Blog | Preparing for a Mastectomy


It is important to take some time before your surgery to prepare for the healing phase. There are some crucial steps to take getting everything ready around the house, and getting all the items you will need to heal comfortably and conveniently.

Make a List

ChecklistMy first suggestion is to start a checklist now. Keep it with you, so as you think of things you will need, you can add them before you forget them. I kept a notepad in my purse with a checklist of what I needed to do, and what I needed to buy. This includes questions for your doctors. That helped keep my stress level down quite a bit, knowing everything was in place.

Grab a Bag

Hospital BagOkay, probably not full of puppies. But get a hospital bag set up ahead of time, with everything you want to take to the hospital with you. Include all the paperwork you need to bring, and the clothes you will be going home in. Make sure they are comfortable, and loose fitting. Pack slip on shoes that are easy to walk in (maybe not flip flops so you don’t trip) and remember that you won’t be able to lift your arms over your head, so make sure your top is open front and soft. I suggest bringing your Mastectomy Shirt  and wearing it when you leave so that your drains are contained for the ride home. Also bring your Chest Pillow so that the seatbelt does not irritate you one the ride home.

Around the House

My nurses called it “T-Rex Arms”. That is a cute way of explaining that I had to keep my arms close to my body, not reaching out too far, and not lifting them very high. This kept up for at least 2 weeks after my surgery. Around the house, you will want to prepare ahead of time by moving things you will need to a level you can comfortably reach them. This includes your medications!

Sleeping after a mastectomySleeping is very important to healing, and can be tricky after surgery. Since you have limited mobility with your arms, it is hard to get in and out of bed. Those ab muscles get tired fast! I purchased a wedge pillow weeks before my surgery so that it would be delivered on time. It helped tremendously in getting up every day. If you cant purchase a wedge pillow, just be sure to have lots of extra pillows on hand to prop you up. 

Move rugs or any tripping hazards. You might even want to rearrange a bit of furniture to make sure you can get around the house easily. You may be a bit dizzy from the meds so make sure you have clear pathways.

What to Eat

If at all possible, have some meals prepared ahead of time, and make sure they are easy to get to. My husband was able to stay with me full time for the first week, so I had him running all over to get me food. But if you will be alone for the day, make sure you can get to your meals easily. If you are going to do frozen meals, remember that you can’t lift your arms very far. If your microwave is high up, you may need to find an alternative. Also, you will probably want lots of snacks available. Most of the pain medications I was on needed to be taken with food. Crackers, or other plain snacks are a good choice for taking with meds, and for nausea.

Juicing after surgeryI also made sure to do a lot of juicing while I was healing (NutriBullet Type). It is a great way to stay healthy, add needed fiber to your diet, and works wonders for combating the tummy troubles you get with all the medications. I bought frozen, organic fruit in bulk before the surgery, and had regular deliveries of fresh veggies to add. This is a great way friends can help out too. No doubt they will be asking what they can do for you, and they really want to help. That is a great way for them to help you out. It is inexpensive to buy and easy to drop off. One of my friends offered to bring me fresh spinach and kale to add to my smoothies. It was such a kind offer, and helped so much. Read more about juicing on my Blog.

What to Wear

Mastectomy Shirt to hold drainsI made sure all my laundry, dishes and housecleaning was done the day before my surgery. Plan out what you will be wearing for the first week after your surgery. Have it all clean and easily accessible. You will want very comfortable, loose fitting bottoms. Since you can’t lift your arms over your head, you will need front opening tops. This is where my Mastectomy Shirts come into play. I designed them for myself a few weeks before my surgery. I could not find cotton, open front soft T shirts anywhere. Plus there was no way to contain the drains without wearing them around my neck, or pinning them to my top. So I designed the T Shirt to have pockets in the inside and I am so glad I did! However, I did make one mistake… I only made myself 2 of them. It is very important to stay clean during healing, to minimize infection. So I had to wash one EVERY DAY and keep rotating them. I highly suggest being smarter than me and getting more than 2 of them. 

Stay Positive

Nothing bugs me more than being stressed out and someone telling me to just relax. That never works! However, I have learned that keeping a positive frame of mind during this whole process helps the healing process tremendously. 

Before my mastectomy I had 2 lumpectomies. The first one was fairly small and it was a very quick surgery. I was so scared, and stressed and upset up to the surgery with not knowing for sure what the diagnosis would be. I had a really hard time after the surgery with pain, nausea and weakness. After finding out that they did not get all the cancer and would have to do another lumpectomy, I was even more upset. My husband gave me a book to help me get my thinking in a better place, and have some peace of mind. It helped me so much! The surgeon told me that the second lumpectomy would be more painful and the healing would take longer because the area was still ‘upset’ from the first surgery. However, it was after that surgery that I learned just how powerful a calm mind can be. I got rid of the worry, for the most part, and went into the surgery planning to just take it easy after, enjoy some time off, and take pain meds to keep myself comfortable. I woke up from that surgery feeling so much better than before. I healed super fast and was ready to plan my next step to being cancer free. So please try to find positive aspects of your situation. Ask for help. Talk to friends and family. Get some sun. Find things that make you happy and calm. It will help you a lot after your surgery to heal.

A sample checklist of items you might want to get ready before your surgery:

  • Wedge Pillow (or extra pillows)
  • Frozen Dinners
  • Snacks
  • Super Soft Blanket
  • A Really Good Book
  • A Soft Hat (so you don't have to worry about your hair)
  • Shower lanyard (if you can shower after your surgery)
  • Mastectomy T Shirt with drain holders
  • Chest Pillow

4 comments

  • Kathleen Crocker

    I just got Diagnosed with breast cancer on 6/29/2017 exactly a week before my 49 birthday . Talk about scared ,angry and sad. My daughter found me your pillow so I just received that and now I’m purchasing shirts so I can have what I need . I will start chemo shortly after my surgery and suggestions on what I should do to either get ready or during chemo to stay healthy and not get dehydrated?

  • Liz Lesniak Dutton

    I am so glad you mentioned your blog to me on Etsy I LOVE all the info! What was the book your husband got you? I had a partial hysterectomy in 2011 that brought on a bunch of problems w recovery :-( This spring I tested positive for BRCA1. Five weeks ago I had my ovaries, cervix and extensive endometriosis out in robotic surgery. I also approached this surgery differently, having 5 months to prepare (the 1st was 1 week) and research. It was a cake walk! Now I am doing a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy w DIEP reconstruction and just found out yesterday that my plastic surgeon first does expanders for 3 mo :-0 NOT what I planned. Today I met the breast surgeon and he calmed my fears and your blog just reminded me I need to approach this differently! TY!

  • Alice

    Thank you for sharing your tips! I’m trying to ‘gather the facts’….get on with this and feeling positive! I’m looking forward to getting my pillow too…Terry Koogle…my surgery is scheduled for April 13…day after yours! Best of luck to you!

  • Terry Koogle

    Thank you so much for sharing some wonderful tips and suggestions on how to prepare for my mastectomy. It’s wonderful to have such great support while sharing a personal experience. Looking forward to my pillow. My surgery is scheduled for April 12, 2017 ?

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