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Shopping/packing/to-do list for surgery + recovery....

Panchoandlefty Member Posts: 2

OK, I admit it, I am a compulsive planner. I have had some great suggestions and tips not only regarding what to bring to the hospital, but also on how to prepare the house to make the recovery as easy as possible.

I am travelling for surgery so, for me, "packing" includes the first 10 days of post-op care.

I thought I would start a list (in no particular order) that might serve as a reference... PLEASE add your suggestions!!! Anything at all you either found helpful OR wish you'd considered before your surgery.

I am a bit of a MacGyver type and love creative uses for things like the lanyards and fanny packs for drains. I was wondering if a light/loose fly fishing vesy might be handy both for drains and for holding my phone, mp3 player, etc so I didn't have to reach so much... I am SUCH a geek.

Anyway, over-organizing seems to be keeping me occupied as my bi-latteral approaches. I know everything won't be a hit with everyone, but it gives us some things to think about.

******NOTE: MODS TOOK ORIGINAL LIST FROM Panchoandlefty AND COMBINED WITH OTHER MEMBER SUGGESTIONS UP THROUGH END OF MARCH 2015*********** We are happy to keep adding, and please let us know if we missed anything !

Combined list from what others have said in this topic !

Community member tips for Surgery

Tips for the hospital:

Hand sanitizer, antiviral Kleenex, Anti-bacterial adult wipes (in a pretty dispenser), adult "baby wipes" to give yourself sponge baths.

'skin prep wipes'. These help prep the skin for tape and other adhesives

Roll on or Spray Deodorant, NOT a solid stick.

Lozenges or hard candy of your choice.

A lip balm of choice

Face and hand moisturizer

A stool softener, dried prunes, bran cereal and "smooth move" tea, laxatives.

Clipboard, notebook and pen (for documenting when you had pain meds and drain amounts)

Zip up track suits or button up pajamas and shirts.

Slippers, cotton front snap bras

Silky bottoms/PJs to make getting in/out of bed easier

Zip up hoodies/ warm ups, soft flannel shirt is just right for after surgery.

Camisoles/tanks which can be stepped into (as opposed to pulling over-head)

Jog Bras (Natori is recommended) or whatever support is suggested by your surgeon

Pull on, easy pants or shorts, or shirt

Reading glasses

iPod, Mp3 / Music player

Cell phone/ have friends' numbers handy!

Book, magazine

Hair tie if your hair is long.

Lanyard (like for ID cards) for holding drains

Fanny pack for drains

Nurses can make a necklace from IV tubing to hold drains in shower

Luck trinkets or photos from friends and/or family.

A good eye mask and ear plugs in the hospital.

Take clothes to hospital that can be washed/sanitized at home

If you are going to sleep in bed and not a recliner at home, ask the nursing staff to show you the proper way to get in and out of bed with the least strain on your back and upper body.

If you feel you may not be up for visitors at the hospital, just let the nurses and staff know that you prefer no visitors except DH or immediate family. I knew that I was having a rough time emotionally as it was beforehand. I didn't want to put on a happy face for a friend, cousin or whomever wanted to stop by. I know the visitors mean well, but for me I just wanted peace & quiet.

Tips for the ride home:

Have a pillow and lap blanket for the car-ride home.

Fill scripts before coming home so you won't have to stop on the way

What to organize at home:

Consider getting something like the The Shower Shirt, a patented, post-surgical, water resistant garment designed to protect chest surgery patients, including mastectomy, while showering. Use code BCO for 20% off

Get a manicure and pedicure before your surgery, and a hair cut.

Before surgery, practice washing your hair, with or without help, with your elbows not moved away from your chest---either over the kitchen sink, using the spray or if your doc will allow, in the shower.

Or, arrange with your hair dresser to do your hair after you get home and cannot stand it any longer -- get someone to drive you.

Move commonly used items, kitchen tools, etc to low shelves before surgery

Find NON child-proof caps for meds.


Arrange all post surgery robes, pj's, button down shirts and hoodies on a rack in one easy to reach place so you can dress myself easily the first couple of weeks without rummaging through my closet.

Bendy straws

Paper cups and light weight coffee cups for at home

Extra sheets to keep in rotation

Lots of pillows or a wedge or two!

