What do you need at home after a mastectomy? 8 things that will help your home be a healing sanctuary

Jun 02, 2021

When you first come home from hospital, you may feel like your arms are pinned down to your sides. One of my patients said she felt like her arms were in a straight jacket.

Imagine what you can do if this is what you're faced with? 

Setting up your home before your go in to surgery, so it's ready to receive you in the best possible way afterwards, is a tip I've gotten from so many patients that I've got to pass it along to you.


Here are 8 things my patients have told me were so useful for their healing at home after a mastectomy:


1. A small bell

When you're laid up in bed and needing your people to help you in some way, a small bell by your bedside can alert them that you need something.  Rather than hollering from the bedroom, a task you may not feel up to with a heavily bandaged chest, a small bell within easy reach can send a polite sound that carries through your house, so your support team will know you need something and come help you.


2. Additional pillows

Having extra pillows for a supportive bed experience can mean all the difference for comfort, support and safety after your mastectomy.  We recommend having at least 7 standard pillows for back, arms and chest, which will keep you propped up, able to adjust your reclining position to relieve pressure on sore hips, prop your arms up to relieve swelling and to put over your chest to protect against over-eager children and pets.   Our "Getting Through the First 6 Weeks" program has pillowing techniques outlined in a simple, straightforward way so you know exactly how to place them. 


3. A tray

This may seem so small you may wonder why we are including it, but this is really a time-saving device for your support person.  Rather than making multiple trips to deliver you water, tea, pills, snacks etc, if you have an easy-carry tray, your caregiver can get everything you need for the next few hours organized on a tray and bring it to you at one time.  That way their day is more efficient and they will be conserving energy - an act of kindness for the person who is caring for you, and will ensure they are able to continue to care without burning out.


4. "Large-button" loose fitting button down shirt

You will not want to be pulling shirts on and off over your head in the first days, weeks or months of your healing, depending on how intensive your surgery is.  Having a button down shirt that is loose fitting, has easy-to-button closures will ensure your fingers can operate the buttons with ease, and you will not be fighting an awkward, restrictive garment.  Having natural breathable fabric will keep your skin breathing and help you feel more comfortable as well. 


5. Compression bra or wrap

Your surgeon will likely tell you to purchase a compression bra or wrap to wear in your first weeks home from hospital.  This helps reduce swelling, bruising and keeps scars flatter, rather than ballooning upwards.  One of my patients wore her compression garment around her abdomen for months after her surgeon told her she could take it off, because it gave her psychological comfort that everything was "staying together" and she felt supported around her middle.  You can find one at a medical supply store like Nightingale Pharmacy.


6. Disinfecting and wound-care supplies

The hospital should tell you what wound-care supplies you will need to keep the incision and drain sites clean in the weeks after your mastectomy.  Items like gauze, cotton pads, wound tape, Polysporin, tea tree oil, saline solution and Q-tips can help keep drains, drain exit wounds and incision sites clean, free of bacteria and protected from dirt. 


7.  Drain pouch

This is a small apron-type pouch that will give you a place to store your drains and excess drain tubes while you have them in after your surgery.  In our "Getting Through the First 6 Weeks" program, we teach you how to make a super quick and easy drain pouch out of items you probably already have at home, so you don't have to outlay any extra money for an item you'll probably only wear for 1 - 3 weeks.  A drain pouch can make dressing, undressing and going to the washroom much easier, plus reduces the chances your drains will get caught on something and pull on the wound site. 


8. Meaningful objects in your healing space

Having items that promote feelings of peace, guidance, love and care around you while you are convalescing can improve your mindset and make your period of confinement easier to bear.  Sacred objects like statues, symbols and  pictures that cultivate connection to your spirituality, religion, family or any other community larger than just yourself, can be of great help in promoting inner peace, strength and resilience. 


For more tips on what is important to have at home after a mastectomy, see our program "Getting Through the First 6 Weeks" to take the guess-work out of what to do and when to heal well from your breast surgery. 

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