Preparing For A Mastectomy During A Pandemic

COVID-19 has altered every aspect of our daily lives for the past 10 months and breast cancer care is no different. The American Cancer Society’s recent survey of cancer patients reported 87% of their healthcare was affected, whether it be in-person appointments, imaging services or surgery. While certain procedures have been postponed, mastectomies and lumpectomies continue without delay for those with aggressive types of breast cancer like HER2-positive cancer, triple negative or when it is in the best medical interest of the patient. Unfortunately, reconstructive surgeries are considered elective which means you may be in for two separate surgeries at two completely different times.

You can never be fully prepared for a mastectomy, but reference these tips to help equip you for surgery and the recovery phases as best as you can

Getting Home Ready

  1. Meal Prep. Prepare at least two-weeks’ worth of freezer meals to consume after your surgery. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy snacks or ready-made meals. Avoid the grocery store by scheduling grocery delivery services or no-contact pick up.
  2. Organize. Many patients don’t realize your post-op arm movements will be limited after surgery. Doctors generally recommend limiting arm movements to within 6 inches of your torso as going beyond can cause unnecessary pain and lengthen your recovery period. Make a point to organize items most used whether it be in the kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom to a more manageable, reachable area during your recovery to avoid overreaching and potentially damaging the work. She Rex offers a post-op recovery band you can purchase as a gentle reminder not to overreach and helps you operate within the prescribed limits comfortably. .
  3. Keep it clean. Do as much as you are able before surgery and don’t agonize about it after. Get all the laundry done and keep the cozy, open-faced clothing to the front and things like sheets and towels easily accessible. Clean out the fridge. Take out all the trash in every room of your home to avoid picking up heavy bags of garbage after surgery.
  4. Stock up on supplies. You'll need gloves, alcohol wipes, and nursing pads which are useful in case of incision leaks. Keep hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in every room to avoid COVID risks, especially if you live with others. Items like a grabber to pick up out of reach items or something to help open jars will prove useful. A lanyard to hang drains on, a removable shower head and shower seat are recommended for best self-care.
  5. Accommodate your needs. Stock up your devices with games and new books, or if you still like the feel of pages, reserve books at the library for no-contact pick up. Find TV shows or movies on streaming services and add it to your list. Sign up for free trials and get anywhere from a week to a month to experience them while you have down time if you’re not already subscribed. Invest in items like a lap desk pillow to make it more comfortable while in bed.
  6. Enlist the help of friends and family. It can feel burdensome to ask for help, but don’t be afraid to reach out. They can deliver groceries, essentials, pick up prescriptions and drop it at your door. For your own sanity keep in contact. Zoom and Facebook messenger have free options to video chat with family and friends. Plus, there are plenty of support groups and resources you can tap into online to keep your mental health in check.
  7. Keep your doctor’s info on standby. Telehealth is becoming the first line of defense during this pandemic. If you have questions or concerns after surgery make sure you get their info to avoid putting yourself at risk by going to the hospital. Check with your insurance company on their telehealth options if your doctor is not available.

Prepping for the hospital stay

  1. Pack, comfortable, easy-on clothing. Tops that zip, tie or button are loose and comfortable are recommended. She Rex, offers a zip up hoodie with internal pockets for the drains inserted during surgery keeping them from hanging awkwardly or catching.
  2. Pack warm, no skid socks or slippers. Having something warm on your feet is a necessity for the cold, hard hospital floors and make the trip from the bed to the bathroom manageable.
  3. Bring hygienic items you can use. Stock up on dry shampoo, use baby or body wipes to freshen up, bring a travel toothbrush, but leave the deodorant and body creams at home as most doctors will advise against using them.
  4. Pillows, pillows and more pillows. Find decent pillows to ensure your sleeping arrangements are as comfortable as possible. Mastectomy pillows that go under the arm pits and over the incision area are a game-changer. A pillow is necessary to put underneath the seatbelt after surgery, and a wedge pillow can help you sit more comfortably for long stretches on the couch.

Going through a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at any time is difficult, but this pandemic exasperates the emotions you will go through. You might be used to going 100 miles an hour, but heed the advice of your doctor, take care of yourself first, stay socially distant and recover strong.