A travel neck pillow - 'C' shaped - for keeping neck from getting a crick after sleeping in a recliner.

Tiny travel buckwheat pillows, or other small pillows.

Put an egg crate mattress on top of mattress and use a long body pillow.

Medical gloves (latex free or powder free)

Small kitchen garbage bags for dressing disposals

A little plastic waste can for at home

Find NON child-proof caps for meds

Lanyard (like for ID cards) for holding drains, Fanny pack for drains, or a camisole, or nurses can make a necklace from IV tubing to hold drains in shower. An old neck tie to use as a lanyard to hang my drains on while I shower. Works like a charm

A shower chair and a hand held shower nozzle. 3M Nexcare tagaderm transparent bandage over the port where it exited my skin when I showered. Also, have a lanyard to use for your drains in the shower. I just clip the safety pins on the lanyard clip for while I shower. It seems a little heavy on my neck while I shower, but I take it off right after I shower.

Get a humidifier for home if your air is dry.

Grabbers! These are about 23 inches long, have a handle that you sqeeze, and the end clamps on stuff on the floor. GREAT for pulling up your pants when you can't bend over, or picking up stuff that you drop, (like the toilet paper, etc!) I needed two of these, as I dropped the grabber! Great for pulling the wash basket along, too!

Make sure to get safety pins, makes it easier to pin your drain tube to your pjs.

Size 1 baby diapers, sanitary napkins or nursing pads for open breast incisions.

A small step stool has been a great tool to help me get in and out of bed

Make sure there's food premade that you don't need to fuss with (sandwiches/salads in individual servings), and also keep those drinks handy.

Cook some of my favorite foods and even ordered a couple takeouts from my fav restaurants to be on hand when I got hungry.

Purchase smaller sizes of soda/juice/milk.

Stock up on heavy items (laundry soap, dry dog food, bottled water, sodas) for 2-3 months! Remember to fill up smaller containers that are easier to pick up.

Put your shampoo, conditioner, and body soap in trial size bottles so they are easier to manage and lighter.

Stock up on stuff near bed - tissues, water, magazines, lots of pillows of all sizes, medicine, remote control.

Recliner or hospital bed- can be ordered from medical supply companies. Some find a sleeping wedge very helpful, with pillow under the knees.

Drain solving problem: Zip-up hoodies or robes with pockets, I cut a slit on the inside material and popped the drains in from the inside. No one even knows they are there. It looks a little bulky, but much better than the drains hanging on my neck from a lanyard.

If you have someone a the house helping you out, when you need them call from your cell phone to the house phone or vice versa. It was so much easier than trying to yell from upstairs.

Get Netflix or rent movies.

Have an insulated cup for drinking and book and lamp by the bed.

Have someone pour milk, juice, etc from big gallon jugs into smaller containers and leave on an easy-to-reach shelf.

If a can of something needed opening, have someone do it before they leave.


This thread started me thinking about what my husband/partner will need. So I am starting a basket of "surprises" for him. A friend is bringing it to the hospital to give to him after I am in surgery.

iTunes gift card - so he can dowload a book on tape, music, movie, whatever

roll of quarters - for the pop machine

deck of cards - surgery is supposed to be 8 - 10 hours. He can play cards with whoever shows up

remote control car -pure silliness but he will think it is fun!

box of Special K meal bars - at least he will have something semi-healthy to snack on

chapstick - hospital environments can be very drying

bottle of special single malt scotch - something he would never buy for himself, but will appreciate very much when he gets home

travel blanket - hospital can get cold

framed picture of the two of us




  • otter
    otter Member Posts: 757
    edited February 2008


    I just got home from the hospital a couple of hours ago (SNB + left-side mastectomy w/o recon).  I, too, had seen lots of helpful suggestions on this board.  Here's my experience (so far), FWIW:

    Some hospitals provide camis and/or surgery bras to their patients. Mine provided 1 safety pin and a measuring cup, plus some opened packages of sterile gauze bandage material they'd used on me.

    My onco surgeon's secretary told me to bring a sports bra to wear home.  There is NO WAY I could wear a sports bra, or any other bra, right now.  The site is sore and a bit swollen, and my skin is very sensitive from tape (see below).  A soft flannel shirt is just right.

