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Returning Home After a Mastectomy: Five Tips & Tricks

About 1 in 8 women will be impacted by breast cancer in her lifetime and mastectomy surgeries are on the rise as part of standard treatment for those impacted by this disease. Women are strong fighters, but returning home after a breast cancer diagnosis and major surgery can be nerve wracking and challenging for even the strongest of us.

If you, or someone you love, has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and scheduled a mastectomy, take a look at these five tips and tricks for a smooth transition home after the surgery.

1. Prep for recovery before you leave for the hospital.

Before your surgery, make sure you get your home prepped for your return. Set yourself up with clean sheets, find a comfortable place to lay down or sit next to a nice window and decide what show you are going to dive into as you recover. The more you have planned and prepped, the more prepared you will be.

On your first day home, it will be helpful to have bottled water, medications and snacks readily accessible from your bed or couch because you probably will not want to get up and maneuver. Ask a friend or loved one to leave a collection of snacks and drinks within easy reach each morning so that you don’t need to worry about anything other than recovering and regaining your strength.

2. Enlist your army of Friends in the Fight.

You should not face this recovery process alone. Before your surgery, make a list and schedule of friends and loved ones who can be with you in the days following your surgery. Recovery from a mastectomy normally takes a few weeks, so it is helpful to plan ahead and ask for help on things like meal prep, cleaning and childcare. Don’t take on more than you are ready for and make sure you have a group of people ready to step up to the plate in your time of need.

Friends and loved ones can also be a huge help in the beginning to remind you to take the right medications at the right time. Staying ahead on pain management will is the key to easing your transition back home.

3. Do your exercises, and start on day one!

After a mastectomy, your doctor will write down a series of arm exercises for you to do each day to help build your strength back. These can feel easy to skip, but you will get stronger faster if you follow your doctors exercise routine down the very detail as soon as you get home. These will also help manage pain, prevent stiffness and maintain flexibility.

4. Make sure you have the clothes and supplies you need.

A large part of your recovery will likely be caring for the bandage, surgical drain, stitches and staples. Before your surgery, get a sense from your doctor and surgeon what will be expected of you for this post-op care when you return home. Sometimes, surgical drains stay inserted until the first follow-up visit with the doctor (usually 1-2 weeks after surgery), but most of the time people change their own surgical bandage before the first visit back to the hospital.

Bring a trusted loved one with you to learn how to properly complete these procedures and for moral support throughout this process. Also, be sure you bring home all of the supplies given to you at the hospital.

If you do have surgical drains and bandages when you get home, you’ll want to make sure you have the right clothes that are comfortable, stable and hold the drains in a discrete way. Luckily, our Mighty Wrap was created just for that purpose!

I loved the fabric, cut and drape of the wrap before my surgery, and post-surgery it was a great way to give me a beautiful shape with roomy coverage over my bandages. This is a perfect gift for anyone preparing for a surgery of any kind because it is well made and easy to put on when limited in your range of motion.

Elise, Breast Cancer Warrior

5. Expect to feel emotional.

A mastectomy is a major surgery, and one that is likely tied to your identity as a woman. It’s normal to feel emotional after a surgery like this, so allow yourself to feel grief for your loss and expect that some days will be easier than others. In the hardest of moments, try to remember that your strength brought you here and your strength will continue to carry you through your journey.

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