How to Help Someone Having a Mastectomy
If you have a friend that was recently diagnosed with cancer, or you yourself are preparing for a mastectomy (or other major surgical procedure) you probably want to know what you can do now to prepare. When it comes to things you need after a mastectomy, most of the times we just wonder what we have to buy. But, when preparing for post-op recovery it's important to prepare for unexpected lifestyle adjustments.
If you or a friend have had a mastectomy or reconstructive surgery because of breast cancer, you know all too well that post-op recovery can be difficult. The amount of reconstruction will depend on the mastectomy and the width, size, and location of the removed tumor. This means that recovery looks very different.
For at least 2 to 3 weeks, recovery patients experience soreness, swelling, and bruising. All of this happens while you are processing what you’ve just been through and while you must adjust to a life that demands assistance (at least temporarily). There is a lot that goes into recovery after breast cancer, and we wondered what women really needed as they recovered, so we asked. Here are 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.
We have also compiled a list of Breast Cancer Recovery Resources and Services. Additionally, we'll put together a list of recommended recovery items that can potentially make great gifts before 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. This is especially true for those in double mastectomy recovery.
We are best known for our Recovery Brobe, which is both a bra and robe in one. Endorsed by nurses all over the world, our Recovery Brobe is a one-of-a-kind product that makes a perfect after surgery gift. The robe is designed with pockets for postoperative drains and a velcro front-closure bra, complete with pockets for ice packs to help soothe tender breasts or incisions. Of course, we're a little biased, but we designed the Recovery Brobe to be the best gift for a breast cancer patient.
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. Whether you're looking for double mastectomy recovery gifts or for recovery items in general, check out our post-op recovery items for a thoughtful solution for that special someone.
A balanced, healthy diet is crucial in recovery, though guidelines for breast cancer patients may be different than you're used 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 with large breasts who undergo mastectomy surgery will either have (1) a bilateral mastectomy or (2) 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.