what to do when recovering from surgery

x marks the spot

That, above, is my left hand, and that “x” over it is where the cyst (I’ve named it Dennis) currently lives. But come sometime tomorrow (I’ll know more about the timing of my surgery by the end of today), Dennis will be no more, and I’ll be recovering from surgery and looking for post-surgery recovery activities.

I guess, in some way, we’re breaking up, Dennis and I—this relationship just isn’t working out. I could say that we should just be friends, but I won’t mean it. After surgery, I’m pretty sure I won’t be in touch. In fact, I hope our paths never cross again.

Surgery prep has me remembering a lot of random details. I have to show up to surgery without any jewelry, make up, or nail polish. One of the nurses said that only applies to my fingers, but since I rarely wear nail polish on my hands, that’s an easy one to keep in mind. As of last week, I had to stop taking my vitamins and supplements. As of today, I can’t take anything but Tylenol should I need it. And after midnight tonight, I can’t eat or drink anything until surgery. So it’s a little bit like a mini Yom Kippur except there are scalpels involved. Which gives me a brilliant idea…

… post-surgery break fast. Bagels, cream cheese, lox, noodle kugel, maybe even some brisket?

Andrew teases that he’s going to miss Dennis. “It’s the most “true grit” part of you,” he said to me as we walked to dinner on Saturday night. “Just think: it came back not once, not twice, but three times! It really wants to be with you.”

Too bad I don’t feel the same way.

Once I broke up with a guy who, for weeks after, kept showing up in my neighborhood to see if I had changed my mind about him. It was weird and creepy. But each time I would “accidentally” bump into him at my regular café, or the gym, or the dry-cleaners’, I would commit to being broken up a little bit more.

So by tomorrow evening, I’ll be one cyst poorer and one protective foam sleeve richer. Apparently, it’s to protect your hand from any impact. It looks a little ridiculous from all the pictures I found on the internet. But the one big upside to having a spongy foam arm is that if there’s ever a spill, I’ll be sure to take care of it.

While I’m sporting my foam sleeve, I’ll have to make do with limited activity—something that I don’t do well. I already have the complete series of The West Wing waiting for me. But besides that and those last two Game of Thrones books I’m dying to finish, what would you do while recovering from surgery? How would you spend the time? Are there books on your list you’ve been meaning to read, or amazing shows I simply have to watch? Ample naps? Long walks? Any one-handed recipes I could try?

*I’ve tried to, at least, prepare our freezer for the couple of weeks that I’ll be “off duty” from cooking. There is chili, veal ricotta meatballs, and my friend Geoff’s famous tomato soup, just to name a few. There are turkey tamarind meatballs – a recipe I’m still working on – that I’m trying to replicate from one of our favorite neighborhood places.

** I’m loath to get all “woe is me, i’m having surgery” but I wanted to do this post in case there are others who might have/need surgery and might be looking for things to do while they’re recovering. Hey, it’s forced down time – we might as well make the best of it, right?


  • Radish

    Winnie – it’s perhaps the ONE show I cannot watch. I can barely do the drug use in The Wire, but I tried to watch BB in its first season and kept fainting or throwing up. I know it’s SO weird. :) But thank you for the good luck wishes :)

  • Ashley

    Good luck with the surgery and recovery! I hope Dennis “leaves” for good. Between The West Wing (marvelous show) and Game of Thrones books, it sounds like you’re going to have a lot to not-do. For a laugh, I always turn to The Big Bang Theory or, a bit more crazy and inappropriate, The League. Hope all goes smoothly and quickly!

  • Sharmila

    If I had surgery like this scheduled, I’d retread my entire Agatha Christie and P G Wodehouse collection again. If that’s not to your liking, I recently read The Night Circus, which I liked.
    Have you seen The Newsroom? It’s very good. Also, Suits, Covert Affairs, Castle and Merlin.
    Wishing you a speedy recovery Olga.

  • Kate

    West Wing sounds perfect! Have you seen Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? It’s also by Aaron Sorkin and was cancelled in its first season because of some similarities to 30 Rock, but it’s worth finding and watching only because Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are awesome together!

