If you’re scheduled to have a mastectomy to treat breast cancer, it’s helpful to get a few essential items and products ready for your return home afterward. This can make recovery more comfortable and allow you to heal faster. However, anticipating what you might need can be difficult.
“Anyone got some good tips to get through the next couple of weeks after my surgery?” one MyBCTeam member asked. “For comfortable clothing or making daily living easier?”
If you’ve got the same questions, read on for tips on five items that you should consider picking up prior to your surgery.
Several MyBCTeam members have said pillows of varying sizes for different purposes were their No. 1 must-have items following a mastectomy. “I found a small pillow that has been everything to me since my mastectomy,” one member said. “It’s just the right size and softness to hug against my incision. I also got a neck pillow and a heart-shaped mastectomy pillow from the hospital, which is great to prop my arm up and away from my body or to put between me and my seat belt.”
Another member said lying flat at night was challenging and interfered with their sleep. “I’ve used a chair wedge pillow for two months after mastectomy surgery so I’m more comfortable,” they shared.
A third member shared the benefits of sleeping with a full body pillow, both for hugging against their incision and for providing a barrier to prevent being accidentally bumped by their partner at night.
Your surgeon may suggest an appropriate pillow (or series of them) for your post-mastectomy comfort. You could also shop for different styles — or even make one yourself if you have the skills.
You may not be able to lift your arms above your head after surgery, so consider buying several button-up, blousy shirts that won’t cling to your body and that will allow you easy access in and out of them.
“Anything button-down, loose-fitting, and soft,” one MyBCTeam member wrote.
Another said, “If you want to go one step easier, try men’s or women’s Western shirts (oversized) with the snap buttons or a zip-up top instead.”
Due to limited mobility in your arms after surgery, you may have trouble pulling pants on and off, so the easier they are to remove and put on, the better off you’ll be. That’s why many MyBCTeam members recommend buying pants with a stretchy waistband.
“Yoga pants were a must for me,” one member wrote. “My husband wasn’t always around to help, and I wanted to be able to get pants on and off by myself.”
Because you’ll have surgical drains that remain in place after your mastectomy, it’s helpful to wear a jacket or cardigan with inside pockets where you can easily stow the drains rather than having to carry them around or readjust them every time you stand up. You may get a lanyard from the hospital to hold your drains when you bathe, but a jacket might be more convenient during other periods.
“I bought a robe with inside pockets to hold the drains after my double mastectomy,” one MyBCTeam member wrote.
Another said, “I loved wearing my husband’s running jacket. It was light with multiple inside pockets!”
A third member advised, “Try to get a post-mastectomy camisole — they come with pockets for the drains.”
You may not be able to shower right after surgery, and even when you do get the all-clear to do so, you might have difficulty raising your hands high enough to wash your hair. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy some dry shampoo that can help you keep your hair clean until you can thoroughly wash it. You may still need some help to apply dry shampoo, but it will be faster and easier than washing your hair in the shower.
“I used dry shampoo after my mastectomy,” one MyBCTeam member wrote. “It was a lifesaver!”
For more personal care tips, read about choosing deodorant after breast cancer surgery.
Before your surgery, it’s a good idea to speak with your breast surgeon and ask what else you may need to have at home for your comfort and healing and when you can expect to return to work or other activities. They’re the best resource to help you prepare.
On MyBCTeam — the social network for people with breast cancer — more than 65,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.
Which products and items were helpful after your mastectomy or breast reconstruction? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting to your Activities feed.