Aztec 3

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Practical Matters: Mastectomy Prep & Useful Gear

Something that I never thought about before I had cancer was the preparation that goes into surgery and/or chemo. I didn't have chemo so I can't personally speak to that, but I did have quite a bit of time (two months) to prepare for my bilateral mastectomy. I scoured websites for advice on helpful tips and gear and here's what I came up with. Obviously, every person is different with varying timelines, access, and means, so take this list for what it is -- what was helpful to me and may be helpful to you or someone you love.

Must Haves

  • Front closure sports bras (zipper or hook & eye -- I found mine at Walmart but have seen ones at Academy, too)
  • Ice packs (the little round ones for kids work great!) -- Only use these if your doc okays it. Some don't want patients to use them because you won't be able to tell if your skin is getting too cold. I didn't have issues with that and found them to be immensely helpful in relieving muscle pain.
  • Loose fitting button up shirts
  • Loose fitting button up pajamas and/or oversized tank tops that you can pull up from your feet
  • Lanyard with clip (to wear in the shower and hang your drains on). I ordered and used a product called the Prody Drainage Bulb Holder ( and it was by far one of my most useful post-surgical items.
  • Face wipes -- it's difficult to do anything, let alone lean over a sink to wash your face in those first days after surgery.
  • Baby wipes -- for everything else when showering is too hard
  • Alcohol swabs (to clean drain port after emptying)
Might Make Things Easier
  • 4x4 cotton gauze pads (the drain sites hurt so I covered mine with gauze and that helped keep the pressure from the bra off of them)
  • Surgical tape (Nexcare makes a cushioned tape that is awesome)
  • Neosporin (in case your drain sites need it)
  • Dermaplast spray (this makes any hurting incision feel better and disinfects)
I slept in a recliner for the first two weeks. It had an easy to access and use electric button. There's no way that i would have been able to reach or have the strength to manage a traditional/manual recliner lever. If a recliner is not an option you'll need lots of pillows to prop you up since laying flat will put a lot of pressure on the drain sites. You won't be able to sleep on your stomach or side for a while.

I used a waterproof pad under my sheets in case the drains leaked. The only time this happened was in the hospital but it made me feel better about not messing up a mattress/recliner.

Do you have any advice for surgery prep or recovery gear? I'll add more as I think of it but please feel free to leave comments so I can add your info as well. And please ask questions if you have them!

And...One Year and One Day Post-Op