We help a lot of customers navigate the challenging road to mastectomy recovery, from the first stages to the last, and every step in between. Recovery takes time, and learning to cope with the physical and emotional changes it comes with can be very difficult. Patients can get back to their lives sooner with strength and determination, the right support from those who care, and by taking good care of themselves. You are never alone in the battle to fight breast cancer. The following tips for mastectomy recovery will hopefully make your journey speedier and easier.
Get some rest! Your body and mind need a sufficient amount of rest to be able to work through the recovery process. There may be days where your body tells you it just wants to stay on the sofa. Be sure to get plenty of quality sleep, and listen closely to what your body wants.
Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help during your recovery. Loved ones will understand that the little things like shopping, light household cleaning, childcare if you have children, and meal prep still need to get done. Keep healthy, ready-to-eat snacks like yogurt, dried fruit and nuts, and granola bars around the house for when you need to boost your energy.
Take your meds as directed by your physician. Pain medications are prescribed for a reason! Make sure to utilize them wisely. This is a tip for mastectomy recovery that will help you feel more comfortable when followed as directed.
Care for your post-mastectomy drain properly. Though most find them uncomfortable and unpleasant, most likely your doctor will send you home with a drain. Drains are needed to relieve the fluid buildup caused by seromas, or fluid-filled pockets that commonly develop after mastectomy surgery. Usually, a drain is used for at least five days, but can even be necessary for up to three weeks. They’re used for good reason: to prevent infection and speed healing.
While your drain is in place, only take sponge baths until showers and full baths are approved by your doctor. Make sure to properly care for them per your doctor’s instructions while they are in place and take a dose of pain medication before having them removed to prevent discomfort. Another tip for mastectomy recovery while you have your drain in place is to keep an eye out for signs of infection, like redness, swelling, pus, or warmth at the site. Be sure to alert your doctor right away if you notice any of these signs.
Wear a post-mastectomy bra. Post-mastectomy bras and camisoles can provide relief from post-procedural mastectomy recovery by supporting the chest area and allowing for easy movement without pinching or binding. They also help to protect surgical wounds from injury or infection. Ask your doctor about when you will be able to start wearing a post-mastectomy bra or prosthesis, as they may give you a time frame of healing before they suggest you wear one.
Do the work. Attend physical therapy sessions and perform the exercises at home as prescribed by your physical therapist. This keeps the injured tissues pliable during the healing process and prevents scar tissue from restricting your range of motion and flexibility.
Talk to others who are in the same situation. Social support is vital during this time. Getting perspective from others will allow you to grieve, cope, vent if you need to, and best of all, celebrate your ability to move forward with your life. Fighting cancer can be an uphill battle, but when we fight alongside others, we’re more likely to win. Don’t forget that by being present and sharing your feelings, you’re helping others, too.
Try to get back to it. While you should always resume your daily activities slowly and as soon as you feel up to it, every detail towards normalcy helps. The familiar day-to-day things we do, maybe especially those we take for granted or dread doing while we’re well (I’m lookin’ at you, laundry), become triumphant milestones during recovery. The sooner you begin to follow your normal, day to day schedule, the quicker you will begin to feel like your old self again.
Get some sensible exercise. Exercise as often as you feel up to it, and with others who can keep your mind present. Begin slowly at first and continue to work towards your health and fitness goals. We don’t need to remind you of the infinite benefits of exercise like increasing circulation, strengthening the immune system, speeding the healing process, and maybe most importantly, boosting those serotonin levels, but it does bear repeating because it’s so vital to recovery.
Tips for double mastectomy recovery are the same, and you may experience some side effects. You might feel phantom sensations or pain as the nerves regrow. These sensations may go away on their own, or your body will adjust to it. Ibuprofen can be used to cope with the pain. You may also experience excess fatigue in the months following your surgery. Your doctor may be able to offer you some additional tips for combating this during your single or double mastectomy recovery. Stiffness in the arms can also become an issue, but continuing to do regular arm exercises will help keep you limber.
Throughout this journey, support, self-care, and planning are crucial tips for single and double mastectomy recovery. Seek help from others, give help if you can, plan a recovery strategy with your doctor, and seek out the things that bring you joy in day-to-day life. Through the difficult, painful, and sometimes dark days of battling cancer comes the opportunity to appreciate the beauty around us in ways we hadn’t before and reconnect with those we love in deeper ways.
These tips for mastectomy recovery are not meant to act as a substitute for professional medical direction. Please consult your healthcare professional when diagnosing, treating, or coping with diseases like cancer, or if you have any health care concerns.
For more tips about single and double mastectomy recovery and breast cancer, please visit www.breastcancer.org.