This feels, oddly, like preparing a bag to take in to hospital to have a baby. It is worth having a think about what to take in order to make life easier and more comfortable while you are recovering from your surgery.
Here is my list of ten things I took or wish I’d thought to take:
Non Underwired Supportive Sports Bra
You will probably receive an information pack from your surgical unit prior to admission which will detail some of these things. Support is essential for the comfort and healing of the reconstructed breast. Your bra will often be put on you in theatre so shouldn’t be at all fiddly. There seems to be debate whether the bra should be front or back fastening. Some of the team may recommend front fastening for ease of the monitoring afterwards. My specialist wanted front fastening and it wasn’t too much of a problem when it came to monitoring the graft. Somehow back fastening feels more gentle than front fastening which can have rather a ‘spring loaded’ action!
Having front fastening gives you the freedom to attach bra extenders (really cheap to buy online) which can allow the bra to accommodate any post operative swelling. Think about how uncomfortable it would be to have a bra on which is too tight. Its worth the very small amount of money to buy a pack of extenders.
This is peculiar to TUG reconstructions. Cycling shorts need to be worn 23 hours a day for 6 weeks. Initially it can feel quite a chore especially when going to the loo etc but you will soon get used to it (take my word for it).
For the first 24 hours you will be kept very hot in order to help the graft to take effectively. During this time you may be very thirsty and need to have as much fluid as you can. I am a water drinker but when there was a lot of fluid to drink it was lovely to have some flavour (sugar free of course!)
Really important. As mentioned the room and your torso are kept really warm. I found a cheap windup handheld fan on my face and neck every now and then definitely helped make me more comfortable. Again it was really cheap and made a lot of difference.
For the first day or so you will probably be in a pyjama top (don’t forget, accessibility is the key so button up or really baggy are best!). Early mobilisation is really important after any big op so its good to have brought some big tops in to hospital to wear over you industrial sports bra and cycling shorts to make you feel more comfortable and confident as you tour the ward.
I would guess that most people these days would take their phone with them. I don’t know how we managed without before – texts and messages of support from friends are so brilliant to receive when you feel grotty, tired and fed up post op.
This is a time when you are tired and may not feel like reading. I find this is when magazines come in to their own as you can pick them up and put them down however you are feeling. I am a big reader but struggled to concentrate on a book at all while in hospital.
Again to help with being in a sweltering room. Face wipes are marvellous to make you feel fresh. For me, not having much hair yet they were handy to cool down my head too!
Sense of Humour!
I have left this until last but its really important. It doesn’t matter how private a person you normally are you will need to suspend your feelings on this matter for the duration of your stay! There will be people you barely know prodding you and checking on you regularly and this can feel quite odd. Having a chat and a laugh really helps at this stage. I got to the point that when it came to discharge I felt I was going to miss all the wonderful friendly staff who had shared my experience with me and made it all so much more bearable.