Mastectomy Must-Haves

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mastectomyJudas Boob Bash

That’s what the invitations I sent to people read as I prepared for the goodbye party for my breasts. Boobs are an inevitable consequence of womanhood. The love/hate relationship we all have with our chest is complicated but, they are indeed a constant companion. Always there for us (and on us), ever-changing as we progress through the different stages of life. Unfortunately, mine betrayed that lifelong relationship a few years back and now we had a breakup to tackle in the form of a mastectomy. Sorry, but if you’re going to go behind my back and get cancer, that seems like a pretty good reason to part ways. Although the decision wasn’t really mine to make, I figured I might as well make the best of it and have a few good laughs before we permanently went in separate directions. 

Saying “Good-bye”

I’ve been fairly open about my stage four cancer diagnosis, so when my bad boob decided to flare back up last year and a double mastectomy became part of my treatment plan, I knew I wanted to mark the occasion as a happy fête instead of a sad one. I would finally be cancer free after almost six years! As attached as I was to my boobs, a celebration was in order. I invited all the people that had taken care of me and our family through five and a half years of treatment so we could all usher in another milestone in my miraculous cancer journey. 

A few of those incredible humans (we call ourselves the Momfia because, obviously, moms know how to get stuff taken care of) showed up for me once again with a basket full of mastectomy must-haves. These were items that I didn’t know how much I needed until I woke up in hospital recovery. I’ve already shared this list privately with several women since my surgery. However, now I would love for it to be shared over and over again to make what can be a traumatic experience in a woman’s life a little bit easier. So, here is a list of my mastectomy must-haves:

Tube Microbead Pillows

I don’t know why these are so incredible, but they are! The microbeads mean that they can form to whatever body part needs support post-surgery. For me, I slept with them under my arms and they magically made relaxing when my body was learning its new normal possible. I also used them when I couldn’t sleep on my back anymore and needed to side sleep without my chest touching the mattress. 

Drain Belt

Drains are a promised part of the first few weeks post-surgery. Letting them hang can cause discomfort and make it hard to get dressed, get around, or get anything done. You also increase your risk of infection if your drainage sites aren’t kept stable and clean. This drain belt has two pouches to hold your drains, is fully adjustable to fit your comfort level, and comes with an additional shower sling to hold your drains while you shower. 

Wedge Pillow Set

First of all, I don’t advocate for laying in bed all day post-surgery. You will feel tons better if you can get up and move around, do the exercises the surgeon provides, and even sit outside if you feel up to it. But in all reality, you’re going to have some downtime ahead of you, and being able to get comfortable is going to require some help. This wedge pillow set was perfect for sitting up in bed because the firmness of the pillows didn’t leave me hunched over or constantly having to reposition.

Being able to adjust the angle was incredibly helpful! Whether I was trying to sleep or trying to finish my favorite Netflix show, I could find a good position with this pillow set. The neck roll and the knee wedge meant I could move my body in several ways without as much discomfort. The fact that it’s easy to wash is a bonus!

Button Down Pajamas

Unfortunately, your body isn’t going to ease into clothes post-surgery. Getting dressed is going to be a delicate dance around incision sites, drains, and limited mobility. The button-front makes them easier to get on, and the silky material makes it easier to slide in and out of bed. That sounds silly, I know, but little things make a big difference! Be sure to size up to take into account bandages, drains, and overall ease of getting them on and off. 

Electronic Pill Reminder

Staying on top of your medications is a must! You’ll be sleeping weird hours and time will be a bit wonky the first few days after surgery as your body works hard to heal and get adjusted to your new situation. Pre-setting alarms is an easy way to take the guesswork out of when you’re supposed to be getting your medicine down. 

Weekly Pill Organizer

Why not take it one step further? Have your caretaker distribute an entire week’s worth of medication with a pill organizer. The first week is the most difficult, so get organized early and you won’t have to worry while you recover. 

Mastectomy Pillow

I used this pillow like my own personal Captain America shield. Your chest is a warzone after surgery and having this pillow with me not only supported my arms, but it put a buffer between me and the seatbelt, between me and my kids who wanted to be close to mommy, and between me and strangers when I walked through a store even weeks after my procedure. 

Mastectomy Recovery Gown

You’re often not going to feel up to having an entire outfit on as you move around the house during recovery, and what easier way to be covered without having to get completely dressed than a robe? This mastectomy gown has pockets for your drains, which, as I’ve mentioned before, will be tag-alongs that you’ll want to control.

Bath Brush

Your body isn’t going to move the way you want it to in the beginning of recovery and this handled bath brush was essential to clean areas I wouldn’t have been able to reach without it. The limited range of motion in your arms is going to mean you’ll need the extra assistance to get squeaky clean. 

Shower Seat

Full disclosure, I didn’t have a shower seat and I probably should have. My sweet mommy just stood there and propped me up as I swayed while I showered the first few times. Having a shower seat would’ve taken the uneasiness of worrying I might fall or faint. 

Front Closure Bras

Limited flexibility strikes again if you’re like me and used to bras that snap in the back or pull over your head. You may not want to wear a bra at all immediately after surgery (I definitely didn’t), but some women prefer the snugness and familiarity of wearing a bra every day. Remember to size up because you don’t want the bra rubbing any incision sites too closely and to account for any bandages you may have. 

Rubbing Alcohol

This helps get rid of sticky bandage residue or blood on skin. My friend in the medical field also snagged me some magic towelettes they use to accomplish the same thing in hospital. So, my friendly tip would be to request some of those before you leave for home because they work like a charm.

Zip Front Top

When you leave the hospital, you’re going to want pants that pull up easily, slip-on shoes, and a top that either buttons or zips up the front so you can slide your arms in individually and gingerly post-surgery. Just like the button front jammies, think soft, oversized, and easy to wash. 

Support

I can’t stress enough how these women saved me from a reality I wasn’t prepared for with my Judas Boob Basket. It was packed with not only these practical items but also my favorite magazines, my favorite snacks, and a notebook to write in when I got bored of watching television. They included meal gift cards, a gift card to a local dry cleaner so we wouldn’t have to worry about laundry, and arranged for grocery delivery to my house when I got home from recovery.

Your gift doesn’t have to be a big basket, though. Your friend will feel loved and seen with anything you put the time into researching and providing for them before or after their surgery. If you’re looking for other ways to support a friend on their cancer journey, check out these 10 Things Your Friend With Cancer Really Wants to help you care for your loved one while they go through a hard time. Prayers for your loved ones’ speedy recovery!

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Haley is an Alabama native who swore she would never end up back in Birmingham after college but has fallen in love with her city all over again since she graduated from the University of Alabama in 2007. With a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a double minor in Marketing and English, Haley has always had a passion for helping the companies she's worked for grow their brands and make a positive impact in their communities. Haley is currently the Marketing Director at GrandView Financial Group and also does independent marketing consulting for causes she feels passionate about like the revitalization effort projects in downtown Birmingham. Haley is the proud wife of ten years to her chicken farming husband, Bobby. They have a seven-year-old daughter, Presley, who is as wonderfully affectionate as she is athletic, and Knox, five years old, who will undoubtedly have his own Netflix comedy special one day if he doesn't decide to follow in his dad's hardworking, farmer boots one day. In December of 2016, Haley was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer which has colored her life with a beautiful appreciation that most people don't get to experience. Don't count cancer a hobby, though. Haley is into sports talk radio, always playing hostess for friends and family and capturing life's precious moments with pictures and words as often as possible.

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