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Advice for someone about to have breast surgery

moderators Posts: 7,886

Let's start a new thread to get this rolling!


  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,734

    Although there is no shortage of specialty items related to surgery and recovery, most of it is unnecessary. The recovery period generally goes quickly. Don’t waste your money on specialty items as you likely have many items around the house that will work for you. A good example are the specialty pillows they market as post mastectomy. Many of us already own small or very squishy pillows that we can use. I will say however, that if your insurance covers it you may be able to get a bra and/or cami at no cost. I was able to get both and used them but would have looked for cheaper alternatives if Ainhad to pay out of pocket. I did appreciate the very soft button front bra that insurance covered.

  • needs.a.nap
    needs.a.nap Member Posts: 159

    ** ask your surgeon to specifically explain what restrictions you will have after surgery and for how long **

    I only suggest this because I had a vague idea I wouldn’t be able to use my arm much for a bit afterwards but somehow failed to ask this question beforehand.

    When I was talking to my nurse on the phone after surgery, she said “6” when I asked how long I must use T-Rex arm and I said “okay, 6 days” and she was like “no, 6 weeks” … uh, how did I miss this?!?

    P.S. Each plastic surgeon may have their own recommendations on length of time … and T-Rex arm jokingly refers to keeping your elbow down at your side at all times while using only your forearm and hand.

  • laughinggull
    laughinggull Member Posts: 511
    edited October 2023

    I second exbrnxgirl in that you really don’t need any special items at all.

    My initial surgery was unilateral mastectomy with full axillary lymph node dissection (ALND); I didn’t have that restriction of not lifting my arm for six weeks; that sounds wrong or an exaggeration from your nurse, needs.a.nap; to the contrary, my surgeon encouraged me to start doing stretching exercises (reaching up) as soon as possible -which I did. I also started physical therapy very soon. I am a swimmer, and one month after the surgery, to the day , my incisions were healed and I was allowed back in the pool. That same day I took the plunge and was able to swim all four strokes. My mobility was almost as before, although it took warming the muscles up to get that.

    All in all it was easier than I expected. Less pain, less immobility.

    I had not taken time off work during chemo (which was before surgery), but took four weeks off after surgery and was out and about getting fresh air and exercise and physical therapy. It worked very well for me.

    Best luck to all having surgery!

  • needs.a.nap
    needs.a.nap Member Posts: 159
    edited October 2023

    That sounds wonderful @laughinggull! Swimming at one month after surgery. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    I was kind of shocked about my arm restrictions and had several conversations with my plastic surgeon himself during those first weeks after surgery to ask specific questions. He confirmed the 6 week restriction, repeatedly. I kept asking if I could start doing stretching exercises but he/they kept saying “sure, after 6 weeks”.

    @laughinggull May I ask if you had any reconstruction at that time? I’m curious if that explains the different approaches of our surgeons? I have a tissue expander placed in front of my chest muscle.

    In either case, I wish I had asked all of this before my surgery and had a very clear picture of the recovery plan. I also wish I had scheduled physical therapy sooner. That’s been very helpful already! Now I am at 8 weeks and still have a little spot on my incision that isn’t healed so they put some stitches in yesterday. Otherwise I thought I was healing great and making good progress 😊

    P.S. You spur me on @laughinggull to keep at my stretching exercises and to resume all my usual activities! Thanks 😁

  • laughinggull
    laughinggull Member Posts: 511

    I had a tissue expander placed during that surgery. My advice came from the breast surgeon, he was calling the shots but the plastic didn’t object. They anticipated about six weeks to be able to submerge the incisions, but in 30 days the plastic surgeon saw me and he said the incisions were closed and I could swim that day.

    My surgery was April 27, I was out and about on long walks very soon and stretching and physical therapy almost immediately. I would ask your plastic to explain. The first weeks no cardio, then bike only then I could run, then swim starting on May 27

  • katg
    katg Member Posts: 206

    laughing gul. You have healed well! I had a left mastectomy with an expander, 3 lymph nodes removed. Same day i had my ovaries and fallopian tubes out. Those flipping surgical tubes were in at least 12 days for one, less than a week for the other. I found the chemo wiped me out from Aug to dec before my surgery. I was no longer my strong self. I lost it all. I worked from home which i could do, but exercise? I felt some envy reading your post. :-)

    Honestly, we guide each other. We may not be able to do all you did, but i found out as i stiffened up, that i did not do my part and the pain of a stiff arm led to trigger finger and work with a therapist. I liked your version better!!!

    Today, a year after that am back to lift both arms and all that. This year i had a surgery for the other side. I did not have the same set back. I was given to not lift your arms above the shoulder for a number of weeks. Now i forgot!!

    I appreciate hearing how you healed.

  • needs.a.nap
    needs.a.nap Member Posts: 159

    Thanks @laughinggull for all these very helpful details!!

    (Sorry for distracting from the main theme of this thread)

  • rrobin0200
    rrobin0200 Member Posts: 80

    Have a few button down shirts. You won’t be able to lift your arms above your head to remove shirts, so those button down shirts come in hand! In addition, have all necessities within arms reach due to this very reason mentioned previously. This includes plates, cups, medication, food, drinks, toiletries etc etc.

    stay on top of pain meds, but if possible, try to discontinue them by slowly tapering off.

    dont be shy about asking for help! Rest rest rest, and drink lots of water!!!

  • radtchr06
    radtchr06 Member Posts: 4

    I had a double mastectomy, one month ago from today. I would say that the first week of recovery was the toughest, but it wasn't awful. I didn't require pain medication, only Tylenol or Advil as needed. The reconstruction/tissue expanders were placed in the same surgery, so that was an adjustment. If I turned a certain way, I felt a pull on the inside, which again, was not awful. The left side had lymph nodes removed, so swelling was a bit more on this side. That took a couple of weeks to feel a bit more normal.

    I have one of those specialty pillows that I received as a gift. I really love it as it allowed me to sleep on my side a little after two weeks. I found it uncomfortable to sleep on my back, so I liked the change. I also ordered this velcro belt for my drainage tubes. I had three drains and the safety pins to the bra made me a bit nervous. This was a simple thing that had velcro straps and it allowed me to move it higher or lower on my body for comfort. It was about $13.00 on Amazon. I also ordered three sports/compression bras on Amazon, which cost $30.00 for all three. Best thing I could have done, as they are soft and have a zipper front. Button down shirts for a couple of weeks if possible and then oversized t-shirts work great.

    I'm healing very well and have started filling the spacers at the plastic surgeon. This was not uncomfortable and it will be done the day before chemo when I begin that very soon. I walk a lot and stay active throughout my day. I did have an arm restriction to not lift my arms above my head or lift more than 10 pounds. I feel that things are progressing well.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,886

    Hello @radtchr06! Welcome to our community, and thank you so much for sharing your valuable tips! Your insights are truly appreciated.

    We're glad to hear that you're healing well. If you'd be interested, we have a chemo thread where you can continue to share your experiences and connect with others going through treatment at the same time, here: Starting Chemo November 2023? If you're comfortable, please consider starting the conversation or
    sharing any thoughts you have. Your contributions can make a difference and help our community.

    Once again, thanks for joining, and we're looking forward to hearing more from you!

    The Mods