforcements. Don't handle this alone. The brain surgery recovery period is no time to try to be a hero. Call on family and friends as wel as medical caretakers if necessary.

    Try to focus on the positive things and the negative ones won't seem to bad. But allow yourself time to cry or express yourself in some other way that will not be harmful to you or the patient. None of this is fair, and all that can be asked of you is for you to do your best.