Preventive Mastectomy: Packing for Surgery and Preparing for Your First Weeks at Home
Posted July 18, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 4 comments
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.
Surgery Day and 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
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.
What do you think? Did I forget anything?