In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to offer a list of additional resources that were phenomenal supports for me during my Bilateral Mastectomy post-op journey.
I remembered googling at a feverish speed, everything I could find from women who shared THINGS I WISH I WOULD HAVE KNOWN before my mastectomy.
I didn’t want the horror stories.
I didn’t want to be scared.
I wanted to be prepared.
And though The I See You Company is about celebrating ALL of life's milestones-with a wish- I knew I had to write a blog that could provide all of the resources I used in one-stop-shop!
My hope is that this blog can support you if you are in the midst of your breast journey or if you have someone who could use this as an informational guide.
I've been making my list and compiling notes throughout the journey.
I’ve shared this list as I’ve been asked for advice from those who were about to have a mastectomy or knew someone going through it and at least one thing has always been able to help someone.
So let me be crystal clear on one thing. Breast Cancer is a VERY INDIVIDUAL journey.
What worked for me may not be needed for you, and that’s OK! Take what you want, leave what you don’t.
And if you are supporting someone in this journey, please do just that. Support them. They are going to need you through this!
Don’t forget to ask what they need and want.
No matter what, there will be are certain things they will need and I hope this gives them/you peace in this journey because YOU CAN DO IT! YOU WILL DO IT! And it will turn out better than expected!
So here we go......
My Bilateral Mastectomy Must Haves:
#1 MUST HAVE: I was advised this was not necessarily for post surgery recovery. Let me be clear, it is not! HOWEVER, for me it was crucial for my comfort, especially the first week post op. You are not allowed/able to use your arms and push yourself up to stand so this enables you to do so with ease. This electric recliner was a game changer for the first 5 days and became my bed for 3-4 weeks post op (Costco or American Signature have some of the best prices and quality). You won’t be allowed/able to lay flat for the first 2-4 weeks, but these recliners recline to the perfect and adjustable angle!
#2 MUST HAVE: The ZZZ Pal Pillow made sleeping anywhere possible, especially in recliners. Its hard to find a comfortable position to fall asleep with your head/neck when you are propped up at a 45-90 degree angle. This pillow created a soft cradle for my neck that allowed my head to rest against the fuller parts. Look for sales/discount or sign up for email to get discounts on the neck pillow. Bring this pillow to the hospital because it will help you for the overnight stay after surgery.
#3 MUST HAVE: Best/Softest post op shirt w/ drain pockets. Your drains fit perfectly in the designated pockets and are button down. You will not be able to zip up, pullover your head and lift your arms into any garments for the first two weeks (sometimes more depending on doctors orders), so this shirt is an easy fit. I lived in this for over 4 weeks and even after my mastectomy, I wore this shirt for each additional surgery because it was so soft and comfortable. Either way though, you’ll want to wear something soft like pajamas, but you’ll need a button up shirt!
#4 MUST HAVE: Because of the limited arm range in motion, having a Chest Pillow makes things a lot more comfortable. Laying in the bed or recliner, riding in the car and putting this between you and the seat belt, will be comforting and protective with this pillow. Because I found this just days before my surgery I was unable to make one. Check Pinterest for pillow dimensions so a friend/you can sew one. If not, check out Pink Pepper for their mastectomy pillow! It's the best $39.99 you'll spend in this journey. MASTECTOMY Breast Cancer Post Op Chest PILLOW.
#5 MUST HAVE: Time for some real talk. Between the anesthesia and the meds you may be on, you are likely to get "plugged up." It's true, lets remove the stigma and get things moving (ha-See What I did there!)! That's one more thing you do not need to deal with in the midst of this journey. Finding the Aerobic Life Mag O7 was life changing when this situation hit me. For me, I wish I had known about this sooner as I would have started taking this within 24hours of getting home. (I am not a doctor, so remember to ask your medical provider about using this and the length of time to use it) Aerobic Life Mag O7 Oxygen Digestive System Cleanser Capsules, 90 Count: Health & Personal Care
#6 MUST HAVE: Staying hydrated with WATER is crucial for recovery and detoxing your body. However, cups/water bottles will be too heavy or hard to hold. I found that for 3-4 weeks post op any kids size water bottle were the perfect fit. I especially loved the Contigo 12/14oz bottles because it had a built in straw, you could add ice to it, easily close it and light weight.