    I took books, magazines, everything except my ipod; but I didn't use any of them.  My dh did a lot of reading while he waited for me during & after surgery, but I was too woozy-headed and just wanted to nap.

    My meds were simple:  I had 3 meds I was taking regularly, and they gave me those while in the hospital.  In addition, they gave me Percoset for pain, Cholase for constipation, and Prilosec.  At discharge, they gave me a prescription for the Percoset and Cholase.  Since Percoset is an opiate, I doubt they'd have given it to me ahead of time.  My dh filled the script as we drove home.

    My biggest problem right now is skin damage from the bandaging tape.  My skin is thin and sensitive to adhesives, so I have big red blotches everywhere the pressure bandage was taped.  On my chest I have a nickel-sized erosion that feels like a burn, where my skin ws actually pulled off with the tape.  Another bandage placed over that erosion produced more soreness from tape.  I've decided to go tapeless, where possible; and use only the softest cloth tape if taping is necessary.

    The nurses made sure I knew how to empty and measure the drain fluid, "recharge" the drains, and strip the tubing.  They had me show them I could do it before I left.  No big deal so far.

    The drains themselves are a problem, of course.  This morning I noticed a firm cord running across my chest from my shoulder almost to my sternum.  It hurt like heck.  When I asked the docs what it was, they said it was one of my drains.  They said normally that drain is not so visible because there's more fat over it.  On me, it looks like a tendon that wasn't there before.

    Oh, and the small, soft pillow was essential for the drive home.  It kept the shoulder harness off my chest.


  • iodine
    iodine Member Posts: 869
    edited February 2008

    If you self administer pain/nausea meds: note pad by meds with a pen to write down times meds were taken so you don't over or under dose---can't always remember when you took what med. 

    For regular meds: write down times you are supposed to take it during a 24 hour period, ie: 10   2  6  10, and when you take it, draw a line thru the hour, that way you know you took it.

    Make out a page for your drainage amounts: empty 2-3 times daily and write down amounts and total for each 24 hours.  take this with you to each appt.  ie:  8am  65cc    8pm  45cc  Tues: 110cc

    If you take narcotics, take a stool softner, not a laxative, just a stool softner.  Then if you get constipated, begin laxative.(unless you're like me and  keflex gives you diarrhea and you won't need a stool softner!  hard learned lesson!)

    Do not leave the hospital until you and SO have Demonstrated (this means actually doing it) to the NURSE that you are proficient milking the drain tubing.

    If you are going to sleep in bed and not a recliner at home, ask the nursing staff to show you the proper way to get in and out of bed with the least strain on your back and upper body.  There is a wrong way and right way.  sleeping on your back demands a large, hard pillow under your knees to protect your back. Period.

    Before surgery, practice washing your hair, with or without help, with your elbows not moved away from your chest---either over the kitchen sink, using the spray or if your doc will allow, in the shower.  You will find out what you can and cannot do.  If possible, arrange with your hair dresser to do your hair after you get home and cannot stand it any longer -- get someone who loves you to drive you.  They will be grateful to get to do something for you!

    Ok, the above is brought to you by an old fashioned, long ago trained RN, who is retired! 

  • sandilee
    sandilee Member Posts: 436
    edited February 2008

    Oh, yes- the hair!  I wasn't allowed to shower until my drain was out, so my mom drove me to a local hairdresser for a wash and blow dry - not too expensive.  The following week I drove myself, even after my drain was out.  It felt great!

    I took and used eyedrops for my dry eyes.

    I also arranged all my post surgery robes, pj's, button down shirts and hoodies on a rack in one easy to reach place so I could dress myself easily the first couple of weeks without rummaging through my closet.

     Have neosporin on hand for any latex burns from drains or surgical tape.

      Also, I used adult "baby wipes" to give myself sponge baths for the first couple of days when I couldn't shower. It was easier than dealing with soap and water when one side was very sore.

    You might want a little blanket and a pillow for the ride home if it's cold where you are.


  • Kathy_K
    Kathy_K Member Posts: 4
    edited February 2008

    I found that a good eye mask was a lifesaver!  With those lights going on and off all night.... ear plugs, too.  The iPod was good to help block out hospital noises.  Take a cute pair of boxers or pajama bottoms for those walks in the halls.  Make them slippery/silky to help slide out of bed.  Good for home, too.

