As I’m reminiscing on the week before my one-year mark, I think back on all the things I was doing to finish prepping for my surgery. I’m in a really good place right now (physically and emotionally) and excited to celebrate life; even though I’m sure I’ll have a few tears to shed next week. I started writing this post after the first surgery, but never published it for whatever reason. The week before surgery, I was frantically trying to get all my ducks in a row to get my home “child-proofed” and everything tidy at work so they were in a very good place.
I think there’s two levels of preparation, physical and psychological.
Physically, no matter how much I researched and talked to others, all is relative. There was no way I could be prepared as much as I’d liked or wanted to. Physically have to make sure to get all the information regarding options. What are the pros and cons, what’s best for me, where will the scars be, do I do reconstruction or stay flat, how long will I be in surgery, how long will I be in the hospital, what about infection or bleeding, what about second opinions, how can I prepare for possible complications, and the list goes on?
Psychologically, this is even more difficult to prepare for and varies. Everyone is different. No matter how much I was “ready” for this surgery, it’s still hard to cope with having the breasts removed. It’s hard to prepare for a new appearance, pain and limitations. There was so much I didn’t know, but thought I knew going into it. No one talks about the pain and difficulty emotionally and psychologically it is to remove the breasts. I did it on my terms, yes, but I wasn’t going to give cancer the option for me. Believe me, I have a whole blog post I wrote up that I never could hit publish because I was fearful of how it would be taken. There are dark sides and everyone has them. I was in a dark place several weeks after the surgery. Thankfully, I didn’t stay there. Looking down after surgery and seeing little mosquito bites was hard, but it isn’t so hard now. It’s a scary and emotional time. Talking with others that have gone through it was a huge life saver and they became my support group. Surround yourself with an amazing support group of friends and family, and rid your life of those that are negative. It’s extremely important.
Enough about that! Let’s go back to physical preparation…I really want to ramble about surgery recommendations and what I was doing the week before. Maybe it will be helpful to someone out there about to embark on this journey or watching someone go through this.
- Deep-clean the house! My sister in law (and nieces), sister Liz and a friend came over to help me really clean my house. It was such a relief having that done knowing I, personally, wouldn’t be able to clean for quite some time.
- Buy a recliner or borrow someone’s. My mom had my brothers bring one of her extra recliners over, and I rearranged the living room furniture to accommodate it and nightstand. The recliner would be my bed for many weeks. If you don’t have a recliner, no worries. Use pillows and a body pillow to make a cocoon, so there’s no chances of rolling over and ending up on your side or stomach. Boy, that one hurts like a B. The first time I slept in bed, I rolled onto my stomach and woke up like a turtle on its back.
- Organize as much stuff as you can in the kitchen. I have a split-level home, and assumed it would be a hassle bringing things up and down the stairs. My mom was going to stay with me for however long was necessary, so I bought down extra stuff for her and even made her a very comfortable bed on the couch! I brought blankets and pillows down and organized as much as I could on the counter tops. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take a shower for 2-3 weeks because of the drains, so I brought down a bunch of towels and set them (along with the shampoo and conditioner) next to the kitchen sink. I’d have to wash my hair in the sink (or use dry shampoo – best thing ever), and use baby wipes to freshen up. (Sidenote: I did break the rules two weeks after surgery and used a race belt to hold my drains. I attached the belt up high, secured the drains to the belt and hopped in so I could take a baby bath. Imagine the cluster trying to get out of a bath when you can’t use your arms/hands) I bought as many throw-away items as I could possibly think of – paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and cups. I have Fiesta ware dishes, and those are thick and heavy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold those, unless I wanted to see it fall to the ground and shatter into pieces. I displayed everything with pride (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch).
- Buy as many over-sized zip-up hoodies, yoga pants, tank tops, and pillows as possible. I knew, after reading blog after blog, there was no way I was going to even try getting my arms and stuff in a button-up shirt. I also bought tank tops that I could stand and wiggle in and then have someone pull it up and over my chest. Pulling clothes over the head was nearly impossible. It was difficult and hurt like a mother. I bought Target out of pillows. After doing research, I wouldn’t be able to lie down flat and would need something to prop my upper back up. Believe me, lying down flat and trying to get up was the dumbest thing I could have done several days after surgery. It’s not like my mom could grab my hands/arms and pull me up. Invest in gauze, tape and sterile wipes. Draining the drains two-three times a day and having to tape things up again…I still to this day hate seeing gauze and tape. Makes me cringe thinking about how sensitive my skin was, having it over my drains and scars, being ripped off (and taking skin with it) and changed with new stuff…ugh!
- Stock up on prune juice. Moving on…
- Pamper yourself prior to surgery. Get your hair cut and colored beforehand, because afterwards it’s highly uncomfortable getting it done. Trust me. I learned the lesson the hard way and was down for the count for a few days after…especially when the stylist told me to go blow dry my own hair at the blow dry bar. I had to attempt to dry my hair because it was freezing cold outside, and no one would help me.
- Make as many dinner meals as possible and freeze them. Thankfully, I had many friends make meals and bring them over for my mom and I to enjoy. My freezer was one big restaurant!! One friend made individual meals and desserts and put them in mason jars. Such a great idea. I, honestly, didn’t eat a whole lot after surgery besides fudge bars and Icee pops. My stomach wanted nothing to do with real food!
- Highly recommend getting a Netflix account or borrowing someone’s! There’s only so much you can do when you’re very limited with motion and everything else. I was able to get caught up on shows and became highly addicted to many others. Oh, and if you rent movies from like Red Box, just plan on keeping it an extra day. There were several times I’d start a movie, only to pass out. Start it again from the last spot I remembered, only to fall asleep again. It took me several tries to finally see the movie start to finish!
- Buy yourself an adult-sized sippy cup. Trust me. When you’re trying to drink out of a regular cup and tipping it back, it can be rather painful. Or, in my case, you end up with everything all over you. Yes, I’m a blonde. I attempted to use a water bottle, but trying to squeeze the bottle to get stuff to come out was rather painful. You’d never think after this surgery, the simplest tasks would hurt the most. I guess in general, you wouldn’t expect to not be able to do something until after the fact.
- Exercise like a mo-fo leading up to the surgery, and wean off of caffeine (and those occasional adult beverages) two weeks prior. It definitely helps and aids in recovery.
I hope this helps someone going through this or about to. Or, even gives someone a different perspective. I should have posted this sooner, and forgive me, but it’s never too late.
PS: It’s been a while since I’ve use that nickname 😉