If you or a friend have had a mastectomy or reconstructive surgery because of breast cancer, you know all too well the road to recovery can be difficult. The amount of reconstruction will depend on the mastectomy, and the width, size, and location of the removed tumor, which means everyone’s recovery looks very different.
After going home, there is soreness, swelling, and bruising for at least 2 to 3 weeks, plus the adjustment of a life needing lots of help, all while processing what you’ve just been through. There is a lot that goes into recovery after breast cancer, and we wondered what women really needed as they recovered. Here’s the top five things they shared:
You will need support both physically and emotionally. This is not only a time of physical recovery but emotional as well. It’s important to surround yourself with people who want to help, like loved ones, friends, or neighbors. It’s also a good idea to seek counseling or therapy before and after the mastectomy, not only for yourself but for your spouse too. There are post-mastectomy support groups available that meet once or twice a month that can give you valuable information, it’s often helpful to meet people who have been through and are going through the same thing as you are. It’s a good idea to find local groups before your surgery.
Recovery Garments & Products
This is a surprising one for some women, before surgery they often didn’t realize what an impact this surgery would have on their daily tasks, particularly getting dressed. Companies like The Brobe, specialize in recovery products that were specifically designed with women going through recovery in mind. The Brobe is best known for their recovery Brobe which is both a bra and robe in one. The robe is designed with pockets for post-operative drains and a velcro front-closure bra, complete with pockets for ice packs to help sooth tender breasts or incisions. They also offer a shower belt that holds your drains and a comfort pillow that holds an icepack for underarm support. These are what many women called “must-haves” as they make recovery more bearable.
A balanced, healthy diet are crucial in recovery, though guidelines for breast cancer patients may be different than you’re use to. It’s a good idea to ask your healthcare provider or a nutritionist for suggestions. Most of the time, diets for breast cancer patients are higher in protein. This nutrient-rich food can provide the energy your body needs to heal after breast cancer. If you don't have much of an appetite, protein shakes and supplements may be an option to help keep your protein levels where they should be. For most women the appropriate protein intake is approximately 50-75 gm per day. On average, a chicken breast that is around the size of a deck of cards, roughly contains 25 gm of protein.
Exercise & Physical Therapy
Exercise for breast cancer survivors usually includes physical therapy to improve strength. If you’re practitioner okays it, you may want to engage in moderate aerobic exercise (like walking) for about 30 minutes, three or more times a week after you’ve recovered for several weeks. You may also want to ask your doctor for a referral to an exercise physiologist or program for people recovering from cancer.
Many women that are large busted and have to have a mastectomy will either have a bilateral mastectomy or a mastectomy on the affected side and a breast reduction on the other. This often changes your posture, the way you sit, your balance, and the way you walk. Seeking a physical therapist before and after surgery can help restore mobility to the affected side. You can also ask them to show you how to do lymph massage to prevent lymphedema.
You will not be able to sleep lying down so having a recliner at home is so helpful. To keep the recliner clean, you can wrap it with a fitted sheet. For extra comfort initially, you may want to surround yourself with support pillows. Before surgery, create a basket or bin and put things you might need next to your chair. Some items you may want to include are lip balm, medications, water bottle, phone and charger, lotion, pen and journal, a good book, magazine, and crossword puzzles.