    When I got home I had my daughter write on my pill bottles the times of day they were to be taken.  In the early days it didn't matter what the medication was since I was taking it all.  She wrote on my pain pills bottle 6 10 2 6 10 2 in permanent ink.  I didn't have to think just look at the time.  Antibiotics were every 6 hours so 6 12 6 12.  It worked well for me to keep things really simple.

    I also found that a travel neck pillow - 'C' shaped - was great for keeping my neck from getting a crick after sleeping in a recliner.

    You will likely get a pre-printed chart for keeping track of the drain output.  I was also given small cups numbered to match my drains.  Empty all the drains first and then measure and record each one.  You will feel like you are part of a mad science experiment but it will soon be over.  Not soon enough, but soon.

    Good Luck!!

  • otter
    otter Member Posts: 757
    edited February 2008

    (bumping thread up for Carly)


  • BethNY
    BethNY Member Posts: 74
    edited March 2008
  • Noni
    Noni Member Posts: 74
    edited February 2008

    I had a bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap on 1/21.  I had a hard time due to infection so I spent two weeks in the hospital.   I came home Superbowl Sunday.

    Here are my suggestions:

    I have been using the rubber band type tourniquet to help me shower.  I pin the drains to it and hang it around my neck.   It's worked perfect so far.

    I brought several books and magazines to the hospital with me and all were useless.  I didn't read a thing thanks to all the meds I was on.  The TV could barely hold my attention.    

    There was an incredible amount of swelling after surgery and I found that despite having what I consider a huge chunk of my body removed, even my fattest of fat clothes didn't fit.  That was a depressing first couple of days.

    I have a tear in one of my breasts that the PS is still a bit concerned about.  It's putting out a lot of fluid and the dressing I got from the pharmacy just wasn't cutting it.  I finally decided to try a thin maxi-pad in my bra and it works like a charm.  

    I was sent home with two different antibiotics and pain meds.   My doctor suggested I take stool softener  which I found to be a bad idea since the antibiotics were doing a number on my bowels.  Something to keep in mind.

    A visiting nurse suggested I wet my fingers to help strip my drains but I found that using lotion works much better.   Stripping my drains has become the favorite part of my day.   I love seeing clean tubes!

    Hope that helps! 

  • lewing
    lewing Member Posts: 100
    edited February 2008

    Thanks for all the great tips - I'm headed for surgery (lumpectomy + SNB) on February 26, and like panchoandlefty, I'm a compulsive plannner.  My pre-surgery checklist is growing... 

    I have a specific question for those of you who've had lumpectomies.  What's the deal with bras - especially for those of us smaller breasted (B or maybe barely C cup) women?  Will I need one, for support, or can I go braless while healing?  It seems like the latter would be a lot more comfortable.  I have a drawer full of running bras, but they all need to be pulled on over my head, which I know I won't be able to do at first.   

  • LorenaB
    LorenaB Member Posts: 91
    edited February 2008

    I was told that I had to wear a bra all the time for the first two days after surgery (including while sleeping) and then while awake for 1-2 weeks after that.  I'm very large-breasted (DDD cup) but I think these were the general instructions for everyone getting a lumpectomy.  I have another surgery coming up next week (to remove more nodes plus a bit of breast tissue since the margins weren't clean) and I just went out and bought a really comfortable cotton bra without underwires (normally a must for me).  I look dreadful in it ("two watermelons in a hammock" is how a friend describes it) but it will be perfect for sleeping and hanging around the house.  Also, I was able to pull a shirt over my head post-surgery without much difficulty - I just had to do it slowly and carefully.

    Is there a nurse at your surgeon's office who you could call to ask about this?

  • Kathy_K
    Kathy_K Member Posts: 4
    edited February 2008

    With my lumpectomy I was told to wear a sports bra 24/7 for the first 1-2 weeks.  After that, I don't remember anything specific.

