Breast Reconstruction Words of Wisdom

By: Courtney Floyd

Blogs

Planning for breast reconstruction can feel overwhelming. Not knowing what to expect or how to prepare for surgery can lead to undue stress.

We reached out to a wonderful group of ladies and had them share their best tips for before, during and after breast reconstruction surgery. Here’s what they had to say:

“My tip is to get/rent a motorized recliner. It was a lifesaver for me. My chair at home is high so I wouldn’t have been able to get in and out of it. I used the recliner to sleep in for 4 weeks and loved every minute of it. I could put pillows under my arms and under my legs. The recliner went all the way back so I could sleep comfortably and then to a standing position so I didn’t have to strain myself. I believe it helped in my speedy recovery. I loved it so much I rented it again for phase 2! You can put soft sheets on it and it will be so comfortable.” – Carla

“Before surgery, stay mentally positive and surround yourself with positive family and friends. Get yourself a soft "happy colored" blanket to take with you to the hospital. Once at home, be patient. Everyday TRULY gets better; especially after the drains are removed. Find and wear comfortable clothing. Treat yourself with whatever makes you happy... have someone take you to get nails done, go eat at a restaurant etc. Afterwards, keep active and resume "normal" activities when you can. Talk to others to share experiences.” – Jackie

“My list is endless but here's a start 1. Lower the clothes in your closet to a level that you don't have to reach above your shoulder level 2. Prepare your space for when you come home: a nice comfy recliner with lots of pillows or in my case, a low sofa with lots of pillows all made up and ready for when you get home 3. Accept help from family and friends who want to run errands for you: dropping your kiddos off, running to the store, picking up dry cleaning!” – Terri

“My tip is not typical! I always tell women to take time to enjoy the journey! It can be so stressful, but it is so amazing! A new you and for me reconstruction was the last step of a long couple of years! Each day following was a reminder that my journey was behind me and so much easier than chemo and radiation that my worries were well over-rated.” -Angie

“No matter how strong you are or how much you have always taken care of others allow yourself to be taken care of. This is always a hard one for me, but I gave myself permission to have others take care of me.” – Mary

“Line up people who are willing to wake up in the middle of the night with you so you can safely wobble to the loo and help take your meds. Set a table near wherever you are sleeping for your water bottle and other necessities. Buy a wedge pillow and steal all the pillows from everywhere else in the house to help bolster you for comfy sleeping since you won't be able/allowed to turn or roll over. Stock up on button down shirts that are too big for you. Hope this is helpful!” -Jennifer

“Figure out how you will wash your hair. I went to local Barbershop to get done. Plan a way to get out of the house for a few minutes daily. Walk to mailbox or end of street. Clean up house and have stuff that will keep you busy on couch, counted cross stitch and reading were my favorites. Plan that pain medications (if needed) will cause problems like itching--Claritin was my go to. If you get ‘stopped up,’ Smooth Move chamomile tea helped me. Ask for help. People want to help. If not for you then to make them feel comfortable.” -Kirstin

“Before surgery be prepared for meetings with your doctors, but don't overdo it on the research, it can become overwhelming. Listen to your gut and be sure you are comfortable with your decision and your physician. If not, it's okay to take some time and explore options. If you have an opportunity, talk with a previous patient who has gone through the same procedure. For surgery, don't over pack for your hospital stay, but be sure to take something to help you relax - music, book, puzzle, etc. Have plenty of protein options when you get home! And if traveling, take some comfy shoes to walk around while recovering. After surgery remember it does get better with time. Everyone heals differently, so don't compare your journey to others. You will get through it! If you can, pay it forward. Helping someone else with this journey is great for your psychological recovery!”. – Rhonda

“Before---Get a second opinion, even if you're content with the first. If you hear the same thing, it reaffirms your decisions. If you don't, you're better informed to make a decision. During---Make sure the person who will be helping with your drains is with you in the hospital when you're given instructions for care. Be sure you have emergency phone numbers for after discharge. And use them if you're worried or unsure. That's what they're for! After---Get up and get dressed every day. Even if it's just changing from pj's to comfy pants. Walk, walk, walk...outside if possible. Even the cold February air felt amazing to me! Know that your situation is temporary. Keep your long-term goal in mind.” -Carla

“Follow your gut. Do not be intimidated by the doctors or those scheduling you for your surgeries. If your gut is telling you that you need to investigate things further - it is your life and your say as to what is going to take place, so investigate. I was becoming uncomfortable with some of the things I was finding out about implants, which is what my local doctors were espousing. I had even gotten a second set of opinions. The only difference was one said my nipple could not be spared, and the other said it could. Some women are definitely very happy with their implants though. By pure chance, I spoke to a lady helping me at a local store while looking for a formal dress, about my impending surgery. She told me that her daughter had serious problems with her implants and I needed to seek out more information about using my own tissue. I ended up finding PRMA and used the on-line consultation form. Things got rolling from there and I cancelled my mastectomy with implant that I had scheduled and proceeded with PRMA - I had the DIEP 5 weeks ago, and could not be more happy with Dr. Ochoa and Dr. Garza who did my procedure. Am now looking forward to the final phase very soon!” – Barbara

“1) Drainage tubes: My kids bought me a Brobe as a gift. This was so handy in the hospital and at home. It has pockets to hold your drainage bulbs. They also gave me a shower belt that has two pockets to hold drainage bulbs. I didn't use it for showering though, I used that for everyday use and then had a Velcro belt that I used in the shower and safety pinned my tubes to. 2. Dishes: I purchased paper plates, plastic cups & plastic forks beforehand so that there wouldn't be any dishes to do. 3. Recliner: I already had a power lift chair recliner from when we took care of my mother. It was a Godsend! I slept in that recliner for four weeks. I've seen in this group many people asking about a recliner and if it's necessary. It may not be a necessity, but it sure makes getting up and down a lot easier! If they don't have one, I see that some people have rented them. 4. Clothing: Sure, button up shirts are great, but I also couldn't have gotten by without my soft, comfy, stretchy LuLaRue leggings and my yoga pants. My surgery was three months ago, and I still mainly wear leggings and yoga pants. I'll wear jeans on occasion now; but, they still aren't quite comfortable yet.” – Staci

“Lots of folks wants to help but aren’t sure what to do. Accept their help but tell them what you need. I.E., “yes, I’d love some help. Can you bring dinner over once this week and once next week.” Proactively manage your bowl movements...don’t wait to address the issues when it’s already day 4...that’s too late.” – Lindsay

“I used a “grabber”. I was constantly dropping stuff! I used something to sit on in the shower and also in front of the mirror to put make-up on and style my hair.” - Beth

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