Getting ready for surgery – suggestions from one who didn’t plan…


Get into an “I’m the patient who needs help” mode.  Tell your family you won’t be available to physically help them for a while – yes, really.

EVERYTHING needs a prescription from your doctor – drugs of course, visiting nurses, physical therapists, anything that happens outside your doctor’s office needs one.

“They” don’t tell you that you won’t be able to lift anything heavier than “a five pound bag of sugar” for several weeks or months, depending on the extent of your surgery and your general health.  You may feel awful from anesthesia or morphine or whatever pain medications you are given.  Please be sure to line up someone (mate, parent, friend, upper-teens-aged child) to check in on you once you get home. Don’t forget that they want you to be well, too.

If you have insurance, line up some visiting nurses.  Ask your doctor for a prescription now which you will need.  Changing dressings and dealing with drain(s) – more on that later – can be challenging the first few days you are home.  If you have no insurance, line up a friend or two, other Mom’s or people from church to help you with the initial changing of the dressings.   Don’t forget to line up help for your children’s activities – you won’t be able to drive at first.  Most people are very generous when we need help.  Don’t forget to give it back when they need your help.  We all need help sometime, even if we don’t normally admit it.

Make sure you have your antibiotics and pain medications available at home before you go in for surgery.  Believe me, you won’t feel like a quick trip to the drug store!   The same goes for icebags (bags of frozen peas or corn are great also), heating pads, gauze pads, ask your doctor what else you should have.  If they give you a petroleum-based cream/gel etc and you want something natural, we carry Jen’s Gift, which was made for radiation recovery, however it works wonders for healing incisions and preventing infection.

Get some good paperback books lined up.  Your laptop will be too heavy and you need to be able to fall asleep without worrying about dropping it.

If you can afford them, get a couple of zip front jogging bras which are easy to put on and give great support while you are recovering.  And yes, you will be sleeping in them for a while.  Department stores like Macy’s or Saks 5th Avenue or good sports stores will have heavy-duty ones for around $35 – $40.  Stores like JC Penny’s has lighter weight ones for around $20.  Check around the internet if you have time.  Your doctor will put a hospital version on you after surgery so you will have something to support and protect you.  I never tried to get a prescription for one, but you might be able to, depending on your insurance.

Make sure your button-up-the-front shirts/blouses are fresh and ready to wear.  You won’t be able to reach up to pull clothes over your head.  Pull on pants/sweatpants will make getting dressed a lot easier.  Don’t forget your pajamas or nightgowns – button up the front.

Oh, laundry… putting the laundry in the washer/dryer is not a problem – picking up the huge bottle/box of detergent is.   Put some in a light weight container now.

If you have important-to-your-life things on top shelves, put them on easy to reach shelves or counters now so you don’t have to keep asking everyone else to get something down for you.  Your kitchen may be cluttered for a while, but your life will be so much easier.  If all your cooking pans are heavy ones, get frozen microwaveable or oven-heatable dinners now.

Physical therapy.  If someone had told me how unbelievably important this is, I would have thought they were being dramatic – not so.  If you have insurance, get the prescription before surgery so you can just go as soon as possible.  These trained therapists will make your recovery much more comfortable and quicker because they know how to stimulate your cells into faster recovery mode.  If you don’t have insurance, check with the hospital to see if they have any free programs or if they can suggest one.

More later on eating to heal!

You may find our site www.breastcancerbuddy.com useful.

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