A patients view

Hints & Tips

Wax

Consider getting an underarm wax a few days before surgery so that you don’t have to think about shaving while recovering. If you’ve never waxed before, then make sure your pre-surgery wax isn’t your first time, in case your skin has a bad reaction.

Clean Your House

You will be restricted to the activities you can do, such as housework, cooking, shopping etc for a few weeks. Make sure that these jobs have been done in advance. Go food shopping before your operation and buy in plenty of ready prepared meals, fresh fruit and vegetables, bottled water and snacks. Ever tried Home Shopping? It’s easier than you think and you are more likely to get the things you want, than sending out a husband / partner / friend to do the job! Another option is to cook several meals which will last you for a few days and freeze them. Or ask your partner to do the cooking! It really makes a difference to come back to a clean and well-organized home. One less thing to worry about when you’re busy recovering and friends visit whilst you recover!

What to wear to go in

Try to wear the same thing to and from the hospital as there may not be much space to store personal belongings.  A button down shirt to avoid you lifting your arms above your head, and comfy shoes – bending over can be tricky.

Organise your family schedule

Someone needs to take the kids to school and activities while you rest. Schedule those people in advance so you won’t have to worry about it while you’re recuperating! Arrange for someone to come and help you for the first few days following surgery. This means being on hand to help out with the normal everyday jobs and to be there if you need some moral support. Ask your partner to look after your children (if you have a family) and your pet (if appropriate). If you do not have partner, then ask a family member or friend. Remember if you have any events, family occasions etc arranged at this time, then you may be tired whilst recovering and may need to reschedule them.

What to take in to hospital

When you’re recovering, ask your friend/family member/spouse to bring you the good stuff.
• Lip balm
• Facial spray
• Long Toothbrush & toothpaste
• Throat lozenges – to sooth your throat after surgery
• Small Pillow ( to put in between your chest and seat belt on the way home)
• mobile phone & charger
• Hair band / dry shampoo
• Glasses (if you wear them)
• Baby wipes
• Face wash
• iPod/iPad/laptop & charger(s)
• Magazines/Movies/Books
• A battery operated travel fan – hospitals are often very warm

During your stay;

An iPod (or similar) is more useful than books in the early days as extreme tiredness and medication etc. can make concentrating on reading impossible. Kindles or tablets are also useful later on.

A water bottle with a sports lid is easier to reach and drink from than a hospital beaker when you have surgery on both breasts and arm movement and grip is affected.

Wipes are useful when you are unable to get to the bathroom to wash. Dry shampoo and electric toothbrushes are also suggestions.

A healthy and balanced diet is necessary for good healing though you may feel unlike eating much. Ask for high calorie treats to be brought in. You may also be given high protein / high calorie drinks during your hospital stay.

If you want to take your own nightwear make sure your it can open from the front as the doctors and nurses need easy access to wound sites Most ladies spend their stay with a hospital gown draped over their front although you may wish to change into something nicer. A dressing gown is necessary for walks round the ward. Front buttoning nightwear of a dress size or two bigger can be useful even after you go home.

Restrict Visitors. It’s close family only for a couple of days anyway. Too many visitors can be very exhausting. Encourage visitors to wait until you are home and feeling stronger.

Nominate one person to phone ward if necessary and discourage others from phoning busy hospital staff.

Arrange for your partner or a member of your family to drive you to and from the hospital. If they are unable to help then ask a close friend to do this.  Also think about your journey home – a bumpy, rural road is not very comfortable.

Take some soft clothes to go home in, yoga pants, large t shirts and big knickers! Jeans are not recommended on DIEP scars.

For the car journey home, and for several weeks post-surgery, put a small soft cushion between you and the seat belt to avoid pressure on the breast and tummy surgery area, however this should be discarded once you are driving again.

Make sure you have enough bandages/dressings, antibacterial soap, ice packs and scar reducing creams, the last thing you want is to start feeling uncomfortable.

Ensure you are eating a healthy and balanced diet so you have plenty of vitamins and minerals to help the healing process. Supplements may be useful but only on the advice of your medical team.

