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