Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Am Scheduled To Undergo Mastectomy Surgery. What Are Some Recovery Tips?

Going through mastectomy surgery can be extremely taxing on both your body and your emotions.  Here are some tips to help you when you get home.

Follow Your Doctors Instructions
Follow all your Doctor’s instructions in regards to wound care, rest, lifting restrictions, driving, surgical bras and garments etc.  Most importantly if your Doctor says don’t do something – listen and don’t do it!

When discharged from hospital ask all your questions (to Doctors and Nurses) no matter how insignificant you may think they are and have contact numbers for when you get home and have another question or concern.

Rest, Rest and then Rest Some More
Take it totally easy the first full week.  Take multiple naps, watch movies, read books and relax.  Have people do almost everything for you to avoid overdoing it.  Be warned it is super easy to overdo it when you first get home.  Even opening the fridge, opening drawers, picking up stuff and carrying laundry is too much!  Also washing your hair is too much in the first week as you can’t lift your arms so book into the hairdressers.  If you do too much you will pay for it that night and the next day with muscle pain and a very sore body.

Fatigue is normal.  Gradually increase your activity and ease back into your ‘normal’ routine.  Remember most women require four to six weeks off work to recover.  A mastectomy is a major invasive surgery and body tissues need rest to recover and repair from the procedure.  By over doing it you are slowing down your recovery and healing.

Remember no strenuous activity or lifting for approximately six weeks following your surgery (your Doctor will tell you when you are ready).

Medication and Pain Control
Get all your scripts filled immediately (with non child proof caps – you will find the push down and turn type difficult to open with limited arm strength) and in a notebook write down what you take and when.  It is easy to lose track of whether you have taken your medication or not and writing it down ensures you have and have taken it at the right time (and haven’t taken a double dose).  Writing down your pain medication is also useful as it allows you to slowly reduce the amount and strength over a few weeks.   

When it comes to pain management take your pain medication regularly.  The job of the medicine is to avoid pain.  If you get in too much pain you will feel miserable waiting for the pain medication to kick in.  Also studies have shown that a patient who has less pain recovers better.

Medical Supplies
It is useful to have the following at home:
  • Laxatives as the pain medications/general aesthetic can make you constipated
  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Post scar treatment (although you won’t need this until your tape/bandages have been removed)
  • Spare dressings (although in some cases you won’t need these as your Surgeon will remove your tape/dressings at your first follow up appointment)
You will most likely need to sleep on your back for at least three or four weeks (definitely the case if you have had a double mastectomy).  This is actually harder than it sounds if you are used to sleeping on your stomach or side and getting sleep is really important for your recovery (and feeling rested and able to cope in general).

Follow your Surgeon’s instructions regarding exercise.  Usually you will be encouraged to walk and have been doing laps of the hospital.  When you get home walk a bit further each day.  Listen to your body and stop if you get tired or dizzy.  Resume more physically active exercise, running, swimming etc. once your Doctor gives approval and gradually build back up to your pre surgery levels.

It can be frustrating, for example if you were a runner and feel great but still have bruising and swelling and your Surgeon says no running (raising your heart rate/pulse slows down healing) – listen, grit your teeth and DON’T RUN.

Get Comfortable
New clothes may be necessary to accommodate your surgery.  Specialty camisoles are a great option because they provide a light layer that can hold drains.  Many styles have pockets to hold forms and can be worn under your clothing.  You may also opt for a robe that is made with pockets for breast forms or ice packs and also can support the weight of fluid from drains.

You will want to get a prosthesis or breast form around six weeks after surgery.  Typically at this time the swelling will have reduced.  Make sure that you see a BOC or ABC certified fitter.  These certifications ensure that you are fitted properly.  A certified fitter can also help you find a well-fitting bra to act as a good foundation for style and comfort.

Drink Water
It is very important that you drink plenty of water during your mastectomy recovery.  While having surgery, a lot of blood and other fluids are removed from the body and you will have to reinstate these in the days following surgery for getting the best recovery results.

Eat Well
To assist your recovery each a diet rich in nutrients – in other words eat healthy.  For your cells and tissues nutrients are the building blocks and will assist your recovery.  So eat a well balanced diet of to help your body.

Support and Talking to Others
Regardless of your level of support from family and friends, you may find it helpful to talk to others who have gone through a mastectomy.  Talking to others who have gone through the same decision making process and procedure will give first hand understanding and support.  It is a major deal both physically and emotionally to undergo a mastectomy and it helps to connect with other women who have gone through what you are feeling.

You have just come home from major surgery and most likely haven’t finished your reconstruction so be aware that your chest/breasts/body will not look perfect/normal and you still have recovery and further surgery to go – however you have just achieved something amazing so try to be proud of your body.

Our team at Ricky Knowles Hair and Wellness is here to support you through your journey.  We can connect you with a support group that fits with your schedule, fit you for a mastectomy prosthesis, help you with with lymphedema preventative care, and serve as your patient advocate by untangling the insurance benefit web.  We have a BOC, ABC mastectomy prosthesis fitter and an insurance specialist on staff.   In addition to mastectomy forms, we also carry post mastectomy products such as camisoles, bras and robes.  If you are ready for us to partner with you, please call us at 713-623-4247.

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