How to pass the time during hysterectomy recovery?
August 17, 2008 9:03 PM   Subscribe

I just discovered that a family member has cancer. She'll be having a hysterectomy within the next month. She was wondering how she would pass the time during post-operation recovery. I wanted to send her a package filled with stuff she could work on during that time, but I'm not sure what would be appropriate for her recovery (how she'll be feeling). So far, we've thought of sudokus. She likes crafts, but I don't think she knits or does any other sort of needlecraft. Can you help me think of something? Would an Amazon giftcard be better? Is there anything that would be especially helpful in a care package for this situation? Or, would it be better to just send flowers? I want to send something, but I just can't think.. Sorry that this is badly written, but I just can't pose the question any better right now. Thank you very very much for any ideas.
posted by Mael Oui to Shopping (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
An i-Pod loaded with songs she likes for the several days she will spend in the hospital. You could also include some recorded books or other spoken word (e.g., TAL) pieces she might enjoy.
posted by carmicha at 9:18 PM on August 17, 2008

Do you know her favorite authors or genres? Audiobooks are nice choices if she's too tired to read (or keep her eyes open) but still wants something to engage her attention.

Good luck to your friend for a full and speedy recovery!
posted by Janey Complainy at 9:19 PM on August 17, 2008

Hard to say what she'd be ready for, until the moment of her recovery arrives. She may want to immerse herself in an activity that will distract her, or she may be too tired or overcome to devote extended energy to anything. It's the sort of thing that's different for everyone.

In either case, I'd suggest audiobooks (does she have an iPod? if not, buy her a nano and help her load it up); lots of magazines for short-attention-span moments; there are some great puzzle-books (Dell, Penny Press) that not only include sudokus but also crosswords, logic puzzles and the like, that are great ways to wipe away hours of time. Things to keep her comfortable also might be appreciated, depending where she will be convalescing - neck pillows, thick soft socks, soft throw blankets, things like that. (I'm thinking in terms not only of her immediate procedure but also perhaps upcoming treatments such as chemo).
posted by brain cloud at 9:21 PM on August 17, 2008

Whatever you send, send it in a fun or pretty medium sized tote or fabric shopping bag. This is going to sound weird, but when I had this surgery and had to have a catheter for a couple weeks afterward, the handiest thing I had was something sturdy with handles that I could carry (not to mention hide) the peebag in. Even if she doesn't have a catheter, it will be handy for carrying small stuff, books, etc around.
posted by krix at 9:27 PM on August 17, 2008

A metafilter membership!

Many small things sent over time, so that she is constantly reminded of your caring. Soft blankets, sockshoes, silly gag gifts, collections of short stories, especially funny ones. You visiting. One piece of candy every day for a week. A jigsaw puzzle of a photo that will make her smile (you making a silly face? Her kids, if she has kids?).

Is it just post-op recovery or also chemotherapy? That makes a big difference.
posted by prefpara at 10:06 PM on August 17, 2008

If she does like crafts maybe she'll enjoy learning a new one while she recovers, so a beginners knitting book, a few needles, and some nice yarn may be a good gift after all. Double check with some other relatives to make sure she isn't allergic to wool, though.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:11 PM on August 17, 2008

Having been post-op a couple of times, once after a partial mastectomy, I concur with audiobooks, something with which to play them, and maybe headphones if she's sharing a hospital room with someone. I'm practically addicted to print, but I found myself too tired to read for the first little while.

I don't scrapbook, but the people I know who do say it's immensely fun and therapeutic. I enjoy simple beading. Perhaps a book of beginner beading projects and a collection of pretty beads and some of the hardware that goes with it. I bet a place like Michael's has entire kits that have everything needed for a couple of projects.

I also found post-op that a couple of thermal mugs were really handy so I could keep a hot drink and cold drink going at the same time, and sip on one or the other as my mood/taste dictated.

Good luck to you both.
posted by angiep at 10:22 PM on August 17, 2008

Oh, if you choose the flowers, try to make sure they're low scent. Sneezing because of the perfume might be particularly uncomfortable post surgery.

Some people who like crafts like scrapbooking. You could probably find a kit, an album, some papers, labels etc, or maybe some software to help. If you send the software, sending family pictures on disk would be helpful if she doesn't have them already.

Some folk like decoupage. Perhaps you could find a kit for that?

You know, the fact that you've cared enough to send anything is going to make her feel special.
posted by b33j at 10:25 PM on August 17, 2008

I would say yes to crafts but no to beads, because as someone who is a beader, when you're really tired, worn out, and have limited mobility (recovering from surgery), the last thing you want to do is handle tiny little beads that you've dropped all over the floor. Scrapbooking is a bit fidgety as well - I'm throwing my vote behind knitting or crochet. If you don't know a knitter/crocet-er (crochetter?) personally, I would find the nearest yarn store (not a big crafts store like Michaels or Jo-Ann's Fabrics, an actual yarn store) and ask someone there to help you pick out some needles (or hooks) and yarn that would work for practice as well as something that could be adaptable for a few different projects. If you don't have a local yarn shop, there's a whole knitting forum at, and I'm sure they'd love to help. (Any of this advice about finding a consultant to make sure you have the right supplies applies to any craft you choose, of course.)
posted by bettafish at 11:37 PM on August 17, 2008

I would like to add a caveat to the knitting/crochet suggestion: If the woman in question is feeling remotely like she is losing her youth due to her cancer or her hysterectomy, then make sure that the knitting related items you send her are about fun, funky and fresh. The last thing she will want is a matronly craft that is commonly associated with grannies and old age. If she is someone who isn't very involved in crafts to begin with she might not know already that knitting has been reclaimed by a younger generation and is very hip and cool nowadays.

