Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be a scary and overwhelming time in your life. There are so many decisions that need to be made and information can be confusing which can drain you mentally. If a mastectomy is in your future, let me help ease your mind a little bit by providing you with some practical items you will need to get you through surgery as comfortably as possible – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Your mind is probably swirling with all that you need to take in to prepare for surgery. It’s an emotional roller coaster and sometimes, being physically prepared, can help you emotionally. When I went through my mastectomy and subsequent surgeries, these were items I used (or similar) and tips and tricks I learned from surgery to surgery. I would have loved someone to tell me all that had helped make life easier before surgery and in the recovery phase. This is why I am sharing this list with you! I hope you will benefit from this lovingly, curated list and share with me what was helpful for you. Feel free to comment to add your own tips and items that helped you in order to help others.
If you are reading this because you know someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer and you are looking for ways to support them, thank you. Sincerely, you are a blessing to your loved one or friend and they will appreciate your efforts in supporting them in tangible and helpful ways throughout their journey.
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I will only refer you to items that I have used personally and love. If I couldn’t find it on Amazon, I will note that and give you similar options on Amazon and elsewhere. If you do try items that I have not personally used, I would appreciate honest feedback so I know if I should continue to recommend those particular items. Thank you!
15 Items for Your Mastectomy Kit
1. Antibacterial soap
I usually use natural or organic soaps on a day to day basis, but to make sure that your skin is free from bacteria for surgery day, the surgeons recommend using an antibacterial soap before surgery. They say it can help prevent infection at your surgical site.
2. Pillow and “Hello Beautiful” pillowcase
It is helpful to have a pillow for the car ride home, so bring one with you to the hospital. Simply place it between you and the seatbelt for a more comfortable ride. When at home, it’s helpful to surround yourself with pillows to make your sleep more comfortable. Use the pillow to elevate the arm(s) on your mastectomy side when resting and sleeping. I found this “Hello Beautiful” pillowcase and gave it as a gift to my friend who went through this trial and she said it was a great reminder to look at in the days following surgery when you don’t always feel beautiful.
3. Electric shaver
In the days leading up to surgery and definitely after, the doctors had recommended that I use an electric shaver to reduce cuts and risk of infection since they took lymph nodes near my armpits. [*I haven’t used this particular shaver. I had my mastectomy almost 14 years ago and I’m pretty sure that model is no longer available.]
4. Safety pins
There are now lots of options to hold your drains after surgery. I found good old safety pins (the larger kind) were easier and more adjustable than some of the contraptions out there. I simply pinned the tag of the drain to the bottom of my mastectomy bra. You definitely want a way to secure the drains. Having them hang and pull is a feeling you do not want to experience.
5. Alcohol swabs
Speaking of those drains, you will need alcohol swabs to strip them and keep them clean in the week after surgery before they are removed. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what I’m talking about right now. The nurses are wonderful at showing you how to do that after your surgery. The alcohol swabs are also handy for cleaning up other small marks on your skin in a sanitary way.
6. Ice packs
After you get home and the pain medication starts to wear off, it’s helpful to have some ice packs handy to help with pain and inflammation. I discovered these little circle ones and worked wonderfully. You can stick them fuzzy side toward your bandages right inside your bra if it’s comfortable for you.
7. Button down pjs/shirts
It will be hard to lift your arms above your head at first and you will have limited mobility until you are complete with your physically therapy. Pulling shirts over your head are tedious and can be painful, so I found it better to wear button down sleep shirts and regular shirts for the first few weeks. Likewise, buttoning pants sometimes was too difficult so pants with elastic waists were a staple in my wardrobe for awhile. [*I haven’t personally used this particular sleep shirt, so if you try it, let me know what you think. It comes in many colors/patterns]
8. Eye mask
Sleep is so crucial to recovery. I found that having a sleep mask for those naps during the day helped make that rest happen. Ear plugs are also helpful if you have a noisy household. (I had two toddlers at home when I was recovering, so that was a sanity saver) [*I haven’t used this particular mask.]
