“How will I ever figure out what I need before my reconstructive breast surgery?”
Let’s make a list by gathering all the best tips together in one place. A checklist will ease the tsunami of thoughts that flood the mind before any major surgery. Hopefully by making this list it will help create a feeling of comfort and control by being as well prepared as possible.
#1 Recovery Time
Know the recovery time for your type of reconstruction. Make arrangements. It may help to allow a little extra time, especially if your job is strenuous or involves heavy lifting. Check out our article on long-term support for breast cancer, too. It might be helpful.
#2 A Caregiver
You will need someone to help out, a caregiver of sorts. If you are living by yourself you need to arrange for rides to and from the hospital, to follow up appointments and whatever errands you might need run during recovery. Make a list of all the things that will need to be done. Coordinate and delegate all the responsibilities for your kids, pets or significant other. See if Cleaning for a Reason or a similar company that provides free housecleaning for breast cancer patients, is available near you.
#3 Completed Paperwork
Take care of the household things like cleaning and paying bills before going in for surgery. This is also a good time to finalize insurance or any financial arrangements for surgery. If this is a confusing topic for you, we’ve got some great articles about insurance for breast reconstruction that might be helpful to you. The linked one explains all the terminology, and contains links to further resources.
#4 Freezer Meals
Arrange or prepare and freeze meals, at least one to two weeks worth. Alternatively, this may be a good time to splurge on a meal delivery plan, such as Blue Apron. Here are some tips for healthy eating after breast reconstruction. Consider sharing them with friends and family who are looking for ways to help.
#5 Healthy Circulatory System
Quit smoking (at least temporarily)! It constricts blood flow and interferes with healing. Some surgeons recommend as much as four weeks before surgery. Ask your surgeon to give you a recommendation regarding smoking and breast reconstruction.
#6 Drug-Free Body
Check with your surgeon about when and what specific over-the-counter drugs and vitamins you should stop taking.
#7 Up-to-Date Medical Records
Make sure you have scheduled lab tests and filled prescriptions, and that your medical records are up to date. On a related note, you might want to read up on how to manage breast cancer paperwork, too!
#8 Well-Stocked Hospital Bag
With your surgeon, make a “surgery shopping list” of what you will need to have on hand . For example, a few practical items like a good skin cleanser (such as this one). You can use it one to two days prior to your surgery. It can help decrease the chance of infections. You may want to keep on hand an antibacterial, unscented foamy soap for after your procedure. It’s pretty gentle to wash with and still gets everything clean. Or look at soaps made for babies, as they are made for more delicate skin. Here’s one we love. Pick up some bacitracin or polysporin antibiotic ointment and some q-tips. Generic is fine and cheaper. Pain medication can be constipating so check with your surgeon for recommendations on what you can take to prevent constipation.
#9 Comfy Recovery Seat
A recliner or comfortable chair and a few extra pillows to put underneath your knees and have around when you sleep may help keep you comfortable after surgery. Also a pillow for the car ride home.
#10 Open-Front Tops
You may find a specialized shirt, such as this one which has clips for drains, to be useful.
#11 Special Bra
Your physician may recommend a special bra. Ask if you need a prescription for the bra. It’s possible your insurance company will cover the cost of a bra.
#12 Detachable Shower Head
A detachable shower head may make post-op showering easier.
#13 Measuring Cup for Drain Bulb Liquid
If you will have drains, put a measuring cup next to your bathroom sink so that you can easily estimate the amount of liquid that has drained into the collection bulb..
Don’t forget dressings for your incisions. Sometimes regular gauze sticks to the incisions. It has been suggested that maxi pads or panty liners can be used, because they are inexpensive and don’t stick to incisions like regular gauze.
#15 Important Phone Numbers
Keep all your important phone numbers programmed into your phone. Especially your plastic surgeon and your caregiver’s numbers.
#16 I.D. & Insurance
Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license and insurance card to the hospital. You won’t be wearing contacts, so bring your eyeglasses and an eyeglass case. If you’re having outpatient surgery you’ll want to have these in the car for the ride home. Oh, and crackers to eat for nausea on the ride home.
#17 Secure Valuables
Leave all your valuables, jewelry, credit cards, purse and money at home!
Hopefully we have created a helpful checklist to prepare you for reconstructive breast surgery. If you think of anything we have forgotten, or if you have a hot tip we haven’t listed, please feel free to add to this list by posting in the comments! Thank you!