Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mastectomy and Radiation Tips

These are things that I came up with that helped me when I was going through treatment, and hopefully they will help you too! If you have any additional tips, please comment below so I can add them. Thank you!!! ❤

  • After mastectomy: Go slowly. Have patience with yourself. Allow yourself to slow down, as tough as it may be. It may take you 20 minutes for your first bathroom run, but don't worry about time; just focus on healing. 
  • Stay on top of the pain meds (as in taking them as prescribed, not waiting extra hours between doses), at least for the first few days. I didn't have too much pain at all while resting, as long as I stayed on top of the meds! I only needed them for less than a week post surgery.
  • Movement is the most painful part, including shifting around, reaching for things, standing and sitting, etc. I was surprised to find that it was more of a burning pain (from nerves being cut) than a sharp stabbing pain. It was honestly intense at times but never more than I could bear, so do not worry too much about the pain because the meds help tremendously. Bracing my chest (basically hugging a heart pillow across my chest as hard as I could) helped TREMENDOUSLY!!!
  • If they wrap you in an ace bandage, watch for skin irritation. If skin irritation occurs, try using some aloe vera on the skin (being careful to avoid any incisions or drain openings). Something else that worked good for me was to wear a tank top or camisole over the bandages, and under the ace wrap. I was scratching several spots on my back.
  • Remember that if you are having a mastectomy with reconstruction, remember that what you see the first time you see your chest with the bandages off is NOT the finished product! While it may scare or disappoint some, remember that you did this surgery because you are strong enough to handle it; you did this because you chose life. And now the cancerous breast(s) are gone.
  • Get a recliner (buy one, borrow one, etc), preferably one with a lift-up feature. The transitions from laying to sitting, and sitting to standing can be very painful, as things shift around as you move. I didn't sit or sleep anywhere other than that recliner for weeks after my surgery. If you're in the Kansas City area, contact me or Google The Healing Chair Kansas City to contact us to sign up for a recliner to borrow after your mastectomy! The girls are great, they deliver it and set it up and when you're done they come and get it! Plus they're amazing women! St. Louis hs a Healing Chair charity too.
  • Connect with other breast cancer survivors. This one is especially important in my opinion, as during the really tough moments I thought of them. Drawing on their strength, and the strength and hope I received from crying out to God, kept me going.
  • Accept and enjoy help. You will most likely have several or more people who want to help you before and after your surgery. This was tough for me, because I always prided myself on being very independent, and being the one to help others. I resisted assistance in every way initially, until a friend (and fellow CA survivor) reminded me that people WANT to help. You may also be surprised, as was I, at how much people really do want to help; especially strangers. Don't reject offers for help; embrace them! I needed helped even feeding myself for the first day or two, so I'm so thankful for my momma!!! ❤
  • Don't get scared about what you will look like. I was terrified to look at my new breasts the first time they took bandages off, but I saw what looked like a regular breast, minus a nipple, and plus an incision. But they were beautiful, and cancer free.
  • Buy oversized button down tops. I bought 2 sizes up, and I am so thankful I did! I allowed myself to splurge on 3 pairs of Victorias Secret pajamas, because I figured they would help me feel pretty after my surgery. I also wouldn't let myself wear them until after surgery, so that that had something to look forward to! Other than getting the cancer out of me, of course ;-)
  • Don't be surprised by odd sensations. I experiences pain, swelling, numbess, tingling, pressure, stiffness, soreness, and even a bizarre "bubbling" sensation at times. Even having studied the nervous system extensively, I was surprised at how many different sensations I would experience in just my breasts after surgery! Even sometimes all within the same day!
  • Heart shaped pillows and drain pouches were my life savers! I had a cousin of mine who wanted to help and is a rock star at sewing make some of these for me, and they were absolutely perfect! I would have been miserable without them!!!
  • I also used a heart shaped pillows to put in the small of my low back at times, when my low back started getting site from sitting around so much. 
  • Ice was my best friend! 20 minutes every couple of waking hours helped take the edge off the pain, swelling, and itching (from under the ace wrap).
  • Keep the drain cords close to body, and be cautions where your walking, and what you lean up against. I.e. don't get your drain cord hooked around a drawer knob, and walk away...only to feel the the pull from the drain site! Lol
  • Keep a blog or journal. It's fun to reflect upon how far you've come. You can do a journal, but blogging allows you to share your journey with as few or as many people as you want. It's also an easy way to help friends and family keep up with you.
  • Dry shampoo, face wipes, and baby wipes were all live savers!
  • Wedge pillows were awesome for under my legs, and for sleeping on after I was done with recliner. 
  • Drain removal - no pain! Only felt something where they insert! So freeing!!!
  • Remember the good and sweet moments. I remember my mom washing my hair in our kitchen sink, patiently waiting for me when I winced in pain. I remember my boyfriend gently washing my fave with a Burts Bee's facial cleansing cloth. These sweet, beautiful moments that many people don't get to experience. When my mom hand fed me at the hospital because it was too excruciating to move my arms.
  • Radiation - I used strictly aloe vera on the entire radiation sites twice per day, and I maintenance a healthy diet (lots of water and vegetables, low sugar and alcohol), and I didn't have any real burns or skin changes until the last week. Be prepared for fatigue, but also for brain fog too! Random symptoms can happen. Oh and make sure it's pure aloe vera gel, not oil or anything! And don't apply it less than 4 hours before a treatment! I also had some itching inside my breast, which benadryl helped with. 
  • After mastectomy, start moving as soon as you can, and as doctors allow. Getting range of motion back in shoulders and stretching out the chest and torso was so helpful in my recovery, and continuing it through radiation was crucial too. Commit to doing stretches EVERY DAY, even of you don't feel tight. Every time I've skipped a day of yoga and stretches, I've felt so tight the next few days! 
  • As with all treatments, REST REST REST!!! 😊😴😪

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