Health Magazine

Practical Preparations for a Mastectomy

Posted on the 27 January 2011 by Jean Campbell

Once I  knew I  was having a bilateral mastectomy, I realized I had some practical planning to do, beginning with my home.  I did a walk-through of my two bedroom apartment to identify what changes I would need to make for my comfort, not only while recovering from surgery, but permanently.

I began with my kitchen. I enjoy baking and cook daily. My traditional oven with the front door opening and low broiler unit was not going to be practical once I had weight restrictions on my arms from the surgery. I bought a counter top oven that is a regular oven, convection oven and broiler. This unit eliminates the need to bend and lift. I still use the burner units of my stove, but the oven is now a much needed storage space for pots.

I purchased a jar opener, which eliminated the need to use my hands with hard to open containers. I made sure the appliances, dishes, cooking utensils and foodstuffs that I used regularly were counter top or on the lowest shelves above the counter tops and within easy reach.

My office needed to be rearranged, making frequently used supplies and equipment within easy reach, similar to the kitchen. My computer notebook that I used for demonstrations at meetings became another office computer and I purchased a small, lightweight computer notebook that I transport in a carrier with wheels.

The bedroom, bath and living room did not need any adaptations, but the closets needed rearranging to allow for easy access to most frequently used items.

After the apartment was made accessible for the new me, I turned my attention to what I anticipated my personal needs would be. Knowing that I would be spending two nights in the hospital following surgery, I decided to call the hospital registry and hire private duty caregivers to be with me. The first night, I had a registered nurse; the second night a certified caregiver (nursing attendant). It was the best money I have every spent! If you have a family member who can stay with you, that’s great. Not everyone does. It was  comforting to know there was someone there with me. I was on an IV, and needed the bedpan every hour or so. Waiting for a floor nurse or attendant to be available would have been very uncomfortable.

Prior to surgery, I purchased two camisoles that I would wear for 12 days following surgery. The camisoles had pockets for the drains carrying fluid from the incision sites on my left and right sides.

The day of my surgery, I wore sweat pants and a zip front sweatshirt with a hood, which I also wore home. It was an easy outfit to get in and out of, especially over bandages and I didn’t have to lift my arms.

For the first two weeks after my surgery, the hospital arranged for a visiting nurse service to look in on me several times to check my bandages and the amount of fluid draining from my incisions.  They were on call for emergencies and when one of the drains stopped functioning they sent a nurse. It really was a comfort to have this service available.

Most importantly, having the company and care of a loved one and the visits of friends and family, from time to time, really helped me to recuperate. Having my kitchen and office easy to use made all the difference.

Recently, I came across a site that provides insight into all the aspects of planning for having and recovering from a mastectomy covering the medical, physical and emotional as well as the practical tips for making the process easier. I will share this information in my next post.

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