So you are going to have a mastectomy – what do you need? What should you get to be prepared? Or you have a friend who is about to have a mastectomy and you want to get her something? What would be useful? What does she really need? Or maybe you or a friend is having major surgery, these recommendations will be useful for you too.
Obviously, everyone is different, but I want to share my favorite gifts/purchases that were super helpful as I recovered from my mastectomy and even as I continued through the reconstruction process.
1. A Mastectomy Chest Pillow
This first one is a must-have in my mind. I had no idea I needed it until after it was gifted to me. I used it throughout the mastectomy and reconstruction process. This was extremely helpful!!
A mastectomy chest pillow or a chest surgery pillow is basically a rectangular pillow that has two scooped cut-outs. The cut-outs go under your arms to allow the pillow to wrap around your chest. Using the pillow in the car prevents the shoulder strap of the seat belt from resting on your chest. I also used my pillow whenever my children visited as a shield to protect my chest.
2. A Recliner
Post-mastectomy the biggest challenge is transitioning from lying to standing. Also, lying completely flat is uncomfortable. Being in a slightly inclined position is ideal. A recliner solves all of these issues. A recliner allows you to relax as it transitions you from lying to sitting upright. It also allows you to relax in an inclined position.
If you don’t own a recliner, don’t run out immediately and buy one. Consider borrowing one. We did not own a recliner, but my grandmother-in-law had two as part of her living room set. She happily loaned me one for my recovery.
She couldn’t do much to help me during my recovery herself but use of her recliner was a huge help to us. She was thrilled to learn how much it helped me during my recovery. Do you have a friend or family member who would be willing to help you in this way too? It never hurts to ask.
3. Yeti or Insulated Cup with a Straw
Post-mastectomy your movement is incredibly limited. Lifting and tipping a cup, however minor it may seem will be an effort. A straw will negate the need to tip a cup to drink.
You will also most likely be required to take medications every couple of hours. I kept my upcoming medication doses and a glass of water next to me at all times. This prevented the need to get up to take my medications.
I was gifted a yeti with a straw at my boob-voyage, along with many other similar cups. I quickly discovered the yeti cup was far superior. The Yeti was my only cup that kept my water cold with ice all night long. Having a cold class of water within reach was helpful, a nice treat and negated the need for me to get up to get ice or a new glass of water.
4. Soft Blankets
I was gifted 3 soft fleece blankets for my mastectomy. I used all three constantly. I camped out in a leather recliner post-mastectomy. I lined the recliner with a comfy blanket that could be washed every couple of days. When you can’t shower or wash your own hair, having clean blankets around you feels nice. I also cozied up under the blankets too. Snuggling with soft blankets feels especially nice when you aren’t feeling well.
Soft blankets are now a go-to gift for me to give other cancer patients. They have also raved about how nice it was to have a soft blanket. Whether you are sick from Chemo or surgery, snuggling with a soft blanket is comforting. Even now, the soft blankets are a hot commodity when watching a movie for my entire family.
5. Queasy Drops
I first encountered Queasy Drops when I was pregnant, only they were labeled “Prego Pops.” Well, the people at Prego Pops must have had the ingenious idea that pregnant women aren’t the only ones suffering from nausea. The Queasy Drops I was gifted were marketed specifically for breast cancer patients.
Queasy Drops may sound like a gimmick, but they worked when I was pregnant to ease the nausea and they worked post-surgeries to ease nausea. I am an extreme case when it comes to nausea. I needed prescription medications for nausea, but I used the Queasy Drops whenever I could for my milder cases of nausea.
6. Dry Shampoo
I may be behind the times, but I had never used dry shampoo before my mastectomy. However, I was gifted 4 bottles of dry shampoo from friends and I quickly discovered how amazing dry shampoo is. Post-mastectomy you can’t wash your hair for weeks, at least not in the shower. Every 3 or 4 days I went to a salon to have my hair washed. It felt amazing, but its not the cheapest option.
With Dry Shampoo you literally spray it in your hair, brush it through your hair and viola clean oil-free hair. It is amazing! Definitely the next best option to salon washes or to extend the time between salon washes.
7. Encouraging Quotes
Ok so this may sounds cliché, but I got a magnet and a mug with encouraging phrases. Every time I saw them, they made me smile. When you are going through a difficult time, it is really nice to be reminded others care and your current state is temporary. Surgeries and breast cancer are a thing of the past for me now, but I still smile whenever I see these little reminders. I am fondly reminded of the sweet friends who gifted them to me too.
8. Teleschoping Scratcher
With limited mobility a telescoping scratcher is nice to have around. Anything really that negates bending, reaching or stretching.
Never underestimate the gift of your presence and time. Recovering from a mastectomy takes weeks. Initially, I couldn’t even alone, because of my constant need for help. Once I was a little more independent, I spent weeks home alone recovering. Trust me, being alone gets old, boring and lonely. There is only so much you can do to entertain yourself before you get bored.
Friends dropping by for a visit was a nice treat. Some friends brought lunch and stayed to eat with me and visit. Some dropped by just to say “hi.” You don’t need to bring anything other than yourself. Just show up for your friend or loved one. It will mean a lot to them. Your time is one of your most precious resources and one of the best gifts you can give others.
Meals are such a great way to show support for friends and family post-surgery. Yes anyone can cook, order take-out or pizza. But a meal delivered to your door without any of your own effort is such a treat! Not just for the person recovering, but also for anyone else with them.
Just think, having this one simple task taken care of allows anyone else to focus their attentions on the care of the person recovering instead of shopping, meal prep and cooking. Plus any leftovers provide additional meals.
After every surgery I had friends organize meal sign-ups for me. My post-mastectomy meal sign-up was set up to be three weeks of meals delivered by friends every other day. The sign-up filled up within a couple hours and friends were contacting the organizer to voice they didn’t get a slot. I was so touched by this outpouring of support.
The company of having friends drop by with dinner was really nice too. As I have mentioned, recovering from surgery can get lonely. Dropping off a meal is a nice excuse to visit and check-in on a friend after surgery. I looked forward to a short visit with a friend. I also gained so many delicious recipes to add to my recipe library.
There are free online services for setting up a meal sign-up. I have used mealtrain.com and signupgenius.com. Both allow you designate dates, enter pertinent information and then privately share the sign-up via a website link with whomever you would like to include.
Well there you have it, my top 10 must haves for your mastectomy recovery or to gift to your friends. I hope this list helps you prepare for the road ahead. Don’t forget a positive attitude is a huge asset too! The support of both family and friends is a huge encouragement. Not to worry, you have got this and you will do amazing!