    Get well soon!

  • Christine

    Good luck with your surgery! I’m so sad you can’t watch Breaking Bad, since I’m obsessed with it…I have been watching Twin Peaks. I was too young the first go round (I was 9 when it first aired), and they’re all on Netflix. It’s kind of terrible and fun all at the same time – basically a noir soap opera. Way more soap operatic than I expected but it’s fun to watch an episode on Sunday for some alone time while the husband watches football and I paint my nails.

    Whenever I need something as background noise I turn to Arrested Development. I’ve rewatched it more times than I can count, but it’s great while I work or if I’m playing games on the internet.

    Good luck! May Dennis be kept at bay forever and ever.

    (Also, if you get sick of tomato soup, or want something mixed up – you could one handedly mix some rice and ground beef (with perhaps some Andrew chopped shallot) to make a from scratch and wholly delicious version of “porcupine balls”. )

  • Sarah

    I had the same surgery to remove a cyst on my wrist when I was in high school. I don’t remember the recovery being very bad. I hope your recovery is short and sweet.

    I recommend something funny to kill the time. Have you watched Better Off Ted on Netflix steaming? It’s very funny and clever. Or Arrested Development. Even if you’ve watched it before, there are so many hidden jokes that it’s funny to watch several times over.

  • Jess

    Ugh – been there, and recently. When I have surgery and I’m recovering, I find that cabin fever and mind-crippling boredom make me too restless for movies or even serious reading. I have to give myself leave to watch stupid things I wouldn’t otherwise watch and lower my expectations — no more planning to get through The Harvard Classics.

    One thing I really liked this time was listening to audiobooks and walking. Listening to music was frustrating because I’d want to bust into a jog, but I could meander for an hour and half through my neighborhood listening to an audiobook. My favorite part of every day for about 5 weeks. Again, had to keep it on the lighter side – being by myself all day and feeling all incapable can make a girl morose – but I enjoyed the hell out of some Louise Penny audiobooks this Spring.

    Good luck, hang in there, keep low expectations (things will not be done the way you might do them, and it’s fine, etc.) and you’ll be back to yourself in no time.

  • Phoebe

    Is Dennis a ganglion cyst? If so, I also have my version of Dennis on the exact same wrist, just a smidge higher and a little to the right, haha. I am actually getting it aspirated on Wednesday, so wish me luck on mine! Good luck on your surgery!

  • Anniebonnie

    Homeland for sure. At least for me. All last season was just aired last weekend, but also available on DVD. I watched several episodes back to back and couldn’t get enough.

    Being an utter Anglophile, I found a number of British series and miniseries that were outstanding. “House of Cards” and “State of Play” ( the Brit version) are two good ones. Lots available on streaming.

    And aren’t you having chicken soup?

  • MegD

    Holy cats! That is one gorgeous ring you got there!

    Agree with the other Downton fans! And if I had forced downtime I would also watch Homeland. Good for you for getting the food prep done ahead of time, I hope that will stave off being driven batty by the inability to cook.

  • Jen W

    Sending you good thoughts Olga! When I was recovering from surgery it was Cary Grant who got me through. I say, go to the classics. If that’s not your style, there’s always Friday Night Lights. My surgery was on my leg, but since you will be able to walk, perfect opportunity to explore BK. I will also put in a plug for meditation. I wish you a speedy recovery.

  • Greg

    I had the same thing on my left hand :) The surgery was like 15 or even 18 years ago. the only thing that is different from before the surgery is that while I make a fist I can’t bend my palm down fully as the other hand. I guess that my tendon is not stretching as much as before due to the inactivity of the hand after the surgery but lots of time past and I live with it :) Only thing that left after my Dennis is scar after five stitches ;) How is it going on your side?

  • Radish

    Greg – I have a pretty long scar given how big the cyst was and when the surgeons went in there, they discovered a satellite cyst along w/it. So all in all, it was a pretty complicated surgery. My main challenge is the flexibility of the wrist. And I’m doing a lot of physical therapy and massage so hopefully, if I do everything I am supposed to, I’ll be back to 100%!

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