Preparing for surgery

I have seen many different lists outlining what you should do before surgery, what to take to the hospital, and how to make your life easier through recovery. Check out the Mastectomy Surgery Checklist from FORCE, a prep guide and a checklist from MyDestiny.

Here’s the list I kept for myself (after-surgery updates included) .

NotePreparing your body:

  • Get in the best physical shape you can manage before the surgery. The healthier the body, the more tolerant it is to trauma and the faster it recovers. ¤ YES! But lay off the push-ups and focus on core and legs. Note: I chose reconstruction via tissue expanders/implants, which directly impacts the pectoralis major muscle. Your doctor may offer different advice based on type of recon (or no recon). 
  • Constipation can be an issue after pain medication and anesthesia. Two weeks pre-surgery start getting more fluids (avoid caffeine), fiber, flax seed, prunes, or prune juice in your diet. You can also purchase an over-the-counter stool softener. ¤ Colace was the only medication that made me nauseous. I stopped taking it. Sunsweet prune juice did the trick. I went #2 on day five.

Preparing your home:

  • Rent a recliner or a hospital bed. Alternatively use lots of pillows, buy a wedge pillow or get yourself a BedLounge. Because of drains you will not be able to sleep on your side and obviously can’t sleep on your stomach. Pillows are crucial if you don’t normally sleep flat on your back. Most women report that sleeping at a 45 degree angle seems to be most comfortable. Buy one of those c-shaped travel pillows to help support your neck. ¤ I borrowed an electric recliner from a friend. Covered it with a vinyl sheet and a sterile white one. BEST THING EVER.
  • Buy or borrow a TV tray type of table on wheels. Have it next to your recliner or bed.
  • Get a Tiddy Bear or a travel-size pillow for the car to keep the seat belt off your chest. ¤ Tiddy Bears are great! The key is to have two of them – one up high on the shoulder and one under the boobs.
  • Have a set of clean sheets ready for the day the you return from the hospital.
  • Move everything you will need during the day to waist level.
  • Buy paper plates, plastic cups, straws, food in/on smaller and lighter containers. ¤ Yes on the straws, but all the other stuff I didn’t really use.
  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time or have someone as the designated cook while you recover.
  • Buy or rent a shower chair or have a cooler handy. ¤ I sat on a small cooler.
  • Get a back brush for showering. ¤ YES!
  • Place bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere.
  • Buy a personal digital thermometer if you don’t already have one. Monitor your body temp (keeping infection in mind). ¤ Yup, this is important. Take temp daily.
  • Things for the nightstand:
    • Medications (track when and how much taken) ¤ Set an alarm clock/cell phone to wake up at night and take on a schedule, rather than wait for the pain to hit.
    • Gauze, tape, scissors
    • Rubber gloves
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Tissues
    • Chapstick
    • Snacks
    • Water
    • Note pad and pen
    • Books and magazines
    • Tablet/eReader and charger
    • Phone and charger
    • Camera ¤ This is important. I took photos every single day from multiple angles. They helped me keep track of the necrosis and were my go-to when I thought I developed a seroma.

Other handy items to buy before surgery:

  • Lanyard or a special bra with drain pockets (insurance may cover) or make your own drain pockets if you have a sewing machine (see vid below) ¤ A lanyard worked well for me.
  • Button down shirts
  • Dry shampoo
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Non-child-proof medication bottles
  • Tylenol

For the hospital (if staying overnight):

  • Button down top
  • Lanyard/drain pockets
  • Head band and ties
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Face wipes
  • Throat lozenges
  • Chapstick
  • Eye mask, ear plugs
  • Back scratcher (meds will make you itchy)
  • eReader/tablet and charger (check if hospital has wi-fi)
  • Headphones
  • Tiddy Bears or small pillow for the seat belt during the ride home

28 thoughts on “Preparing for surgery

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  6. Trina Schilling

    I hope this message finds you well. Thank you for visiting my blog. I would love to share my story with your readers, I see that you link other blog writers, would you be willing to link mine? Many thanks, Trina

      1. Trina Schilling

        Thank you so much. Do you need anything from me to set up the link? Strength and determination I do possess. I hope my story can be used for the good of others, I just can’t imagine that I have been given this journey without a higher purpose…I have written a book that is in the hands of a publishing team that are considering a book deal with me. Thank you for sharing your story as well, it makes me feel good to know that I am not alone 🙂

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  12. Kara

    I am so grateful that I found your site…I am having my PBM on 11/20/14 and I’m super nervous. I’ve researched most everything I can, and I know that I’m making the right decision, but I haven’t really told anyone. Immediate family, but am nervous about telling friends. I’m not looking for their approval or opinion, this was a hard enough decision without everyone else chiming in. Your list for pre-surgery is really helpful, and there were things on there I wouldn’t have thought of. There aren’t any support groups that I’ve found unless you actually have cancer… I have felt alone in this journey…my family is loving, but they don’t completely understand my worries and such. Thank you for telling your story and sharing so much…I feel more at ease though I’m sure I’ll have a few little melt downs along the way…

    1. nope2BC Post author

      Thanks for reading and for your note, Kara. Completely understandable to be very nervous with the surgery just a few days away and yes, there may be meltdowns along the way. Know that this is normal. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions leading up to my surgery. And I also know that it’s difficult to decide who to tell and when is the right time. Whatever feels good for you is really the right answer. I’m sorry that you haven’t found any support locally. Have you looked at FORCE or Bright Pink to see if there’s a group or an individual in your area? Those two organization are more likely to have local members in a similar situation to yours (pre-cancer, high risk). How about Facebook? Do you spend any time on there? There are a bunch of support groups for exactly this. Specifically Prophylactic Mastectomy and Young Previvors. There’s also BRCA Sisterhood (don’t have to have mutation to be a member). Thousands of women from all across the globe that are either getting ready, like you, just went through it, or have been there and can offer advice and support. I encourage you to join. To do so search for the group name on Facebook, request to join, and keep an eye on your FB inbox for instructions/questions from the admins.

      All the best to you on Thursday! Hope you can find some peace in the next few days, but know that you WILL get through it!

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  14. Cheryl Spiers

    I just found your blog!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I am scheduled for a bilateral THIS Friday. I have been searching for information you have provided. Diagnosed with Stage 2 right with lymph nodes and HER 2 +. After finishing TCH on Dec 29, I decided on bilateral in hopes it won’t come back in later years. My surgeon informed me that this is an overnight surgery and I will be going home the next day (barring complications). That concerns me, a major surgery and discharged the next day. You get a longer stay with child birth! My household contains an active 2y/o boy and a college student husband, I won’t have much help during the day (son a grandma’s), so I will be home alone. Nervous and scared are UNDERSTATEMENTS!!

    I hope everything is going well for you and look forward to reading more of your posts!
    God Bless
    Cheryl from Charleston, AR

    1. nope2BC Post author

      Thanks for reading and for the note, Cheryl!
      I hope you’ll have some friends or family on speed dial in case you need help during the day. I highly recommend that you have someone hang out with you at least the first few days if at all possible. You will not only be in pain, but also doped up to manage that pain, so doing some basic things will be difficult. I hope that the info makes your prep and then recovery easier. All the best on Friday!!! Hope the surgery goes well and you have a complication-free, speedy recovery. ❤

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