Saturday, September 29, 2012

Surgery Stuff

Now that I've gotten past the surgery part of my treatment, here is a list of a few things that I found invaluable.

Amoena Post-Surgical Camisole
This was the best thing I bought before my surgery - it's worth its weight in gold. The neckline on this camisole stretches wide enough to step into it and pull it on over your hips - an essential feature for a couple of days after surgery. It comes with velcro-attached drain pouches that keep your bloody hand grenades (Jackson Pratt drains) from flopping about. It also comes with a couple of light boob-puffs to use if you've had a mastectomy. The seams of the camisole are all inside-out so that they don't rub against your wounds. I still sleep in this camisole and wear it around the house, as it is terribly comfy.

Mastectomy Front-close Sports Bra
Once I was ready for something with a bit more support, I bought a front-close sports bra that had a wide soft-velcro band around the bottom. This allowed me to attach the drain pouches that came with my camisole to the bra. I really can't express in words how completely fabulous those drain pouches were.

Alcohol Swabs
Alcohol swabs can serve the dual purpose of cleaning your drain tube(s) and helping your hand glide down the tube when milking or stripping it. Alternatively you could buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some sort of wipes for a DIY approach. My local pharmacy was selling boxes of 200 individually packaged swabs for about $2. Since I have to give myself daily injections as well, the swabs made a lot of sense for me.

Plastic Shopping Bag and Surgical Tape
Since you can't get your surgery area wet for what feels like an eternity, showering becomes somewhere between extremely difficult to impossible. For one-sided breast surgery I came up with a DIY water shield using a medium-sized plastic shopping bag and surgical tape. If you had surgery on both breasts or armpits, you could make something similar using an appropriately sized garbage bag.

DIY Shower Shield
  1. Cut an armhole on one side of the bag near the bottom.
  2. Cut the other side of the bag open all the way up.
  3. Turn the bag upside down and slip your arm through the armhole. Th bottom of the bag should rest on the top of your shoulder, creating a sort of plastic half-shirt.
  4. You may need to cut open a little bit of the bottom of the bag (from the cut edge from step 2) to fit around your neck.
  5. Tape the open sides of the bag to yourself to prevent water from splashing or running into the interior.
  6. Ta-daa! 

Travel Pillow
I haven't tried this yet, but I plan to tonight since I have one of these already. I find it uncomfortable to sleep on my (non-surgery) side. Apparently slipping a u-shaped travel pillow under your arm can help relieve some of the pressure from your chest and armpit. I will be trying this tonight.

Alternatively, in some cities groups sew and give away heart-shaped pillows for the same purpose.

Update (Oct. 4, 2012): 
I have been using my travel pillow every night since writing this. It is PERFECT. What I love most is that it stays in place while I move around due to its U-shape.