Recovery at home



Martin’s story – Recovery

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David’s story – Recovery

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Charles’ story – Recovery

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Most people can relax and recover best at home. It can be daunting going back home, let us know if you are worried.

It is important that you continue with walking and every day activities like washing yourself, dressing and cooking. Build up your fitness gradually with gentle walking, and stair climbing, which are safe and are encouraged.

How much social and emotional support you need is very individual but many people find the support of friends, family and charities to be invaluable. For example, having a cup of tea with someone and talking about your normal shared interests. The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation provide support groups across the UK.

You may wish to join online discussions with Macmillan Cancer Support .

After care at home
When you go home you will need someone to be with you for the first few days, most patients are well enough to look after themselves when they go home. During your first week after discharge it is important that you have someone to help you with domestic chores such as cooking and shopping and to ensure that you are safe at home. For heavier tasks (such as laundry, shopping, vacuum cleaning and mowing the lawn) you will need help for a few weeks. You should not do any heavy lifting for 6 weeks.

Support from your family and friends will help you to recover quicker. If you live alone or do not have someone who can give you support, please tell us as soon as possible. You may need some help at home immediately after your operation, we can help organise this.

You may feel quite well after 6 weeks but allow 3-6 months for full recovery. You may also have good days and bad days; it can feel like you are taking forward and backward steps. This is normal.

Who do I contact if there is a problem?
If you feel very unwell please attend A&E urgently, taking your discharge documents with you

If you have any problems or questions, or are concerned about any aspect of your recovery then you can either:

  • Ring your lung cancer nurse specialist (CNS).
  • See your GP or practice nurse.
  • Speak to your surgeon next time you attend the outpatient department if you do not mind waiting until then.
  • In the first few days after discharge the ward you were discharged from may be able to answer simple questions about things such as wound dressings.
Pain relief
A supply of tablets will be given to you to take home. You will be told how and when to take your tablets by the nurse. This may happen on the ward or at the discharge lounge. Continue taking them regularly at home.  You should reduce your pain tablets only when you feel ready, but probably not for the first week after discharge. Reduce them gradually over several days, but continue to take the morning and night dose for as long as you feel it is necessary. Wounds can take some time to heal and you can expect to feel some discomfort for up to three months after your operation. If you require further medication you will need to contact your GP.

It does you no good to be in pain.

Wound care, showers and baths
At the end of your operation the wound will be stitched together. The stitches are usually dissolvable and do not need removing. Your wound may feel tight or swollen at first. Do not worry about pulling the wound open, you would feel pain well before the risk of damaging your wound. The tightness will settle with time. You may be able to feel the end of the suture, this is normal and it should settle over time. While you are in hospital, your wound dressing will be checked daily; once the dressing is clean and dry, it can be removed completely. If you need any special dressings when you go home these will be explained to you on the ward. The chest tube stitch does not dissolve, it will need to be removed 5-7 days after your drain was removed by your practice or district nurse.

The skin takes 2-4 weeks to heal. You can shower or bath but do not rub or soak the wounds until they are fully healed. Avoid having the water too hot, it may make you feel faint. It is a good idea to have someone else in the home when you shower or bath, just in case you feel unwell. Pat the skin dry gently after washing. Avoid talcum powder and lotions until the wound is healed. After this a plain, unscented moisturiser helps keep skin healthy and supple. Keep the scar protected from the sun for 6 months.

If your wound becomes red, painful or starts discharging fluid, then please contact your GP.

It is normal to have numbness, tingling or a pricking feeling around the wounds and at the front of the chest. This should settle over the coming weeks. If it is problematic or does not improve medication targeting nerve pain may help; your GP should be able to discuss this with you, alternatively discuss this at your follow up appointments.

Chest drains
If you go home with a drain, you will be monitored in Out-patient Drain Clinic in QEH.
Rest and Sleep
During the first few weeks at home you will find you tire easily. Adequate rest is as important as exercising for your recovery. Have a rest in the afternoon for about 2 hours. You should find that after a few weeks you will need less rest through the day.

It may take several weeks for you to settle back into your normal sleeping routine. Taking your painkillers at night can help with any soreness.

Follow up appointments
You will be seen in outpatient clinic 2 – 4 weeks after your surgery (depending on your operation). You will usually have a chest X ray before the appointment. Here we will discuss about how you are recovering and your on-going care. You may find it helpful to write down any questions you have at home and bring this with you. We will discuss results from the operation and how these will affect the treatment options for you. Sometimes you will be contacted by a different department to see them first.
It is important to continue exercise at home. You should also have climbed the hospital stairs before going home to ensure your safety when using your own stairs. At first, take it slowly and rest halfway. It will become easier each day.

If you were fit before your operation, after about six weeks try walking two to three miles a day, aiming for distance rather than speed. Check your posture in the mirror make sure your shoulders are level, nicely relaxed and your back is straight. You should maintain this posture when sitting, standing and walking