I’m the youngest out of seven siblings, five girls, and two boys. My two older sisters Twilia and Gloria were diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time I found out I was pregnant with my daughter in 2002. Both of my sisters went through radiation and chemotherapy and both had mastectomies. With Twilia everything went well and even had reconstructive surgery and she survived, but with Gloria her cancer had metastasized to her pancreas and she was tired of going through the motions of radiation and chemotherapy after 5 years of dealing with it she passed March 31, 2005.
But with all this as with all operations, they are tailored specifically to your individual needs and each one of us will have a different experience, which your wonderful medical team will guide you safely through. Here are some tips of what to pack for your mastectomy.
What to pack for a mastectomy
- Button-up pajamas: After surgery, your arm mobility will be limited, so button-up pajamas are essential. Your surgeon and nurses will be monitoring and checking your surgery wound for infection every couple of hours, especially in the first few days, so having an easily removable top is therefore best. A comfortable, light fabric is key, you don’t want to overheat or sweat profusely close to your surgical site. I’d recommend a cotton or soft jersey style and would give any woolly, silk or fluffy PJ’s a wide berth. If you find some nightwear that have pockets, this is a bonus, as they can be a great asset in helping carry your Pico dressing, pain barrels or drains (more on that below).
- Slippers/comfortable slip-on shoes: I don’t trust slippers, even the first four letters should be a clue as to why I feel they’re a hazard. What I decided to do was to buy my sisters was a pair of soft sprung, Skecher-like shoes. I found out that they gave them balance and a better sense of security on days they wanted to wander around the hospital or go for a short walk. After the operation, you will be unsteady on your feet, so if you do bring slippers, ensure the soles are robust and solid.
- Socks (fluffy, thermal, warm): You will have to wear the very glamorous compression socks in hospital until you’re being discharged, so I packed several pairs of thermal socks to wear over to keep my toes toasty.
- Wash bag: A face cloth, dry towel, toothpaste and toothbrush, ear plugs, hair comb, and brush as your arm mobility will be limited. A nice cleanser, moisturizer/face oil. I also packed a hand and body cream and a good lip balm. Post-surgery, your skin will be dehydrated and dry so pack yourself a few nice treats, I found applying the lotions and potions had a lovely holistic and therapeutic effect.
- Entertainment: Netflix on your phone, laptop/tablet, and headphones. A fully-charged Kindle, a puzzle book, magazines, some books to read… anything that will occupy your day.
- Extra-long phone charger: This is a MUST, reaching and stretching is out of the question. The long lead will save you over-extending or accidentally reaching over for your phone unnecessarily. The phone is a great gadget to have but it’s a double-edged sword, lovely for the supportive messages and calls but self-care here is very important. You need to rest and recuperate, nobody expects an instant reply, they are just letting you know they are thinking of you. Your significant other will be inundated, and like a good press secretary, they will field most of the enquiries and important calls for you.
- Other suggestions: A post-mastectomy bra (speak to your Breast Care Nurse about what is most appropriate), drinks (bottles of water, cordial, herbal tea bags) and snacks.
Finally, good luck… You’ve got this!