Taking a shower after a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy can be a challenge. For the first few days after the procedure, it is not a good idea, because of limits on mobility/range of motion, weakness, and the presence of surgical drains. Some doctors instruct their patients not to shower until the drains have been removed. Until that time, sponge baths are the way to go. I got clearance from my doctor to take a shower four days after my procedure. I almost hugged him when he uttered those words.
The magical day was Saturday (surgery was Tuesday). I waited until about 30 minutes after taking a dose of pain meds, so they had a chance to work their magic. My equipment:
- Someone to help
- Shower chair or a small cooler with a towel draped over it
- Antibacterial soap
- Regular pouf
- Back brush/pouf
The whole process took somewhere around 30 minutes, with most of it spent on undressing and then putting clothing back on in what seemed like slow motion. I wore my underpants and clipped my drains to them (washed my butt last:)). An alternative is to wear a shoestring or a lanyard around the neck and clip the drains to that.
I sat on the cooler facing away from the shower head and let the water run down my back rather than directly onto my incision sites and boobies. I insisted on doing the washing, including my hair. It was tough to reach up and scrub – taking it slow and noting when it was too much was the key. The back bush helped with the hard-to-reach places. It was a much needed extension of my t-rex arms. I put antibac soap directly on my hands and gently washed the incision sites, the armpits where the drains exited, and the rest of the chest. After showering, I patted the chest dry with a clean, sanitized towel. This was a much needed refresher!
In one week, I progressed from the sit-down shower or a bath (water level below the chest) to my first real, solo, stand-up shower. The day I wrote this post, nine days post-op, I felt limber enough to shave my legs. Someone release the marching band! My armpits are still a bit sasqutch-esque, because the drain tube holes haven’t completely healed, so I’ll hold off shaving them.