Whether you are having a mastectomy because the doctor discovered a cancerous tumor, or you are proactively making the choice to prevent cancer due to the high risk of the BRCA gene, there are 8 things you absolutely need to be truly ready for a mastectomy.
You Need a Support Group
A support group can be your friends and family, complete strangers on Facebook, or a local group who meets regularly. Just know that even if you are the most independent type of person, you can’t do this completely alone. Maybe your support will come from all of the above.
You Need to Plan Ahead
In some situations, it can be a short time between diagnosis and surgery, but use whatever time there is to do some planning. There will be pain and limited range of motion after surgery so make a list and organize the following:
- Buy food staples for a two week period and non-perishable foods for a month. Pick foods you like to eat, because your appetite is likely to be affected after undergoing any type of surgery and you may not be as hungry as usual.
- Move cooking utensils, coffee mugs, and dishes to an accessible place. Arm movements will be limited and reaching up will be difficult, which is why it is best to move things to an area that’s easy to reach.
- Keep all medications in one place with the tops loosened. It may be difficult to remove the caps after surgery. Be sure to keep them away from children and pets.
- If time allows, make some bulk dishes like lasagna, rice and beans, or tuna casserole. Then separate them into individual portions and freeze to make easy meals whenever you need them. If friends offer to help, ask them to do the same.
- Gather some take out menus for nights when you have no energy.
- Showering and bathing after a mastectomy will be limited at first, so have some dry shampoo and moist towelettes on hand for sponge baths.
- With limited range of motion after a mastectomy, button down shirts and PJs are best, or find clothes you can “step into” like a long nightgown to make it even easier to maneuver.
You Need to Expect Some Pain
Yes, there will be physical pain. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication after surgery for limited use. Surgical drains for the excess fluid are needed, and they will cause a fair amount of discomfort.
You can also expect to lose feeling in the area of the breast after surgery, which can be a bit unsettling for some. Don’t panic, you will adjust to this new feeling over time.
You Need to Eat Nutritious Food
It is important to eat healthy and nutritious foods that include a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Protein is especially important after a major surgery as it helps in healing and rebuilding tissue.
If your appetite isn’t quite there, it’s okay. Just eat when you are hungry, and make sure that when you do eat, you are fueling your body with foods that will help you get stronger and heal faster. Nutritious snacks during the day like yogurt, raisins, and nuts are an excellent option if you prefer to eat in small quantities over time.
You Need Diversions
Dig out your favorite music. Listen while at the hospital and as you recuperate for its calming effects. Make a list of movies to make you laugh, or ask friends to bring over their favorite movies to watch together!
You Need to Ask for Help Sometimes
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help when you need it. You can’t be expected to do everything by yourself post surgery. If something needs to be moved or lifted, wait for help.
Friends are often eager to help but they may need direction, so ask for assistance with specific tasks like doing the laundry, watching the kids, picking up prescriptions, or shopping.
You Need to Give Yourself Permission to Rest and Recover
Don’t beat yourself up, but allow yourself time to recover no matter how long it takes. The entire process may take longer than you think. You may not be able to get back to your normal activities as quickly as you’d like, but you’ll only delay yourself further by trying to push through it all.
A common side effect after a mastectomy is fatigue with lack of energy, lack of interest, not paying attention to physical appearance, and issues with concentration. If this becomes problematic, speak to Dr. Wendy Gottlieb to find a suitable solution.
You Need to Understand That Having a Mastectomy Is a Journey
Having a mastectomy is a lengthy process. The journey will be exhausting and frightening at times, but maintaining a positive attitude will go along way to get you through the toughest times.
In times of doubt, remember why you are getting this surgery. Think of the long-term benefits and the peace of mind you will have once this is all over.
Asking questions can also be a great way to reduce anxiety prior to a mastectomy, and Dr. Gottlieb is the perfect resource. Contact Dr. Wendy Gottlieb by calling (703) 668-9499, or by submitting an appointment request form online today.