  • pdm
    pdm Member Posts: 4
    edited February 2008

    I also was told to keep a bra on ..they never said how long but one night I decided to take it off after my husband helped me bathe ..(couldn't stand it anymore) The next morning I Felt so sore . After putting the bra back on it relieved the preasure off  the breast  . The support of the bra really does help ..My husband and mother inlaw went to walmart and got 2 bras that hook in the front..that plus the one I got from the hospital was just right ..I never wear walmart bras but believe it or not they worked perfectly. Just enough support  with no underwire.. inexpensive enough  not to worry about not wearing them again once healed.

  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited February 2008

    bump up for SS.


  • otter
    otter Member Posts: 757
    edited February 2008

    bump (for newcomers)

  • otter
    otter Member Posts: 757
    edited February 2008


  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited February 2008

    Bumping for Lisa


  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008
    bumping againLaughing
  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008

    bump for lily Kiss


  • ottawagirl
    ottawagirl Member Posts: 2
    edited March 2008

    Can someone tell me what "bumping" is?  I've seen it a few times and not sure what it means.  ThanksSmile

  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008

    Ottawagirl. bumping is just to get the conversation back on the active conversation list and bringing it back to the top of the page. I do it if I see someone with questions about a procedure that has been discussed to get the information without everyone reposting what had been posted before.


  • ottawagirl
    ottawagirl Member Posts: 2
    edited March 2008

    Ohhhh, well that makes a lot of sense.  Thanks.


  • crazydaisy
    crazydaisy Member Posts: 100
    edited March 2008

    thanks for the bumping.......checking the list too!

  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008

    bumping to the top for newbies

  • AndreaM4567
    AndreaM4567 Member Posts: 11
    edited March 2008

    Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who took the time to make this list!

    I think you have saved us getting ready to go in for surgery a whole lot of pain and trouble.

  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008

    Andrea, we were all there and just wanted to share what we discovered on our own. I rode home from the hospital holding the seatbelt away from my chest and had to send my hubby back to the pharmacy to get the non-child proof caps (I wanted to take a hammer to the bottle). It is also to take precautions for constipation when on the pain meds, for me it was drinking apple juice to keep me going regular. I actually forgot about my own words of caution when having my recon exchange surgery and 2 days later I was feeling the results of constipation.


  • AndreaM4567
    AndreaM4567 Member Posts: 11
    edited March 2008

    Thank you so much Shiela, I have made a list of things to talk to my ps about. And then I have my to-do/to-buy list too.

    Well fortunately/unfortunately I have severe spastic IBS so I will not be needing any medications for constipation. I will have to stop the one I am on to control the IBS and that's it. It's just so feminine! LOL!

    And on the note of the Lazy Boy thing. I don't have one but I wanted to pass on something I am going to try this weekend. We have a Rent-A-Center here locally, I am going to go see if I can rent a Lazy Boy for a little while. Just an idea for those like me who do not have Lazy Boys and may need one to sleep in. Crossing my fingers they have them there. 

  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008

    My mom offered to bring a recliner to my house (she has 3 at her house) but one would not fit in my small living room unless I got rid of another chair (no place to store extra furniture). My Hubby has a oversized overstuffed chair with ottoman that I reclined in with several pillows around/behind me. I still find myself falling asleep in that chair when he is gone.


  • Nanstoys
    Nanstoys Member Posts: 1
    edited March 2008

    I got my sports bras a JC Penny on line MF128-6330Q is the item number. They are $26.00.  Mostly cotton and they zip up the front.  They were are real life saver.  I wore mine for a week after the lumpectomy and it really minimized the pain.  Much better then not wearing one. Am hoping to use them during radiation also.

  • AndreaM4567
    AndreaM4567 Member Posts: 11
    edited March 2008

    Sadly I am an E/EE cup and those normal bras just don't fit my sweater kittens.

    I think some of the plus size places have cotton front snap bras, that is on my to-do list this weekend too.

  • Steph_Rose
    Steph_Rose Member Posts: 3
    edited March 2008

    i cannot imagine not having a recliner to sleep in.....especially because i had tram-flap i am cut hip to hip

    i tried to get in bed 2 days ago and it pulled at my abdominal sutures badly...thn, i could't get up with out my hubby practically lifting me

    make sure you have lots of robes or button front pj's 

  • lvtwoqlt
    lvtwoqlt Member Posts: 765
    edited March 2008

    bump to top for suemed.