Breast cancer is a harsh disease. No matter what kind of treatment you endure, it is not an easy road to travel. It takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. Mastectomy is one form of treatment. A mastectomy is not an easy surgery. There is no way to truly be prepared for what lies ahead of you, but there are a few things you can do to get ready. A friend shared a few tips she did with me before mine. It helped a lot. I’d like to share a few tips with you. If you are preparing to have a mastectomy, these may help you get ready for your surgery.
Here are a few tips that may help you before and after you have your surgery.
- Buy button down shirts. You can buy shirts at a second hand store like the Salvation Army. After the mastectomy, you with have drains and it will hurt to lift your arms over your head. After my mastectomy, I wore some old button down shirts my husband had from an old job he once worked. It was more comfortable to slide my arms into sleeves without raising them over my head.
- Ask your surgeon for a prescription for a camisole or get a fanny back. The camisole is like a vest with pockets to hold your drains. It fits comfortably under your shirt. You can even get one from the hospital after your surgery. Some find camisoles uncomfortable, and in that case you can use a fanny pack to hold your drains. I was fitted for two camisoles. One was loose and the second was a bit tighter. I found the looser one more comfortable.
- Plan to sleep in a recliner or gather pillows to prop you up in bed. After your surgery, it will be too painful to sleep lying flat on your back or on your side. You’ll need to sleep propped up. My husband has a recliner in the basement, but I didn’t want to sleep down there, and there was no place in our living room to put it. I gathered several pillows and propped myself up in bed. I’m normally a side sleeper, but going through a mastectomy takes a lot out of you so I fell asleep without problem.
- Buy protein foods you don’t have to prepare. Protein helps with the healing process, but you will not be in any shape to prepare meals. So, before your surgery buy protein bars, Ensure with protein, and peanut butter. If someone is making you a meal and he or she asks what you like, suggest foods rich in protein like chicken, peas, and cheese. After my surgery, I drank Ensure regularly, my mom bought me protein bars, and some of my friends made me meals with chicken and other protein rich foods.
- Build a support system. You’ll need family and friends to talk to, to cry on the shoulders of, and to encourage you. Support groups are also helpful. Losing a part of your body is not easy. You’ll go through stages of grief and depression. I had friends I could text, my parents to call, and my husband to rub my back. I also joined a support group for breast cancer patients and survivors called Link By Pink. The group was, and is very helpful and encouraging. Losing your breasts or a breast is not easy to handle; if you think you need to see a therapist, talk to the cancer center for references. They may even have a therapist for you to see.
- Welcome friends and family who offer to help. If you have friends or family who ask, “What can I do to help?” suggest they help with meals, to sit with you to give your caregiver a break, or help with household chores. When I had my surgery, a friend started a chart where people signed up to bring my husband and me meals each day, my mom, sister and family visited with me while my husband took some time for himself, and a family friend did dishes for me. This helped not only me, but also my husband who was my caretaker.
Going through a mastectomy is rough. You’ll need a lot of rest and plenty of time to grieve. Don’t plan on doing much, beyond resting. Follow these suggestions on the list and you will get through this. Don’t be surprised if you’re very emotional or if it takes time to even look at your chest. This surgery takes a lot out of you physically and emotionally. You can get through this. You will beat cancer.
It was rough going through this surgery, but I am proudly a year and a half cancer free. I’ll never forget what I went through to get there, but I am happy. The light of recovery is beaming down on me.