The verdict is in – you must have both breasts removed. Your doctor, breast nurse, trauma service team, family and friends will be rallying around to help you through this challenging period, but how well you recover is mostly up to you. Knowing what to expect post-surgery, how to deal with pain and discomfort, even where to find a good surgical mastectomy bra – being able to check these items off your list before surgery goes a long way toward making your recovery less of an ordeal.
- Make sure you fully understand what is going to happen after the surgery. Get clear answers, before your surgery, on what you can do and when you can do it. Otherwise, you may find yourself assuming you can take a shower and do your normal daily activities without watching out for post-operative complications. You may even assume that a small amount of pain is normal. Whereas in reality, getting back to good health involves rest, changes to your routine, and careful monitoring.
- What about the basics? You may not feel like eating at first, but you need to keep your strength up. Before your surgery, prepare for the likelihood that for at least two weeks, if not longer, your focus should be on resting, not cooking. Before your surgery prepare frozen meals, and after your surgery, make sure you don’t turn down the offer of cooked or prepared meals from friends and family. People want to help, and food is a practical way for them to do so.
- Have you made practical plans for what happens post-surgery? After a double mastectomy, you will have surgical drains attached for the removal of fluid from the wound sites. Once you leave the hospital, it will be up to you to monitor the fluids being removed and changing the drain sites when necessary. If you are unsure about how to do this, talk to your support team.
- It sounds almost frivolous, but new clothing is not just a way to help you feel better about yourself post-surgery. It is a practical need. Before your surgery, it probably didn’t occur to you how often you raise your arms or use them when getting dressed. Post-surgery you are going to find out getting dressed can be both hard and painful. Check out a surgical mastectomy bra for sale for when you’re ready to wear a bra again (your doctor will probably suggest not to bother for the first couple of weeks because of swelling). These bras are easy to put on, specially designed for the comfort of recovering double mastectomy patients and are practical as well.
- Take a sensible approach to your recovery. You do not have to be a hero about pain. Your doctor will prescribe a regimen of painkillers, but make sure you let your team know if this is insufficient. Don’t expect that everything will be back to normal at once. There are some exercises you can do to help your recovery but don’t overdo them.
No major surgery comes without its share of unpleasantness. However, knowing what to expect and making sure you have plans to deal with the post-surgery effects of a double mastectomy will have practical and therapeutic benefits for healing from this traumatic, but necessary, operation.