#7 MUST HAVE: CBD living is a great resource for non-toxic, pain management. NO THC so no high, just relief.
#8 MUST HAVE: It is important to have someone stay the night with you at the hospital. You will be under the influence of medication, so it's important you have someone there who can support and advocate for you if you need anything, no matter the hour. Nurses and staff at the hospital will be amazing, but you are not their only patient. However, YOU are the most important person in your world so it's ok to make sure you have exactly what you need. Your person will prob not have a comfortable night's sleep (they’ll be ok for one night) and they’ll will need to bring their own bag with Pjs, pillow, tooth brush, and phone charger. It will be worth it to have this support.
#9 MUST HAVE: Bring a pair of non-slip slippers and a robe to the hospital with you. Before they can discharge you, you will have to walk at least a lap in your hospital unit. Non-slip slippers will make the shuffle easier and the robe will make you feel comfortable so you aren't hanging out in the back and in case you are cold.
#10 MUST HAVE: Ok, I gotta go there again! Buy fragrance free baby wipes/cottonelle wipes. You won’t be able to shower for 2 wks +- but this will help to keep you “fresh” and feel cleaners EVERYWHERE you use it. Frankly speaking, your range of motion will be limited so wipes makes the bathroom experience a little easier. Not everyone needs it, but don’t be surprised if you need help wiping after #2 for first 2-5 days. It's ok. It is what it is!
#11 MUST HAVE: This may be a surprise (as it was to me), but when washing hands, DO NOT USE/TRY SOAP PUMPS for at least the first week. This was the BEST advise I was given. Time to bust out the ole bar-o-soap because it may be too hard to push thanks to the resistance of the lever. A Bar of soap is the way to go!
#12 MUST HAVE: If you have lymph nodes removed/tested from your armpit, you’ll want support for that area. I was given a heart pillow that someone donated to Gilda's House in Nashville, but anyone who can sew heart pillow to help buffer her arms AND it will make a difference. This is great as you get more mobile because it provides a soft barrier between your arm and your armpit. A ribbon can be added to be tied over shoulder keeps it on your shoulder. Go to Pinterest to find a pattern.
#13 MUST HAVE: If you have hair, have someone braid it the night before surgery. This will be one less thing to deal with. Also, if you have hair, have someone on stand by to wash your hair, braid it, use dry shampoo and/or schedule an appointment at a dry bar after the initial first week or two!
#14 MUST HAVE: Have someone who can help take care of meal prep for 4 weeks minimum post op. If you can before surgery, make some meals and freeze them. This will make your life easier! No cooking for you after surgery til doctor clears you! Be aware what you are eating too. Light foods for few days after surgery (eggs, soups, English muffin Etc). Be careful of not only eating pastas and heavy foods that will plug you up! Spicy foods may make miserable and sometimes puke because of tummy sensitivity. Watch out for foods with sugars (candies, chocolates, cookies), sodas and breads/pastas as those foods increase inflammation.
#15 MUST HAVE: Live with T-REX arms til your doctors says otherwise. Usually 2-4 weeks. Ask about all stretching options and do NOT do it before they tell you. But when they say you are good to go, do it. And do it EVERY DAY! You may need Physical Therapy to help and that’s ok! It’ll make you feel better, even if not in the moment.
My hope is that these resources give you focus, encouragement and hope as you go through your bilateral mastectomy journey. You never know who you'll encounter that will need this information, so please feel free to share!
*PLEASE NOTE: none of these are paid ads, but are all of the resources Ashley used or accessed during her Breast Cancer Bilateral Mastectomy journey.*