So, the dust has settled (a bit), you’re wrapping your head around it all, and now you have your surgery date. It’s time to prepare. And guess what? We’re here to help. We combed our resources, we polled our fellow warriors, our sisterhood of survivors, for all the deets on what to pack, what to buy, and the essentials that will help you thrive, so that you don’t have to add another thing to your plate.
We were lucky to know other women who had undergone a double mastectomy before us, so we scheduled calls with them and got lots of useful tips on what to buy. We’re sharing our collective feedback in hopes of making your journey as smooth and easy as possible.
This list is intended for women undergoing a single or double mastectomy. For lumpectomy patients, most of these tips will still apply (drain care products won't be necessary).
Button front pajamas
Lifting your arms above your head will be a challenge for several weeks and you may require some physical therapy to regain your range of motion. So stock up on a few pairs of cozy pjs to get you through - I bought 3 pairs and rotated them for 6 weeks.
You’ll also need a couple button front shirts for the same reason (for when you need to leave the house for doctors appointments).
You’ll have drains on either side of your chest for 2-4 weeks depending on how fast you heal. Your nurse will tell you how to care for these, but a drain belt can be helpful to use under your clothes to hold the drains in place (and keep them from getting caught on clothing - which can be painful!). A drain pouch that goes around your neck will be helpful for bathing too.
You’ll need to sleep at 45-degree angle for 3 weeks. I slept on a foam wedge and found that very helpful. Others have liked a husband pillow or even a maternity pillow to get comfy. Small beaded mastectomy pillows that you can stash under your elbows are helpful too.
You need to avoid reaching for things and are restricted from lifting anything over 5 pounds for 4-6 weeks. A reusable lightweight cup and straws are helpful as a full glass can even feel heavy after surgery.
Lightweight utensils and paper plates are also a plus. If you live alone, consider getting a back scratcher to help you reach for things (also comes in handy to itch those hard to reach places limited by your mobility), or moving dishes and containers you will need to a lower shelf in your cupboards before your procedure.
Your doctor will want you to get out of bed for meals but a TV tray is still useful for drinks, laptops, and propping up a book.
Most women need to be on pain medication for 7-10 days, or longer. I found a sleep mask and ear plugs helpful to aid in daytime naps and to help you fall and stay asleep at night.
A zip front hoodie
Just need one good one that you can throw on when you need to go out in public for appointments or a walk.
Closed back slippers
Like a ballet slipper - you’ll need something that’s easy to get on/off but keeps your feet warm around the house.
Other nightstand essentials to consider having on hand at the hospital and at home:
- Lip balm and lotion - for keeping lips and skin hydrated
- Cleansing wipes - baby wipes, facial wipes and antibacterial hand wipes are all helpful so you don’t have to get out of bed to clean up.
- Toothbrush/wisps - disposable toothbrushes are a good option when getting up isn’t an option
- Facial mist - you can get plain water or a nice hydrating toner feels good on the skin
- Non-child-proof medication bottles or day pill separators
- Notepad - to keep track of drain output, pain levels, medication schedule
- Medications (track when and how much taken on a notepad)
- Items such as prayer beads, books, notes or items of positivity; mindfulness apps or healing sounds. Tap into whatever helps you to connect to a place of calm, faith or spirituality to push past the fear and anxiety.
- Pack your overnight bag at least a day before your surgery. You don’t want to be scrambling looking for things the morning of your surgery and oftentimes surgeries are very early. Most patients spend 1-2 nights in the hospital; confirm with your physician what you should expect and pack accordingly (clothes for departure day, toiletries, toothbrush, hairbrush).
- Set an alarm clock/cell phone to wake up at night and take on a schedule, rather than wait for the pain to hit. Stay ahead of the pain!
- Keep snacks and beverages nearby to take with meds - water, juice, diluted sports drinks are good hydration options - remember to stay hydrated.
Know that you can do this, as sadly countless other women have done before. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to our customer care team. We got you, girl.
We are not physicians. We do not represent that this list is medically necessary, but merely some items the patient may find useful in her recovery like we did. This is an individual choice and patients shouldn’t feel pressured to shop this entire list - choose what resonates with you.