9. Dry shampoo
It will be about a week or longer before the drains are out. Showering will most likely be sponge baths until the drains are out and having someone wash your hair can be tedious and painful. I found that using a dry shampoo helped me feel normal for that in between time until I could take a shower.
10. Unscented lotion
I try to use products that are free from cancer causing chemicals and other harmful ingredients. Using a body lotion that is free of those things gave me peace of mind that I was not inputting things directly on the largest organ of my body.
11. Lip Balm
After surgery, oftentimes, your lips are dry and chapped. Again, I prefer something a little more natural. Lately, I’ve been making my own lip balm out of organic ingredients and essential oils, but for something quick, a natural store bought lip balm is perfectly fine. Choose your favorite one!
12. Essential oils to diffuse
While at the time of my mastectomy, essential oils were not a part of my day to day life, I have since used them after subsequents surgeries and everyday life. Diffusing something calming to you can help create an atmosphere of peace. Also, when there are visitors, you can diffuse something that will help keep you well, to avoid any unnecessary illness. Right now, I use Young Living Essential Oils. If you don’t know where to find them, take a look at our group page. There is a wealth of information on there from use to purchasing. YL oils can be purchased through an enroller (me) if you don’t already have one. If you do decide to purchase, please us my ID# in place of the one listed on the site. Click HERE to connect to Teri’s website or email me for her direct line. [I’m technically a distributor, but I don’t do the business. However, by ordering through me, I may earn a small rebate. Thank you!]
13. Hand sanitizer
Speaking of visitors, I kindly asked that people to use hand sanitizer that I provided as they walked in the door. I had my mastectomy in the winter and well, it’s cold and flu season. I certainly didn’t want to add that complication to my recovery. There are great natural ones out there that are not alcohol based. This was one my family has used in the past. It works well. Young Living also has a wonderful hand sanitizer that I use primarily now.
During the recovery phase, it was helpful to have uplifting books, movies, shows, music and podcasts to help pass the time and encourage me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. One of my favorite authors is Francine Rivers. One of her series The Mark of the Lion is a trilogy. I recommend this series because it talks about many trials the main character endured and how her faith held her through. It was very inspiring. Also, her book Redeeming Love is another favorite. Based on the book of Hosea in the Bible, the twists and turns of this story remind me time and time again how God’s love is always constant despite my sin and failures. A true testament of faith.
15. Thank you notes
I pray you will have a support system for before, during and after your surgery. My church at the time was simply amazing. They supplied food for our family for at least two weeks after my first surgery. I had people watching my children round the clock for the first 6 weeks after surgery since I couldn’t lift my daughter (13 months at the time). I also had friends who offered to break me out of the house once I felt like it and take me out for lunch or coffee, until I could drive. For all these blessings and many more, I took time to write thank you notes for all that help. It kept me focused on all the good and thankful for all the wonderful people God had in my life for that season. Writing thank you notes helps keep you focused on the positives during a stressful and painful situation.
A BONUS ITEM!
Since I wrote this list, I was introduced to AnaOno products. My friend Dana, owns the company and has designed bras, undergarments, and robes for those of us going through surgeries and treatments. I own many of the products and they are so pretty and comfortable! You can check out her products HERE.
How to Use This List
Click HERE for the Amazon List. All Amazon items are on this list. Essential oils would still be a separate link above.
1. To make it easy, you can use this as a wish list for yourself. People want to help and when they ask how they can, you can direct them to your list. Put it up on Amazon and ask friends to help contribute to your kit. It’s easy to have items shipped directly to you. Feel free to customize to your specific needs.
2. If you are a support person, you can contribute to your loved one’s kit and bless them with these amazing, useful, gifts. We all want to help and sometimes asking the person doesn’t produce the results we are expecting. They may not know what they need or they are simply overwhelmed and can’t think of what they need. You can suggest this kit to them and see if it is something they would be interested in receiving.
I pray you will be blessed by this list and please share with me how this has helped you and what you would add to this list.
[This is Part 1 of a 3 part series on breast cancer support. Click here for Part 2 “7 Practical Ways to Support Your Friend Through Breast Cancer” and click here for Part 3 “How to Stay Connected to God Through Your Breast Cancer Journey”]