Tips for Post-Bilateral Mastectomy Recovery at Home

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:

  1. backscratcher

    This is the one I used. I liked the metal claw which was less likely to break. I still have it, use it, and my cat likes when I scratch her back with it too!

    Have a back scratcher at your side!

    1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Recliner

    Recliner for resting, relaxing, reading, watching television and sleeping .

    Have a comfortable, recliner!

    1. 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.
  5. A side table stocked with:

    My water jug, a real life saver kept upon my side table during early recovery at home from bilateral mastectomy.

    1. 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.
    2. 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!
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
  6. Weaning off the MedicationsSpreadsheets!  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!
  7. JPDrainsShower

    © Rachel at Ticking Time Bombs

    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.

  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.



6 responses to “Tips for Post-Bilateral Mastectomy Recovery at Home

  1. If you normally use pitchers for water, iced tea, etc., make sure you have bottled water, individual serving cans/bottles of soft drinks on hand. Even a 2-liter bottle of soda is a no-no for lifting at first!

    Also, if you have TRAM flap surgery like I did, they will/should advise you to have some undies on hand that are one or two sizes larger than normal to accommodate the bandages on your abdomen and the JP drains in your groin. I had to send someone out for mine after they got me home, because I didn’t think of it ahead of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Debi for adding this information! There are different surgical procedures which require different restrictions during recovery and you stressed the importance of first, LISTEN and follow your doctor’s instructions for your particular surgery.

      I was just thinking about you yesterday, haven’t made it back to visit your blog but you were on my mind. Glad to see you stop by, I hope all is well with you! I’m wondering how it went with tattooing, or if you had that done already. Scooting over to your place now. 😀
      Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haven’t had it done yet. Waiting to get money, and to find an artist I trust with the job. I have been sadly slacking on the blogging front, but things are going well with me! Just been lurking about! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lurking is fun! Glad to hear you are doing well.
          I can understand the need to wait for money to do the tattoos. I went to see a well-renowned plastic surgeon to see if there was any hope for my botched reconstruction, he was willing to take me on but even with insurance, we can’t afford all the co-pays, so, I’ve put that hope behind me.
          I had also contacted but they never come to our area. Even if they did, no tattoo is going to fix the botch job. I’m just happy to be alive.
          You’re still young and deserve to come out of this feeling somewhat good about yourself, I especially like the idea of having designed your own artwork. That is the coolest part! 😀
          Ciao for now!


  2. All of the above, except now, because of the heart surgery, I can’t wear any bra at all. Since I had small implants, it hasn’t been as much of a disaster as I would have predicted.

    About that back scratcher: I would kill someone for a back scratcher. I can’t find one ANYWHERE and itching where you can’t reach it doesn’t end because the surgery has healed. Dry skin is forever and it never itches where you can easily reach it. There’s some kind of law about that!

    Liked by 1 person

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