After Surgery Must-Haves

I compiled this list a few months ago for a friend of a friend to help her prepare for her mastectomy. It seems like every month this year someone I know or someone they know is being diagnosed with breast cancer. Hopefully there’ll be no need for this list very soon.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. This content is not intended to substitute professional medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

1. Thermometer — in case you have a fever. Your doctor should tell you at what temperature you should call them or go to the emergency room.

2. Wedge Pillow — for sleeping and resting. My wedge pillow made it easier for me to be able to get out of bed on my own. I used the one I had with another pillow because it wasn’t comfortable on it’s own.

3. Poucharoo (or something like it) — I had JP drains for about a week and used the pouchroo to hold my drains so that I didn’t have to pin and unpin them from my clothing. Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own drain bag holder if you’re crafty!

4. A shower seat and a handheld showerhead. I never wanted to take a shower so much until I was told not to take a shower! As long as you don’t get your drains wet you should be fine but ask your doctor to be sure.

5. Over the counter Pain Killers — you’ll only receive a limited amount of the prescription pain meds and most doctors will encourage you to get off the hard stuff as soon as possible.

6. Loose comfortable clothing that open in the front. I tried to be cute and get button down shirts/dresses that were exactly my size. My logic was that if it fit me before the mastectomy it should definitely fit me after. Not so much! The drains added to my circumference. My mom had to buy a few house dresses for me after my surgery.

7. Straws — for drinking beverages. I’m so glad my cousin thought to buy straws for me! When they tell you you can’t lift your arms to high they are not exaggerating.

8. Acupucnture + Arnica Montana Pellets — My acupuncturist recommended acupuncture as much as possible and arnica montana pellets to help facilitate healing.

Other tips:

Spend most of your time near the bathroom. I got tired very easily after surgery. The less I had to travel the better!

Have everything within reach. I had a set of dishes and utensils ready on my kitchen table in case I didn’t have someone around to get them out of the cabinet. I also kept a glass of water near my bed.

Have gauze and surgical tape in case you need to change your dressing.

Have someone keep track of when you are taking your painkillers. You will also be asked to keep track of how much fluid is removed from your drains. I kept a notepad next to my bed.

Keep emergency contact numbers visible; your breast surgeon should be on that list.

If possible have someone with you 24 hours a day at least until the drains are removed. I needed more help then I thought I would. Thankfully I had family and friends to help me out with the simple things like lifting my water filter pitcher from the middle shelf of the refrigerator and pouring a glass of water!

Lastly, give yourself time to heal and be gentle with yourself. It may take longer than expected to fully recover.


I found the following resources helpful to me during and after cancer treatment.

American Cancer society ( &

Both organizations offer financial support and transportation. They also can connect you with someone to talk to who has the same or similar cancer diagnosis.

Livestrong (

In addition to having helpful health articles and other resources on their website, Livestrong has a partnership with the YMCA to offer a free three month membership as well as a personal trainer and classes geared towards cancer patients and survivors.

Gilda’s Club (

Gilda’s Club has support groups, workshops, lectures and other events to support people affected by cancer and their families

The Creative Center (
 Offers a variety of free art classes using varying mediums.

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