Preventive Mastectomy: Packing for Surgery and Preparing for Your First Weeks at Home

Posted July 18, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 11 comments

NOTE: Please take time to read the comments, as other women who have had the surgery took time to share their ideas about what they feel you should be packing for your surgery.

Several months ago I shared my choice to have a preventive mastectomy. As I began my journey I was frustrated at the lack of resources out there to help me prepare for my journey. I decided to share as much as I could on this blog in the hopes that I would make the journey easier for others. As I prepare for my second surgery (less than one month away) I have been making a mental checklist of what I need for my surgery day and hospital stay, as well as what I need around the house. It helps me feel in control of this relatively uncontrollable situation to have lists to make and items to check off. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone! Below is what I used and needed to help me with my first surgery. Please keep in mind that everyone is different, and the healing process varies depending on your age, health and circumstances. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments or, for those that have been here before, add anything you think I may have forgotten.

packing for hospital stay

Most of these items are pretty self explanatory, and I found it all fit in a oversized weekender tote. Let me remind you that for the first 3 weeks you have the arm mobility of a T-Rex dinosaur! Your clothing needs to be easy to put on (zipper top and flip flops) and comfy to help reduce any rubbing on tender incision areas. The brush, headbands, ponytail holders, and dry shampoo are a must for helping you feel refreshed and to keep hair off your face (remember you can’t reach up and get it out of the way). A simple bun or pony tail is easy for your caretaker to accomplish and will look just fine with your casual clothing. The face wash will help you feel refreshed and I even used them on my body (The Cowboy had to help of course). I found that my skin was parched for weeks after the surgery so I recommend a thick lotion. You won’t need a bra (a surgical one is given to you) but clean underwear is a must. Your phone and a charger will help you to let loved ones know all is well and allow you to connect during those few moments you aren’t dozing off. I stayed in a hotel for another 24 hours after my surgery (we live over 4 hours away and my surgeons wanted to keep me close) so my computer for watching movies and a bottle of water to help me stay hydrated were vital. The CC cream helped me to look a bit more normal and a lot less scary when I headed home to see the Cowkids.

First Weeks At Home

preventive mastectomy packing for surgery

Some of the items from your surgery day will still be useful at home, the hair accessories especially. That being said, I found that a baseball hat was my best friend. For three weeks I couldn’t wash my own hair and while The Cowboy, Ma and Mary Poppins were amazing helpers, the long process of getting clean was utterly exhausting! It was much easier to grab my baseball hat when I had to leave the house. I spent most of my first few weeks locked away in my bedroom hiding from the Cowkids and dozing off at random times. Comfy clothes that went from day to bedtime were essential, as well as my trusty laptop for watching TV and movies. Once you can remove the surgical bra, it’s nice to have a way to keep covered. With expanders a bra is not necessary, and a regular t-shirt is out of the question until week 3 or 4. I found shelf camis were the perfect solution! I could step into them and pull them up and on over my hips, and I removed them the same way. Not only will you find you still need lotion but, the damaging effects from the anesthesia means that a hair mask is also a beauty must. Speaking of meds and their effects…you WILL be “bound up” ! Invest now in a smoothie blender and a big container of fiber powder. I didn’t have much of an appetite for the first two weeks and smoothies (with added protein powder and fiber) kept me healthy. Green Tea was necessary as well. It helped to ease the bloating and other side effects from the surgery and meds, and I truly think it also helped reduce my swelling and bruising as well.

There are drain bags and tons of fancy products for keeping your surgical drains out of the way. I bought two zipper active wear tops from Wal Mart that had inside pockets and tucked the drains in there. It was cheap and practical. Keep in mind most people only have these drains for two weeks. Many people also invest in fancy arm pillows, and even special furniture for this surgery. You have to sleep sitting up for at least the first two weeks. We do have a recliner here but, I never slept in it. I simply bought a few extra pillows and moved them around depending on what was comfortable that day. I used them to prop myself up and I found that I was comfortable in my bed for both sleeping and lounging.

Want to know why I didn’t buy all the “stuff” specifically created for mastectomy patients?

Here are my thoughts…

What do you think? Did I forget anything?

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11 thoughts on "Preventive Mastectomy: Packing for Surgery and Preparing for Your First Weeks at Home"

  1. Anonymous says:

    The recliner was a must for me. Just way more comfortable there. Ours is a lazy boy and goes almost completely flat, but it was easier for me to get up and down in the recliner. I could not lifer the foot rest so I used a foot stool. I used the recliner for almost 3 months. I use two small side pillows now that I have transitioned to the bed. I am still in expanders filled with 650cc so since I have these cannon balls on my chest I’m definitely not trying any side sleeping! I am most comfortable in bed with 2 pillows under my head, 2-3 under my knees and one small pillow in each side. I have a hand rail attached to my bed under the mattress and I still use it. My surgery was 4/5/16 my exchange will be 9/7/16
    Tie long strings to pull string lights/fans before
    Have lots of 4×4 gauze and ointment on hand
    Lots of button up shirts especially pj shirts.
    Baby wipes near toilet in easy reach.
    Robe for hospital walks and slip on shoes( I like crocs)
    Anesthesia had me SO dry! Skin too. Drink LOTS of water. I took a bottle of water any time I left home for weeks. I also started laxative in hospital, don’t wait till you know you need it!
    My DR gave me neurotin for the nerve pain, I’m still taking it. The sensation is now just in my lower back. I had Lat flap reconstruction, the first few weeks the nerve pain in mostly underarm to elbow, armpit, and upper chest area.
    Sorry my post is SO long… Someone else’s turn!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks for all the info! With your surgery it was more intense (a Lat Flap Reconstruction) than mine, so glad you added the things that you needed to help you with the extra healing your body needed to do. And thanks for the button up reminder, I didn’t leave the house for two weeks but when I did I wore my cute button up chambray top and lightweight plaid. Good point to start the laxative before you need it! 😉 Thanks so much for taking the time to add to my list.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Really don’t over due it !!! I got my tubes out ,2nd week felt great ,Had company going to come for a few days I did vacuuming !!! Big mistake!!!!! OK so they came I was hurting so bad on one side !found out when I went to get a fill in expanders that they had sewed my muscles in that area after taking lymph nodes to biopsy!!! Never hurt before like this !! Don’t do things when you feel great like that

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      It is definitely a must to remember to rest and let your body heal those first three weeks! Hope you feel better now.

  3. Karen says:

    Thanks so much for the helpful info! I am preparing for surgery Thursday.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      So happy it was helpful, I found I actually used so much less than I had thought, and was thankful I didn’t buy a bunch of specialty items. Sending you hugs and strength xoxoxo

  4. Stephanie says:

    I’m preparing for my surgery and was looking for zip up hoodies you described with the pockets but no luck. Can you provide a link?

    1. Anonymous says:

      1. Prairie Wife says:

        That’s a great resource, thanks for sharing.

  5. Susi says:

    I had a back scratcher near me at all time and it was a lifesaver (especially since arm movement is limited) – and I had an allergic reaction to one of the antibiotics which made me crazily itchy.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      That’s a great tip!

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