Heading into the hospital on the day you’re having a mastectomy is scary and you’ll probably feel very overwhelmed thinking about what’s going to happen, hoping the surgery goes smoothly. Once the surgery is over, though, there can be some new feelings about getting dressed and what to wear.
Some women may choose to have reconstructive surgery, and some won’t want that or perhaps won’t be a candidate for it. There will likely be some wait time between the mastectomy surgery and the reconstruction so you may have to make some adjustments in the interim.
Feelings After a Mastectomy
Even though you know what’s going to happen during this surgery, you may still be a little shocked when you look in the mirror for the first time after surgery or go to get dressed and realize your clothes fit differently now.
Finding the right clothes to wear during this time, especially if you are also undergoing treatment, will be imperative to recovering in as much comfort as possible.
Finding the Right Bra
There are a number of companies that specialize in making bras for women that have had wither single or double mastectomies. These bras will feature prosthesis that resemble the look and feel of natural breasts.
Additionally, they will not be full closure bras so they’re easier to get on. During this time, you will likely have a reduced range of motion – especially in getting your arms over your head – so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a sports bra over your head.
When looking for new bras for your new body, you may want to avoid any with an underwire as this can rub against the skin and irritate the area around the incision (and eventful scar).
Prosthesis for the Long Term
With a single mastectomy, reconstruction may not be an option because it is very difficult to reconstruct one breast to match the shape and size of your other, natural one.
Your surgeon will discuss what your options are with you prior to surgery. If you choose not to do reconstruction (or if it isn’t an option for you) then you will may want to consider prosthesis for your bras every day, once you’ve healed from surgery.
When you look at purchasing a prosthesis, you can choose from a light weight version of a silicone option. The silicone option will feel closer to your natural breast, but the lightweight option is often much more comfortable for the person wearing it.
The silicone option cannot be worn while swimming or in a hot tub because the outside barrier will become sticky and the chemicals can break down the outer barrier making a leak much more likely over time.
The lightweight option is often made of foam or polyfill and can actually be worn during swimming and won’t bother you too much during the hot weather.
The good news is you don’t have to choose one or the other forever. You can have both – though you may need to have different bras for each of them – and can choose to wear them when you feel it’s appropriate or want a certain look or feel.
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Don’t Forget About the Drains
When they send you home from the hospital, you will still likely have drains in place from the surgery. Most clothes are not made to handle the drains.
The drains do serve an important function, though – they help your body get rid of extra fluid and that can help with the swelling and tenderness (and help you to heal faster).
To help keep the surgical drains in place, so they don’t pull and cause (more) discomfort, you may want to purchase a specialized mastectomy belt. The belt will go under your shirt, and around your waist, with little pockets that the drains will sit in nicely.
This will help make it a little easier to go out after your surgery and might make you more comfortable being out in public or having visitors over.
Depending on your comfort level, you may already wear very loose clothing so you’ll want to continue this after surgery.
After you go through surgery, your body will be very sensitive, and wearing tight clothing will likely be extremely uncomfortable. If you can keep the fabric from rubbing against your skin – especially in your chest area – it will help greatly with your comfort level. If you can find shirts with a dropped sleeve it will prevent chafing around the surgical area.
Additionally, it is recommended you find a couple of pairs of loose-fitting sweat pants to wear after surgery. Now you might be asking why pants matter when you’re having surgery on your chest.
Yoga pants are really comfortable – we know – but they’re also pretty tight-fitting and you probably don’t want to battle getting them on and off every time you need to use the bathroom when you’ve just had major surgery. Getting loose-fitting sweat pants may not be flattering but they’ll make it a little easier in the first days and weeks after your mastectomy.
Front Close Shirts
Even if you get loose-fitting t-shirts, you may still find it difficult to get dressed when you have to pull shirts over your head. If you can get front close shirts, for at least the first little while, it will make it better for you to get dressed and put less stress on your incisions. This will also make it easier to look at the bandages and keep the drains where they’re supposed to be or make adjustments if needed.
If you’re a little crafty – or know someone who is – you may want to look at adding little pockets to the inside of a couple shirts during this time so that you can put the drains in there. This way they aren’t just hanging and might take some tension off of the incisions.
This is kind of an afterthought to many people, but it makes a lot of sense to pick up a pair of comfortable, slip on shoes for the first while after your surgery.
You will be on a lot of pain medication, likely, afterward and with the bandages and drains you probably won’t be able to move very easily so the last thing you want to do is have to bend over to put shoes on and tie them up.
You won’t be like this forever, so you don’t have to pick shoes that you’ll be wearing for years. This is convenient right after surgery to make your life a little easier and help your recovery.
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What You Should Know for After the Mastectomy
While this surgery will change your body physically, there is also a large emotional component to living your life after having a mastectomy. Doctors will do their very best to prepare you with what to expect after your surgery, but there are some things they might not tell you about that will make your recovery just a little easier for you.
Lanyard for Shower
Your first thought might be wondering why you would want to wear a lanyard in the shower, but remember those drains previously mentioned? Well, having a lanyard for them in the shower will prevent them from just hanging while you’re showering and make your experience a little more comfortable.
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For most of your life, you’ve been sleeping a certain way and it might take some adjusting to learn how to sleep comfortably with the physical changes to your body. This is a pillow that goes under your arms and over your breast area to help protect the incisions and help you sleep comfortably.
You might not think you need a shower seat but many women who have mastectomies use this for the time immediately following surgery to help. Most women will find that they’re feeling a little weak or tire while recovering, so having that seat to help support you can make it easier to shower on your own.
This kind of goes along with a shower seat to make your life just that much easier, and get your independence back post-surgery. If you are able to get into the shower and sit on the seat, you can turn on the shower and wash with the detachable showerhead.
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Having a mastectomy is going to change so much about your life, and it can overwhelming as to what to expect post-surgery.
If you’re also going through cancer treatment after the surgery, you will want to be as prepared as possible for this so that your recovery is smooth and comfortable for you.
Getting some of these items together before having your surgery can really help afterward when all you want to do is sleep. Being comfortable and keeping your incisions protected is important during the healing process, so if you can take these things into consideration before your surgery it could help you a lot.
If you have any questions about your upcoming surgery, contact your surgeon to discuss your concerns.