Preparing and recovering from any major surgery can be nerve-wracking; it’s even more so when the unpredictability of cancer is at play. We know that one of the toughest parts of preparing for treatment is accepting the unknown alongside your friends and family. And recovery is, at times, unexpectedly difficult- adjusting to your new body and keeping an eye out for your health can be a lot of stress for one person.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with the knowledge you need beforehand to ensure the smoothest treatment and recovery process possible.
Prep before surgery
The days and weeks leading up to the mastectomy are a great opportunity to improve your health as much as possible. Try to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats while avoiding processed foods. Many women admit that strengthening their core muscles proved valuable in their mobility since you’ll have to avoid using your arms. Any kind of exercise beforehand is overall helpful towards ensuring a speedy recovery. You also might want to take some pictures of your breasts before; in case you decide on reconstruction later, the surgeon will find this useful.
There are plenty of other lifestyle adjustments to consider outside of the surgery itself. It’s good to think about what you’ll need right afterward, especially since you’ll be in the hospital for 2-3 days. You won’t be able to shower, so consider buying some hygienic items like hand sanitizer, baby wipes, dry shampoo and some hair ties or hairbands. Talk to your doctor about the specifics of bathing, since everyone’s operation is different.
Comfortable, loose clothing, a mastectomy pillow, and some entertainment are also must-haves when it comes to your hospital stay. Be sure to ask your surgeon about post-surgical camisoles for use after surgery. These are a great way to maintain your drain pouches and make life much easier. We ask that you come in to be fit about 2 weeks prior to surgery for your camisoles. After you’ve been discharged, it’s vital to have someone drive you home to make sure you stay safe.
It’s always a good idea to talk everything over with the important people in your life. You may experience a whole range of emotions that need to be addressed both before and after. Anger, sadness, denial, and many other complex feelings are perfectly normal but learning to cope with them should be the goal. Aside for going to your primary doctor for a referral to a mental health specialist, there are countless cancer support groups online, in-person and over-the-phone. One way to find out what is available is to call a hospital near you and ask about group programs or find one through this cancer support database, which covers many areas of support besides mental health.
Since you won’t be able to use your arms for a few days after a mastectomy, it’s necessary to get someone to help with your daily activities. We do understand that having a full-time caregiver isn’t possible for everyone, so we’ve compiled a list of services that could prove quite useful while you take time off to heal.
Meal Train is a great website to get started planning your meals during those first days and weeks post-surgery. The way it works is like this: first, a loved one starts a “meal train”, passes it around to more friends and family on social media, and soon, you could have all your meals set up for the month within a calendar! Those who participate can contribute by either sending gift cards, delivering home cooked meals, or making financial donations. It’ll warm your heart to see how many people are willing to help out someone in need.
Cleaning for a Reason is also a great resource for those who need housecleaning while going through treatment or recovering. This organization is made of dedicated volunteers looking to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients in a way most people don’t really consider.
One of the most important things to remember is that even if everything goes well, there can still be other financial challenges, especially if you have children who need full-time care as well. The American Cancer Society mentions many programs to look into while managing the expenses of your care. With the help of these resources, each day can be made a little easier post-mastectomy.
Front Room Underfashions hopes to be part of this mission in getting women to feel confident and capable in their bodies long after the scars have healed. We view our wide selection of mastectomy bras and our custom prostheses as part of the recovery process and life beyond cancer.