Prior to my surgery, I looked everywhere to find information about preparing for a mastectomy. To my surprise, I never found a list or article that outlined the things I would need. For the most part, the preparation suggestions I found were generally tailored more to women who were having a mastectomy because of an identified cancer.
So, in an effort to help others who may be looking for some suggestions, I am going to highlight some of the things I found to be helpful during my recovery. I want to remind you that I had a skin sparing prophylactic double mastectomy. There are several different types of mastectomy and all the things I mention below may not be helpful for each type.
You may need….
1. Comfortable shirts with HUGE arm holes.
Crappy lighting in my picture, huh? Sorry.
After surgery, I had a hard time moving my arms. I was very sore and the drains made moving my arms even more difficult. I found that these tank tops were perfect because I did not have to stretch my arms too far apart in order to get them on. I bought these at Forever 21 for less than $3 each. They worked perfectly and I didn’t have to worry if they somehow got ruined.
2. A lanyard.
If you are as lucky as I was, and wake up with multiple drains, you are going to need some way to manage the crazy things. For the first few days, I safety pinned my drains to this lanyard so they weren’t hanging down all the time. Even after I quit using the lanyard during the day, I continued to use it at night and when I showered to keep my drains in check.
3. Small pillows for resting your arms.
After surgery, it hurt to lay in bed and hold my arms in certain positions. I used these handy dandy small pillows to prop up my arms and they helped me so much! The red pillows are from an amazing mastectomy bag that some of my college friends sent me (Thank you Meg and Abbi!) from bffl.com. The white pillow is a small coughing pillow my best friends’ mom made for me (Love you, Joann!). They worked like a charm.
4. Large, long, comfortable jackets.
This is an example of a jacket I wore over my tank tops after my surgery. Around the house I generally did not wear them. However, when company came over or I had to go to an appointment, I needed jackets big enough and long enough to mask all my crazy drains. These jackets also came in handy because they were super soft which felt nice on my sensitive skin. This particular jacket came in very handy because it had inside pockets that could hold all 6 of my drains.
5. Elastic waist pants.
Sure wish those were my abs!!! I stole that picture from the Nike website.
Post surgery, I just didn’t want to use my arms for anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. So, instead of stretching to pull on and button up jeans, I lived in several pairs of Nike workout pants. These pants made it so much easier to use the bathroom and get dressed everyday. They were comfortable and also worked out well for my drains. After getting tired of having a lanyard around my neck all the time, I started to safety pin my drains to my waistband and wear a jacket that covered them up. I’m sure any elastic waisted pants would be perfect.
6. A notebook.
After surgery, I was so loopy from all my medicines that I had a hard time remembering anything. I kept a notebook by my bed next to all my meds and drain stuff. If I needed to remember something, I wrote it down in the notebook. My amazing husband and sister-in-law used the notebook to document when I was taking each medicine so they would know when I needed to take my next dose.
7. Extra first aid supplies.
When I left the hospital, I was given extensive directions on how to take care on my drain sites. The nurses sent me home with tons of gauze, neosporin, and medical tape to use. However, my drains stayed in for quite a while and I eventually ran out. Thank goodness that my mastectomy bag (Thanks again, Meg and Abbi!) had a host of extra supplies that we used when we needed them.
8. A shower seat.
I wanted to shower ASAP when I got home from the hospital. Showering itself wasn’t difficult, but I got really tired standing up that long so soon right after surgery. I needed a shower seat, but didn’t have one. So, my resourceful husband went to our basement and got an empty five gallon bucket and put it upside down in my bathtub. I covered it with a towel and sat on it when I got tired during my shower. Not exactly glamorous, but I didn’t care… I just wanted to be clean!
9. Arms-free entertainment.
Even after it didn’t hurt to move my arms, my surgeon still asked that I move them as little as possible. Thank goodness I had a subscription to netflix and that people had given me so many books to read! I would have been so frustrated and bored without them.
10. A support network.
I really believe I had the best recovery possible. As of now, I have had no major complications or set backs. However, even with that, I needed help (and it was fabulous help, I might add!). I needed encouragement. I needed people to reach things for me. I needed help opening medicine bottles, keeping track of things I couldn’t remember, cooking , and more. You really don’t realize how many muscles are affected by a mastectomy until you can’t use them. So… rally your troops if you can. You won’t be sorry.