Mastectomy Checklist

A few weeks before my mastectomy, I posted a list of the supplies I had at home to prepare for surgery. Three surgeries later (and fully recovered – woohoo), I wanted to revamp my list to help people preparing for a mastectomy. Here’s what I found the most helpful and what I wish I would have known ahead of time.

Most Helpful/What I wish I Would Have Known

  • Biggest piece of advice – expect the unexpected! Have a game plan but know that things can change at any time and be okay with that. Have a medical team you really trust in case things don’t go as planned.
  • Keep records of all your expenses. Even if it is covered by insurance, everything can add up quickly (I’m gonna have medical bills for a loooong time). Having records makes things easier at tax time.
  • Sleeping can be really rough. It was one of the hardest things for me at first. Try to be patient while you figure out what works for you, and keep in communication with your medical team about sleeping issues.
  • Practice getting in and out of bed WITHOUT USING YOUR ARMS before surgery, this way, you’ll be used to it when you can’t use your arms
  • Ask the pharmacist/person picking up medication for you to make sure all prescriptions have childproof caps. You won’t be able to take off the protective caps on your own.
  • Before surgery, make sure everything you need is at waist level since you won’t be able to lift your arms.
  • Get an underarm wax before surgery. You won’t be able to shave for a while and I was really happy I did this.
  • If you can, get a wash/blowout at a salon or from a family member/friend. I went to Drybar several times and it was so helpful.
  • Work out before surgery and try to work with a trainer if you are able. This really helped me prep for surgery, especially working on my core.
  • Be patient! This was a tough one for me. Whether it’s going into surgery uncertain what the outcome will be, finding the right body wedge pillow (I cried when I found mine) or finding a sports bra you can pull over your shoulders (another victory for me) – this whole process can really test your patience. Try to stay calm because your body is already going through enough!
  • If something looks off, take a picture. My surgeon let me text her with photos when things looked suspicious, and it was really helpful.
  • Have nausea medication handy. Vomiting + mastectomy = painnnnful
  • Caregiver burnout is very real. Try to have a plan so your caregiver can get out of the house and get fresh air. My husband’s walks to the coffee shop were a great refuge for him.
  • Most importantly, ask your support network for help. I couldn’t have gotten through this without my incredible support system and asking for help was a lifesaver. Google docs really helped with setting up shifts for friends and family to come over. My friends helped keep me company, watch tv with me, bring food over, give my husband a caregiver break. My husband made sure I took medication on time and on a full stomach, and kept me sane.

Supplies

  • Pillows are key for recovery. These are the pillows I used the most: Axillapilla for under my arms, body pillow for sleeping in bed, myrecovery pal to help keep arms up while napping, and a body wedge for the couch.
  • Pre-packed hospital bag 
  • Tons and tons of huge shirts that you can step in and out of
  • Spray on deodorant! You won’t be able to use roll on and you will be stinky 🙂
  • Mastectomy seatbelt cover
  • This surgical bra was incredible after surgery and has loops to hold the drains. Luckily, my hospital provided them automatically, but if not, I would recommend ordering one if your doctor approves.
  • Silk button up pajamas – these help to slide in and out of bed
  • Button up t-shirts
  • Elastic band pants
  • Drain holders for shower
  • Toiletries to help when you can’t shower (dry shampoo, cleansing wipes)
  • Throat lozenges (for after being intubated)
  • Alcohol wipes and gloves for drain cleaning
  • logs for drainage and medication
  • This book was helpful to read before deciding to move forward with surgery

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