My sister recently had breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Her recovery from the surgery was slow and she was in a lot of pain. She wasn't supposed to be very active for the first several weeks, but one thing she could do when she was going stir crazy and needed to get out of the house was to go to the movies. It really ended up being a relaxing thing for her and I think it eased her recovery. Maybe you could include passes to theater chains in her area (or cool, independent theaters if there are any where she lives).
posted by Brody's chum at 12:28 AM on August 18, 2008

It might be a little expensive if you're trying to get her lots of stuff, but it only costs $17 for a one month, three-at-a-time Netflix gift certificate. You could even find out her favorite movies and pre-load the queue.
posted by Alison at 5:12 AM on August 18, 2008

I think a 'learn to do X' kit for a relatively simple (ie, not likely to frustrate and piss her off if she's too tired to get it right) craft she doesn't already do would be lovely. There's something life affirming about taking the time to learn a new skill, and if she's recovering from cancer, the reminder that you're all planning on having her around long enough to put that skill to good use might be uplifting. I wouldn't make a big deal about that being the message of it, but if it gives you a chance to talk to her about projects down the road, etc, in 'you'll still be here tomorrow' sort of way, that would be nice.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:12 AM on August 18, 2008

To go along with carmicha's suggestion, I highly recommend the Radio Lab podcast.
posted by spec80 at 7:52 AM on August 18, 2008

I have no idea how post-hysterectomy recovery feels, e.g. whether she'll be mostly in bed or mobile, if she'll need to doze off a lot, etc. If she's going to be in bed for most of the time and doped up or snoozy, crafting supplies might not be the best idea, because she's going to need somewhere to put all those paper scraps and Mod Podge and what have you. Knitting or crochet are less messy and might be a good choice, but there's still the potential to drop a needle or have your ball of yarn roll twenty feet away.

If you do decide to get her knitting or crochet supplies, I enthusiastically second going to a store that specializes in yarn. To start out with, get a set of straight or circular needles in size 7-10, a couple skeins of soft pretty worsted-weight yarn like Malabrigo, and perhaps Stitch 'N Bitch for a beginning knitting book, though the yarn store staff will be able to point you towards other good supplies/books. If the yarn you buy comes in a hank (like the twisty thing in this image), please please get it wound at the store. It is a total pain in the butt to wind a ball of yarn by hand even in the peak of health.

Audiobooks are fantastic. If you can't afford an iPod, or if she already has one, or whatever, a cheap portable CD player and a few mix CDs would be a nice gift.

Uncle John's Bathroom Readers
are entertaining no matter how long your attention span; if you know her taste in comics a few comic collections might be nice too.

If you know her clothing size, nice jammies or a comfy robe would be welcome. If you're particularly close to her, include some posh undies as well - though, again, I have no idea how post-hysterectomy recovery goes and she may prefer/need to go commando, depending - but the one time I was hospitalized, I would have given my left lung for some nice new underoos.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:30 AM on August 18, 2008

When my friend was recovering from cancer surgery and having chemo, he had an absurd amount of fun with this handheld 20 Questions game. I know it sounds dumb, but it fits the bill - it's distracting, you can pick it up and put it down without any fuss, other people can play it while they hang out with you. Sometimes it was hard to track something like a whole movie when chemo causes changes in the way a person feels minute to minute. Things you can do to pass a few minutes, but leave off easily, are great.
posted by Miko at 9:03 AM on August 18, 2008

I agree with Alison's suggestion of Netflix.
posted by radioamy at 9:56 AM on August 18, 2008

I haven't had cancer but I have had a hysterectomy and I would avoid sending anything that requires sitting up. Crocheting etc sounds like torture. I would have loved an mp3 player with preloaded audiobooks.
posted by desjardins at 11:26 AM on August 18, 2008

Thank you for all of your suggestions. I'm going to be considering everything suggested in every comment and will be printing them out to go over with my family.

A lot of the situation is up in the air. We're not sure what else will need to be done beyond the hysterectomy. I appreciate so much all of you who shared your experiences. We were completely unprepared for the news, and my mind is still racing in a million directions. I never thought of half of the situations and considerations that you all mentioned.. All I know is I want to do something for her. I was at the point where I was thinking that maybe flowers would be the least trouble for her, but thanks to beej's comment, I remembered that she has allergies.

Thank you all again for your kind and insightful responses.. They all meant a lot.
posted by Mael Oui at 1:07 AM on August 19, 2008

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