Mastectomy

How to Prepare for a Mastectomy

Preparing for a mastectomy can be terrifying. For most of us it's the first major surgery we are entering and there are so many unknowns associated with breast cancer. Having gone through the mastectomy process twice (my surgeries were split up), I have valuable experience and insight as a survivor to help you prepare for your mastectomy mentally and physically. I will also guide you through what you need to buy and what to pack for the hospital.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR MASTECTOMY GUIDE

Leading up to my first Mastectomy, I frantically searched the internet for packing lists and the best mastectomy recovery items to buy. Never having broken a bone or had surgery before, I was like a fish out of water. The doctors and nurses were able to provide expert medical advise, but, they were not able to give me the first hand insight I was looking for.

Now, having gone through the mastectomy surgery twice, I have a much better idea of which items were essential, and made my experience much more bearable. Keep reading for all my tips on how to prepare and what items to have on hand.

How to Prepare for a Mastectomy_MASTECTOMY SCAR

Looking for gift ideas for a cancer fighter preparing for a mastectomy? Check out this post or this gift guide.

Items to Buy for a Mastectomy

These are the items that I found essential for my surgery and recovery.

For Your Body (Post-Surgery Bras, Clothing)

The drains will add extra bulk so stock up on baggy button down tops that can hide the drains will be soft on your skin. I went 1-2 sizes up in the tops I purchased. Keep in mind your range of motion will be limited so you will want clothes you can step into or easily pull over your head.

Pants with zippers or be difficult to get off and on so go for loose-fitted slip-on pants or skirts

For Sleep

  • Recovery Heart Pillow This pillow is amazing and the perfect size to position under your armpits for support and comfort
  • Sleeping on your side and stomach will be difficult during recovery. A Body Pillow can provide relief  so you can rest in comfort.
  • Wedge Pillow
  • Microbean pillow - this worked perfectly under my neck to prop me up. I have brought it to my mastectomy and every reconstruction surgery.
  • Having a recliner to sleep it can be super helpful. This is not essential but made my life much easier during recovery.

SHOP ALL OF MY MASTECTOMY RECOVERY RECOMMENDATIONS ON AMAZON

MASTECTOMY PACKING LIST

How to Prepare Mentally for a Mastectomy

  • Talk to other survivors and read their insight to get a sense for the for the emotional aspect of the surgery.
  • Stock up on motivational/calming resources
    • Headspace is my favorite app for meditation. The 10, 15, or 20 minute sessions are easily digestible and the narrators voice is the most soothing thing I have ever heard!
    • Meditation music helped me so much in the hospital. When I was in pain, I would pop my headphones in and drift off to sleep much more relaxed.
    • Prepare for Surgery:Heal Faster - mental support to help you prepare for surgery
  • Get a massage - You won't be able to lay on your stomach for a while and this is a great way to release all that pre-surgery anxiety
  • Workout -  your exercise routine will be restricted for a while and the sweat and endorphins will really help you relax.

How to Prepare Your Home Before a Mastectomy

  • Deep clean your home and look into securing cleaning services for after your surgery. Cleaning for  Reason donates cleaning services to women battling cancer.
  • Set up a Meal Train or other system to have loved ones help with meals, errands and dog walking.
  • Rearrange your kitchen/bedroom to make straws, plates, and necessities easily accessible without much lifting or twisting
How to Prepare for a Mastectomy_Drains
Mastectomy Recovery Outfits
How to Prepare for a Mastectomy
How to Prepare for a Mastectomy
How to Prepare for a Mastectomy

Meet_Anna_2

Breast cancer survivor, lover of style, beauty and all things pink! Inspiring you to thrive through adversity. 

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24 Comments

    Mac

    October 9, 2015Reply

    I love your bullet on being selfish and not apologizing. As a caretaker [to you] the worst thing for me was to see you go-without because you were too afraid of being a “burden” and not asking for it. This is especially important to us men folk that typically like to have something physical to put our hands on in order to feel like we’re helping. We’re all there for you because we think you’ll need help and we want to repay you for all the deposits you’ve made into our emotional bank accounts. Without hearing you ask for help we think you need us to guess what you need. This leads to a lot of people asking the same question over and over and over… “Are you ok? Do you need anything? What can I do for you”

    The other part is equally important to us caretakers – don’t apologize. Apologizing marginalizes our efforts and make us feel like we’re not doing what you really need. It makes us feel like we’re not actually being helpful and what we are doing is not that important to you. It was much better to hear you saying thank you instead of “I’m sorry…”

    I love you so much and I love this blog. It’s so great to see you turning your pain and suffering into something positive and helpful to others.

    I’d sure love to see a post about the “Press Release” with a template that others can download and use. I think that was the single most important thing we did to limit the pre-treatment stress of dozens of phone calls and repeating the same information over and over for all the people we love and care about.

    Sang Henfling

    March 30, 2016Reply

    I¦ve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or blog posts in this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this website. Studying this information So i am glad to convey that I have a very good uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed. I so much no doubt will make sure to do not put out of your mind this web site and give it a look regularly.

