An oncologist recommending that you need a mastectomy is one of the most difficult things a woman will hear. I remember thinking to myself, “Did he seriously say that I need to have a mastectomy?” It was the last thing I wanted, despite some recommendations my family made when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
If you’re in the time of your life that a mastectomy is needed, know that you definitely are not alone in your feelings. Sadness, confusion, betrayal and denial are all completely normal. Believe me, you will survive this and hopefully will look back and realize it was not as bad as you imagined.
Everyone is different, and that includes what we worry about the most. My biggest fears were pain, appearance and the drains. Reading and hearing other people’s experiences were both a blessing and a curse. I heard stories of horrible pain that lasted for months. I could not imagine pain that lasted that long. Then I heard the “You’re lucky to get a breast augmentation out of the deal.” No! It’s not something I would undergo by choice. I was quite pleased with my natural appearance.
Here are some tips that I wish I had known before my mastectomy. Please keep in mind that every person with breast cancer is unique. So, whatever has worked for me, might not be right for you. I am only offering suggestions. Planning ahead helped me.
The weeks leading up to your surgery is a time to be busy. Staying busy helped keep my mind focused on something useful instead of being scared, worried and second-guessing all of the time. Start planning by making a to-do list.
Time to get organized
Buy button-down shirts, but no need to go overboard. I went to my local Goodwill to buy my button-down shirts because that was not a typical piece of my wardrobe. Button-down shirts come in handy because they are easy to put on and take off.
Drains take out blood and debris from the incision, which prevents a hematoma. Drains do not hurt, and they are in place for only about a week. They are extremely easy, but unfortunately you cannot shower with them in.
Planning can include paying your bills, organizing child care, cleaning your house, doing errands and making appointments. I scheduled my dentist appointment the day before surgery and was grateful to have it completed.
Sign up online for Meal Train, or something similar to it. Friends and family can sign up to bring over meals for you and your family. It’s an easy way to answer their question, “How can I help you?” Cooking and planning meals are the last thing you want to think about as you heal. I had mine for about two weeks. I found it extremely helpful, plus I got to see people for visits.
Take time to rest, buy comfortable clothes, mastectomy bras, and look forward to watching your favorite shows and movies for a week or two. Allow your body to heal, as frustrating as that can be. Rely on family and friends to help.
Time heals everything and you’ll be back before you know it.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.