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

Forum: Surgery - Before, During, and After — Surgical options and helpful tips for recovery and side effects.

Posted on: Feb 6, 2008 06:43PM - edited Apr 20, 2021 02:06PM by moderators

Posted on: Feb 6, 2008 06:43PM - edited Apr 20, 2021 02:06PM by moderators

Panchoandlefty wrote:

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


Dx 1/15/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 1/23 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 12, 2008 11:17PM - edited Apr 12, 2008 11:18PM by AndreaM4567

I wanted to add a few things.

Make sure that you do not have your phone blocked for collect calls or whatever. My husband's cell phone was a different area code and we had blocked all our phones from receiving charges so I could never call and talk to him.

Also, the biggest mistake I have made thus far was not getting those silky nightgowns. I am paying for it constantly. I am plus size and found it hard to find a button up silky night shirt. But please try to find them before your surgery!!

My shower chair has been awesome. Go onto Ebay. They have them very cheap and new.

Get lots of pillows for home. My Mom bought me several of those tiny travel buckwheat pillows and because they wrenched my arm in surgery, I have found great need for them.

Definately make sure you are getting the pain blasters put in your abdomen if you are doing the DIEP. It made everything go really well for pain control in that area. The bag those blasters came in have been great for holding my drains in the shower.

I rented 2 chairs from Rent A Center. Big mistake. The one that lifts is super uncomfortable, hard, and doesn't lay back very far. The manual Lazy Boy one is impossible. You cannot lift the leg section by yourself. You will need someone else to do it and it is also uncomfortable. So try to go to a Medical rental place and see if they have something better.

While in the hospital the PT and OT kept insisting that I sit up however all of those chairs were nearly impossible to be comfortable in because I am plus sized. Ask to sit in a wheelchair instead. They are wider and way better. I hated those metal chair leg bars sticking into my knees.  

I am very dried out and irritated from the breathing tube. So get a humidifer! I love it! Also those Werthers candies have helped to moisten my mouth and throat.

The one last thing I wished I had done was to cut my hair off. I have long hair and it has been a nightmare to deal with. First, it has been hard to wash it by myself. Second, it was been near impossible to put up by myself because of my arm issues. Last, it gets very hot laying in bed with long hair. I would have certainly done a bob cut beforehand had I known.

If I think of more, I will post them.

BRCA2 + Dx 2/13/2008, DCIS/IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 0/6 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 13, 2008 10:26AM otter wrote:


Those are great additions to the list.   Thanks!


Dx 2008, IDC, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Apr 15, 2008 08:51PM AndreaM4567 wrote:

Thanks Otter :)

I need to add the following:

Get those pincher things that pick things up. It is a pincher on a long metal rod with a handle at the end. My grandfather had some and I wished I had gotten some. Anything that goes on the floor stays on the floor until someone else walks by.

Sanitary pads! I have sprung leaks everywhere and I am covered in sanitary napkins right now. It's just making all of this just so much more beautiful Undecided

BRCA2 + Dx 2/13/2008, DCIS/IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 0/6 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 15, 2008 10:55PM Leeayn wrote:

Get a manicure and pedicure before your surgery, and a hair cut.  I found my PJs at Macy's, they have plus size button up.  I'm still unable to wear a bra, I had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal (11) on 4/4.   Finally had the drain tube removed today - YEAH!!! 

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

Pillows are the best, I stay propped up on the couch with one under my arm, one behind me and one in my lap, we have a mound of pillows for me to use. 

Laying in bed is very uncomfortable after surgery, or it has been for me.  With large breast, a cut and a drain tube, when you lay down, gravity seems to take over and it's just not comfy!  I have found sitting on the couch is my best option. 

Take a lap throw with you to the hospital, too, and keep it handy.  I've found that keeping the breast area warm helps with the pain. 

Good Luck! 

Focus on the Positive! -- God is in Control! Dx 3/28/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage II, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 20, 2008 09:56AM otter wrote:

bumping up for newbies...


Dx 2008, IDC, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Apr 20, 2008 03:39PM AndreaM4567 wrote:

I had added not to rent recliners but forgot to add: rent a hospital bed instead. I read on another thread that it was only $20 a month for someone after insurance paid. Sure wished I had done that!

I also added a different thread but should have just added here. I am finding that Size 1 baby diapers are much more absorbant than the sanitary napkins for open breast incisions. Someone also added that they put the nursing pads on top of the diapers.

The diapers are great because they are the shape of the breast.

BRCA2 + Dx 2/13/2008, DCIS/IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 0/6 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 20, 2008 05:02PM puppyholic wrote:

I bought 2 wedge pillows for my bed. Used them for my back, and then later to raise my legs. It was so hard to get comfortable to sleep. Instead of the lanyard, my friend told me to get really big safety pins. My drains had a plastic tab on them so I could pin them to my clothes or binder. I couldn't shower until they were out.

I would also suggest bringing chapstick (used it a lot) and maybe something to tie your hair back if it's long. I couldn't stand my hair being on my neck and face in the hospital so I had my husband bring me a ponytail thing. It was a lifesaver - especially since I felt so disgusting not showering. I also brought breath mints and gum so my mouth wasn't gross, especially when I had visitors.

Also, when I got home, I found I needed a lot of gauze to put over my wounds so they wouldn't leak on my clothing. I had a bilat DIEP so I had an abdominal and breast incisions.

Good luck - it'll be over before you know it.

Dx 8/2007, Stage 0, 0/0 nodes, ER+/PR+
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Apr 20, 2008 11:43PM sam408 wrote:

A small step stool has been a great tool to help me get in and out of bed. My bed is a little higher than I realized until I got home but luckily we had the stool on hand because my grandson uses it to reach the sink.

I'm so glad to read about the front hook bras. My PS has told me I could wear a very soft bra but the only thing I was aware of were just regular sports bras. I had a flap 2 1/2 weeks ago and there's no way I could get one of those over my head. I'm going to check out Penney's and also the Hanes on-line site to see what I can find.

Sheila . . .Never regret something that made you smile. Dx 2/16/2007, DCIS, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+
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Apr 21, 2008 12:19PM Tina337 wrote:

bumping up for rkaywilcox

"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself." ~ George Bernard Shaw Dx 11/13/2007, DCIS, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 28, 2008 04:19PM lvtwoqlt wrote:

bumping for newbies

Women are like tea bags, we don't know how strong we are until we were thrown into hot water. Eleanore Roosevelt Diagnosed ADH Feb 2005, ADH Sept 2006 Surgery 2/12/2005 Lumpectomy: Left Surgery 9/10/2006 Lumpectomy: Right Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2006 Dx 4/27/2007, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/7 nodes Surgery 6/1/2007 Mastectomy: Left, Right

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