Like most things in life, a little preparation can go a long way to make things smoother and this is certainly the case for women who are due to have reconstructive surgery.
What comes through loud and clear is that breast reconstructive surgery is certain to take it out of you for some weeks following the operation. You won\’t have the same energy levels and it will take time to regain your physical strength. If you have children or dependents at home, this is something you will certainly need to plan for.
The following planning tips have been compiled through our BRA Community, from women who have all undergone reconstructive surgery.
- Take up every offer of help! If people ask what they can do for you, consider asking for some dinners to go into your freezer or help taking children to and from school.
- Get familiar with internet grocery shopping. Set up a few shops and show your partner, family etc how to access them. Then you\’ll be able rest easy that the house supplies will be replenished.
- You will know your children best, but it definitely seems to be the case that it is good to talk to them in advance about what is going to happen, both to you and what that means for them. After the operation, you will be hooked up to drains and not feeling your best and small children especially, may find this unsettling, so it might be worth planning for them to wait a few days before they see you. Your breast care nurse and hospital care team will be able to give you advice as to what to tell them.
- A front opening post surgical bra is definitely worth investing in. If you are not sure what size to buy, buy something close to the size you currently are. Remember, you will be swollen and sore after the operation for a while so you won\’t want to wear anything too tight.
- Consider taking unperfumed toiletries, or toiletries that don\’t smell too much like food. You may feel a bit yucky after and sometimes the smell of cocoa butter for example won\’t be the smell you want.
- Hospitals are generally hot. Front opening, cotton pyjamas are good. You will probably want to avoid lifting your arms above your head for a few days. Make sure your bottoms are loose around the waist if you are having abdominal surgery.
- You will be tired after surgery and may find it hard to maintain your normal concentration levels. This probably won\’t be the time you feel your most sociable or intellectual, so set boundaries beforehand about who you want to visit and for how long (you can always change your mind later) and pack some easy reading.
- In my experience, wards can be noisy and bright; some sleep shades and ear plugs are definitely worth packing. Noise cancelling headphones and my favourite music on an MP3 turned out to be a real saviour.
- If your partner/carer is limited to the amount of time they can take off, it is worth considering using that precious time off when you come home from hospital and not while you are in it (except for the day of the operation may be).
- Don\’t be afraid to ask questions and keep asking questions. Ask for the details of the ward you will be in, who will be on the ward with you, get your breast care nurse to talk you through every step. When you are in hospital, don\’t scared to ask for help or support if you are in any pain, discomfort or distress.
- You are bound to feel wobbly afterwards, so a good cry often helps! It can be an emotional and physically demanding journey; go with the flow and be gentle with yourself.
- It is likely you will need to sleep on your back for a little while after the op; a v-shaped pillow can help with this.
- Lastly, keep an open-mind about your recovery. Most women bounce back pretty quickly but it\’s not always a case of each day being better than the last. Often, it\’s a bit of back and forth with some good days and some bad days. It helps to remember that one week, one month from now, you will be feeling stronger and more like your old self.