Thursday, August 30, 2018

If You're Having a Mastectomy...

If you're going to have a mastectomy, there are some things you can do to prepare.

I'm not talking about mental and emotional preparation; that's all very personal.  There's only so much you can do to prepare yourself (and your spouse and children, if you have them) to lose a body part or two.

I'm talking about practical preparation, which can help you feel better - at least you'll be doing something while you wait for your breast amputation to happen.

While everyone's experience differs, these are some of the items that I found the most helpful for my surgery and recovery:

One of things I couldn't have lived without for the first couple of weeks was my mastectomy pillow.  I found a pattern online, Gisèle picked out the fabric, and my mom sewed it for me.  It's fluffy and soft, with flannel on both sides.  After surgery I used it to protect my chest from my arms or anything else that wanted to rest on it, and also used it as a seatbelt protector.

My lovely mom, showing the shape of the pillow, with cutouts for the arms.
Here's the other side of the pillow, doing its job protecting my chest from a cuddly kitty.

Button-up pajamas.  I wore nothing but these for the first week.  My favorites are the super-soft knit shorts and short-sleeved shirt sets from Gilligan & O'Malley at Target, like the ones below.  I preferred shorts and short-sleeves because they were the easiest to get on and off, and I could always cover up if I got cold.

Button-up shirts and soft joggers/yoga pants.  When you do want to get dressed, you're still not going to be able to pull anything on over your head, so you'll need button-up shirts.  Buy a size or two larger than you'd normally wear.  Even though you'll be missing breasts, you'll have drains to contend with, and the extra room will be more comfortable.  I found soft, comfy shirts at Target and Old Navy, and pants at Old Navy and Kohl's.  I also wore soft zip-up hoodies as shirts when I didn't want to do up all the buttons.  Old Navy was a favorite for those, too.

Drain pouches.  I wore one 24/7 until the drains were all out.  I actually had 2, handed down from a friend & fellow survivor. One was solid black material, and the other was mesh and had longer strings.  The mesh one was meant to be used as a shower drain bag, but I ended up using it all the time.  It zipped shut, so I could keep the drain tubes corralled, and the strings were long enough that I could wrap them around and tie them in front.  Since I was spending so much time sitting or laying down, it was nice not to have a knot in the middle of my back.  I used a lanyard to pin the drain pouch(es) to when I showered so I could keep the drain pouch dry.  The pouch I used looked similar to this:

A wedge pillow.  This was recommended by ladies on the YSC (Young Survival Coalition) Facebook page, and came in handy when I transitioned from sleeping in the recliner to sleeping in the bed.  I wasn't able to lay completely on my back, so I spent about a week laying on the wedge pillow, instead.  I bought mine from Amazon:

I would also recommend a good neck pillow.  If you spend time sleeping in a recliner, like I did, this comes in handy.  The one I bought stayed nice and cool, which helped with my hot flashes.

Silicone scar strips.  These were recommended by my physical therapist to help better the appearance of my scars.  I ordered long ones (7in) from Amazon, and each strip is just long enough for one of my scars.

I'm sure there are other things, but... chemo brain.

I had my radiation simulation today, but that is for another post.

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