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Mastectomy/Lumpectomy Must-Have's

It's hard to know exactly how to prepare for such an important event and even I - the Women's Health Physical Therapist - wasn't sure where to begin before my own double mastectomy! Looking back, there were things I could have saved my money on, and things I can't imagine recovering without. I hope this helps you on your own recovery journey.

 

The CCC Recovery Kit

I received many fantastic and helpful gifts for FREE from Courage to Conquer Cancer. You simply fill out the request form for yourself or a loved one, and they send you a kit in the mail. I was blown away by all of the products they sent me. My kit included:



They also included a beautiful and encouraging, hand-written card from the company owner (which I have somewhere but cannot find!), and a blank Thank You card and envelope for you to send to your donor (if someone ordered on your behalf). Incredible! Unfortunately, the kits are only available in Texas and Tennessee, but you can shop from their website as well. Truly an amazing non-profit organization! I found out about the kit after I had already purchased or was gifted the items listed below, so I wanted to list my Amazon finds and gifts so you all have options.


Drain Holder(s)

After surgery, drains will be placed which allow your body to remove all of the excess fluid and swelling more efficiently. I had 2 (one per side), but I've worked with women who had up to 6! Personally, the drains were the most difficult part of my initial recovery. They're uncomfortable, cumbersome, and require a bit of daily attention, but they are only temporary. Looking back, those first couple of weeks would have been much more difficult had it not been for the little belt that I kept around my waits 24/7. The pouches allowed me to securely tuck away my drain bulbs and keep my hands free for mobility and function. I also had one for the shower - both of which came in the same package I purchased from Amazon.


Button Up Shirt(s)

When drains are in place, you will be discouraged from reaching above 90 degrees at the shoulder which makes pulling a shirt on/off overhead nearly impossible. I also could not have reached that far if I wanted to due to my flat closure, and I have some cording to contend with as well, so the button up shirt was a must for me. I would recommend looking for shirts with snap buttons if you have already had chemo since some women experience neuropathy in the fingertips which can make it harder to manage regular buttons. Some companies (like CCC) make mastectomy recovery shirts with snap buttons AND built in drain pockets on the inside.


Wedge Pillow(s)

Another Amazon find which definitely made sleeping/resting and bed mobility much easier in the first weeks while the drains were in. You'll be instructed to sleep on your back, inclined if possible, and try not to roll onto your drains or lay on them. Easier said than done for a side sleeper like me! But the wedge pillows made if comfortably possible. Mine came with a half roll which I kept tucked under my lumbar spine for support. And because I was propped on an incline, getting in/out of bed without rolling onto the drains or putting weight through my arms was much more doable. Well worth the purchase!


Mastectomy Pillow

Yes, of course you could just use a regular pillow, but I liked that these were cut for my underarms. The first few days after surgery, it was uncomfortable to let my arms touch my trunk, and the compression of gently pressing the mastectomy pillow to my chest felt good. It was also a good barrier between me and my two little girls who would sometimes get a bit excited about loving on mom while she gets better. Also made a great travel buddy in the car before I was able to drive on my own again.


Other Simple Comforts

  • Recliner - this may not be available to everyone, in which case, the wedge pillows are still a great option. But I do have seats in my TV room which recline and allow me to prop my feet up with a...

  • Soft blanket - it just feels good! And I have a ton of them from Marshalls HomeGoods. They always have them there! Plus, it was good to have something a little heavier/softer for my night in the hospital.

  • Extra pillows - in addition to the mastectomy pillows, I used about 4 standard pillows to prop behind my back, under each arm, and under my knees. Glorious.

  • Warm/fuzzy socks - kept my feet warm in the hospital!

  • Movies/TV shows to binge on - but don't forget to get up and move about, too! Going for slow, short walks in the Texas sunshine in early spring (my favorite time of year here) was very soothing to my soul. I would recommend having a walking buddy for the first couple of weeks, just to be safe.

  • Seat belt cushion - helps me be comfortable while driving without having to constantly readjust the mastectomy pillow.

Support

Lots of women in online (and local) support groups donate their used supplies for free. I would start there to save some money! Perhaps one of your friends could start an Amazon Registration for you and send it out. Friends want to help, and the hardest lesson for us women to learn is that it's ok to let them. Food trains and Grub Hub/Door Dash gift cards were the best thing ever!

Don't be afraid to let loved ones know what you need. The more support you have, the faster you will heal, and the better you will feel physically and mentally. That, I can promise you.



Stay strong, sisters.



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