    Tara

    November 26, 2016Reply

    I’m going to surgery in the next few days and I honestly had no idea what I would need. Thank you so much❤️! I honestly was going to wait for my consultation (PAS) to ask them what I should get but it keep bugging me that I didn’t have the slightest idea so I googled it and your blog popped up. Not only did you provide good clear information and products (most pages I viewed didn’t explain how the items were used and where they could be purchased ) you also mentioned how they helped you and made your recovery process less stressful. This information was so helpful and truly gave me a sense of direction as to what I should expect during my recovery. With this battle you never know what to expect or how to prepare because this can change so quickly. Thank you.

      Anna

      November 27, 2016Reply

      I am SO glad you found the post helpful. Your experience is the exact reason I decided to create the list and the suggestions. Before my surgery, I also searched for suggestions and guidance and all the pages didn’t fully cover what I was looking for. I hope your surgery goes well! I will be keeping you in my thoughts.

    Lau Thomas

    February 13, 2018Reply

    Thank you so much for the tips. I have a friend going in soon and she, like you, does not like to ask for help. Your tips on what were helpful are wonderful.

      Anna

      February 13, 2018Reply

      That makes me SO happy to hear. You are an amazing friend!

    Gina

    May 20, 2018Reply

    Thank you for sharing this helpful information. I’m battling Stage II IBC right now and it’s aggressive. I’m half way though chemo and will begin my double mastectomy journey in another month or so. I’m scared but I believe a way to combat my fright is to be mentally prepared. Your article helped me a lot so THANK YOU!!!

      Anna

      May 21, 2018Reply

      That makes me so happy to hear. I know it’s a scary time and I’ll be sending you a giant hug as you continue through this process!

    Druanne

    August 2, 2018Reply

    I am having a bilateral mastectomy at the end of August. I happened upon your blog yesterday and thank you so much!!! So many great ideas!!!!!! A few things I never even considered. 🙂 Hope you are well. <3

      Anna

      August 2, 2018Reply

      I am so glad you found my blog just in time. Sending you love during your surgery.

    Linda

    August 8, 2018Reply

    Your friend, and my cousin, Carrie sent me the link. Thanks for all the great suggestions. My bilateral mastectomy is at the end of August, likely followed by chemo and radiation.

      Anna

      August 9, 2018Reply

      I am so glad you found my blog and I hope it can be of help to you

    Melissa E Lewis

    August 9, 2018Reply

    My daughter is 16 and is having a masectomy August 27th. She fortunately does not have cancer, but she has an 11cm fibroadenoma that shows no signs of stopping increasing in size. It is the breast on her dominant side and she is super worries about getting back to high school and back onto volleyball court (she is blessed to have super understanding coach who she herself is a survivor and tells her no worries just heal). I have read and read and read. I feel like I am drowning just trying to figure out what I need to do for her, get for her, say to her. Any suggestions?

      Anna

      August 9, 2018Reply

      Sending her so much love! So much to go through at such a young age. First I suggest she follow Paige Previvor on social media. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction due to the BRAC gene and while her situation is different she may find that perspective helpful. Is she having a single or a double? Either way this list is a great place to start for helpful items she’ll need. The most important part is support and emotionally processing. The physical part is hard but the emotional part is harder. Just be there for her. Help her connect with other young Previvors who have done preventative surgery. It will help her to have a community of women who understand.

    Vicki

    February 21, 2019Reply

    Thank you for u for this blog! I have my mastectomy tomorrow and thought I had all I needed, wrong! You provided so many wonderful ideas which will help. Now to overcome the anxiety!

      Anna

      February 21, 2019Reply

      I will be sending you tons of love and healing!!!

    Julia Parker

    November 6, 2019Reply

    Your knowledge and advice keeps on giving to those going through such a stressful time, Anna. Thank you!

      Anna

      November 6, 2019Reply

      I am so happy I could help in a small way

    Sarah

    November 18, 2019Reply

    Thank you posting this! I’m am undergoing a preventative double mastectomy in two months and really hadn’t given thought as to what to do after surgery. I’m really scared of the drains, as I’m also a Type 1 diabetic, so risk of infection is extra high. Didn’t even think about post surgery bra’s, so that is something I’ll into right away! The Kelly Bee design for a comfy sweater with drains is fantastic, and will be scouring the racks at TJMaxx for over sized open front flannels and soft shirts. Do you have any dietary recommendations in helping with recovery? I’ve been taking biotin per my surgeons suggestion. Thank you again for sharing your blog <3

      Anna

      November 18, 2019Reply

      I’ll be sending you lots of healing love. For diet just start hydrated and as healthy as possible to help your immune system

    Alyssa

    May 5, 2021Reply

    Your blog was really helpful for me, I’m glad I stumbled upon it before and as I continue to navigate through my mastectomy. I love the two microbead pillows, A LOT… And the suggestions for clothing, etc.

      Anna

      May 5, 2021Reply

      I am so happy to hear I could help! Sending you all the healing vibes.

    Eve

    July 29, 2021Reply

    Anna, thank you SO much for putting this amazingly helpful guide together!!! <3 I'm going in for my double mastectomy on August 13th, and finding your page on Instagram (and your website) has been a blessing!!! <3 You're amazing, I love youuuuuu!!! <3

      Anna

      July 30, 2021Reply

      You are so welcome. I am SO glad it was helpful.

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