Draw up a list of your medications and note down when you need to take them and how often. You will be very tired and ‘woozy’ during this time and it is easy to forget when to take your medication.

Have in a good supply of magazines, books, DVD’s etc. You will have to have plenty of rest when you get home and so spend this time watching television or reading. Listening to music can also help.

Have a small table close to hand with a decent night light, light snacks such as crackers, the TV remote control (this is important), a small bottle of water, your medications and your phone.

Place any items that you use on a daily basis at an easy to reach level.  For example bathroom toiletries and kitchen utensils, tins, bottles etc. You do not want to be reaching over or bending down for things. Have these things at hip or eye level.

Make sure you have some nice, soft pillows and a few extra blankets within reach. It is not uncommon to feel cold after surgery. You will also be tired and ‘under the weather’ and it is a good idea to wrap yourself in a blanket or a duvet during this time.

Wear something loose and comfortable. A dressing gown and slippers with a non-slip sole are ideal. Getting dressed will help you feel more normal and less like a patient. A loose top and baggy sweatpants or jogging bottoms are ideal.

Make use of your visitors – they can be the one’s putting the kettle on or making you a snack, but make sure there are not too many.  You still need time to recover.

Being organised about your surgery before it happens means that you can focus on what’s most important while you’re recovering ….. You!

A patients view

Bra Advice

Bra Advice

There are many different types of reconstruction and advice on bra wearing varies accordingly.  Each consultant and/or hospital will have their own guidelines on post operative bra wearing.  You should consult with the reconstruction nurse or surgeon as to what type of bra you will need and when to start wearing it.

When to wear the bra

If you have had your own tissue used to reconstruct your breast (e.g. DIEP, IGAP flaps) you need not wear a bra on discharge from hospital or for at least 2 weeks after surgery (but again this advice may vary from hospital to hospital and surgeon to surgeon). Wearing the wrong sized bra can put pressure in the blood vessels supplying the new breast and cause problems with the circulation.

For other surgery – you can wear the bra as soon as you feel able following surgery although if you are discharged with drains in or have had surgery to your glands under the arm you may need to wait until the drain is out and the wound has healed. Some breast surgery requires you to wear this bra for up to 3 months and you may be told to wear it at night as well as during the day.

What size?

You should be aware that the size immediately following surgery will be affected by swelling and dressings and it may be that your bra size will change over the period of healing.

Once you have healed it is worth going to a reputable bra fitting service that can help with correct measuring and fitting of appropriate bras.

What sort of bra?

You should choose a bra that is soft, supportive and comfortable, with a good cup shape to help ”train” the breast into its desired shape.  Under-wires or stiffening may rub on scars and affect the surgery and so should be avoided in the early stages of healing.  Some women find wearing a camisole/vest top with hidden support (available at most high street lingerie departments), can be enough in the initial recovery from surgery.

When to wear the bra

If you have had your own tissue used to reconstruct your breast (e.g. DIEP, IGAP flaps) you need not wear a bra on discharge from hospital or for at least 2 weeks after surgery (but again this advice may vary from hospital to hospital and surgeon to surgeon). Wearing the wrong sized bra can put pressure in the blood vessels supplying the new breast and cause problems with the circulation.

For other surgery – you can wear the bra as soon as you feel able following surgery although if you are discharged with drains in or have had surgery to your glands under the arm you may need to wait until the drain is out and the wound has healed. Some breast surgery requires you to wear this bra for up to 3 months and you may be told to wear it at night as well as during the day.

What size?

You should be aware that the size immediately following surgery will be affected by swelling and dressings and it may be that your bra size will change over the period of healing.

Once you have healed it is worth going to a reputable bra fitting service that can help with correct measuring and fitting of appropriate bras.

“So here I am 6 years later using my experiences, emotions and all information I have gained to help Keeping Abreast empower others in the road to reconstruction.”

Jacky – Right Mastectomy 2006. DIEP Reconstruction 2008

 

Take a look at our personal stories

Support

Keeping Abreast have a number of groups across the country that have volunteers ready to offer you advice and information so that you can make an informed choice about whether to have reconstruction and the types available to you. To find someone to talk to visit our Support Groups page.