While doing computer file clean up, I also ventured to my blogs to toss out draft posts which never made it to publishing, this was one of them which I began one month after my bilateral mastectomy but failed to finish and post. I am finishing and posting it now, March 15, 2015 because I do believe some of the information I am offering may be of help to someone. I wish I had thought of the BACK SCRATCHER before my surgery and that is why I am now moving it to the #1 position on my list.
A Few Tips for Recovery at Home After Bilateral Mastectomy with Immediate Reconstruction:
Have a back scratcher at your side!
- No matter your state of cleanliness, trust me, this tip comes from my own and other women’s experiences – whether you are sitting in your recliner to watch television or to read, your back will itch and you will NOT be able to scratch it with your hands. The back scratcher will be your hero! I found mine for a dollar something at Hancock Fabrics, I am sure that they are also available at dollar stores and big box stores.
- An Extra Support Bra. My plastic surgeon supplied me with two support bras, one which was put on my body while in the surgery room and one to accompany my trip home. Cleanliness is especially important during recovery and having one clean support bra will make life a little easier. I invested in a third support bra just to be certain that I always had a clean one.
- Front-opening clothes. You will be instructed to wear clothing that are either button or zip front, nothing pullover! I bought two old-lady-like zip-front house dresses and two button-front shirts for when I had to go out for doctor appointments. Typically, I’m a pullover, t-shirt type gal.
Have a comfortable, recliner!
- After surgery, you will not be able to lay in bed and pull/push/lift yourself out of it. Many of us bilateral mastectomy survivors endorse the use of a recliner, for daytime use as well as night time sleeping for the first while. For me, a stomach sleeper, this was the only way I could comfortably survive sleeping at night. I also spent my days in the recliner, recuperating.
- A side table stocked with:
- Water. Having supplies within your reach will help promote your healing by not disturbing your incisions with unnecessary movement. I kept the water jug, from my hospital stay, filled and on my side table.
- Remote Controls. Make sure your batteries are fresh! I like movies and documentaries and got my fill while recuperating because one of my sons gifted me a Netflix subscription! Even though I was in and out of consciousness the first few days of recovery due to pain medications, it was very nice to have a distraction. During recovery, I watched the entire Breaking Bad series!
- Magazines, Reading Material, Laptop. Even though, as mentioned before, I was influenced by pain medications, it was nice to have a choice of entertainment. On my side table was a stack of gossip papers, women’s magazines, my Kindle, loaded with books and my laptop within reach on the floor.
- Tissues, Lozenges, & Snacks. Any other incidentals which you may want or need should also be placed strategically upon your side table. We are all different and require different paraphernalia, think ahead of your surgery and you will thank yourself later.
- Spreadsheets! This is VERY important! You will need to keep track of when you have taken your medications, as well as volume and frequency of draining your JP Drains. I made blank spreadsheets to use and found this extremely helpful!
Lanyard or Shoe String or Velcro. When you are given the go ahead to take your first shower, you will need something on your body to hang your JP Drains, they cannot simply hang from the holes in your body or you will painfully tear them out. I just took a long shoestring, tied it into a ‘necklace’, hung it around my neck and pinned the JP Drains onto it. Young Rachel (above photo) did hers in a similar fashion.
- Meals. For me, I cooked a lot of my favorite food ahead of time and froze them for my husband to thaw, reheat and serve.
- Dishwasher & Paper Plates. Since I was instructed to not lift anything over ten pounds, I informed my husband that loading and unloading (especially the unloading part) the dishwasher would be out of bounds for me until the doctor clears me to do so. I bought paper plates for convenience since my husband is not very domesticated. In retrospect, he did wonderfully well and was a great support!
- Pets. We have two diabetic dogs and one normal cat, the ‘normal cat’ description is debatable. Anyway, I made sure that we were stocked up with enough specialty dog food for the dogs, insulin and syringes too. My husband would have to feed them and administer their insulin twice per day.
That pretty much sums up all of my recommendations to make recovery at home after bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction a little bit easier. If anyone reading this has more tips, please mention them in the comments below.