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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Breast Surgery - preparation for and a little extra for sewists

I recently had a double mastectomy,  and I was fortunate to have reconstruction as well.  I am just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and thought I should start jotting down my thoughts while I have this perspective. 
As I approached the surgery date I was desperate for advice on what I could do to prepare.  I didn't find much, so I dug deep.  I remembered that my cesarean surgeries immobilized me, so I signed up with a personal training program and started developing some foundation muscles.  Now, before you abandon me, understand: I am a curvy girl - I walk regularly, and over the years I have been fit several times, but I am NOT a model of healthy physical fitness.
  • I love yoga, but can't afford studio yoga. But I pulled out my mat and cds and started rebuilding my stash of tricks to combine my mindfulness with poses that focused on stretches.
  • I invested in the 6 week program offered by Tailored Training (they are an excellent, pricey
    The Bear Crawl, how hard can it be?
     Babies do it!
    gymn,  and all the staff have significant physical health training - they are kinesiologists, physical therapists, nutritionists and have the paper to back it up) and struggled my way through the first few weeks until I was able to keep up with the group training sessions.  The whole experience was great, but I couldn't afford to stay with the team... but again I built my toolbox: in particular, the Turkish Get-ups, Bear crawls (see #5 on this page), and the more nebulous skill of breaking the goal into achievable increments was a big help.
  • I reactivated my Curves membership ($10 a week I could afford! ) and hit each visit with everything I had.

So, Advice #1: no matter how soon your surgery is, do some work on your fitness toolbox.   Drop a few pounds, sure, but more importantly : get your body ready to be able to get up off the ground without using your hands.
Ok, what?  Seriously, you need to understand: your body will be compromised by the surgery, you will need to use your core and legs to do all the work.  I was so happy that I was able to use the toilet on my own, and I was able to get out of bed without asking for help.  It helped, a lot!

I sew. A lot.  But I had no idea what I needed to sew for myself to get organized  for post surgery.  In the end I did nothing.  What I wish I had known:
Advice #2: get a couple warm up suits and a front opening bra (or two) with the following features:
  • A) Pockets. 
    Pockets to hide your drains
    I had drains for several weeks, and in needed to put the bags out of sight at waist level.  I had a 2 light weight hoodie cardigans that I wore in constant rotation because the pockets were perfect.
  • B) Front openings. I couldn't lift my arms for a few days, and now if I want to dress myself, a cardigan with a zipper front is perfect.
  • C) Smooth, soft, jersey with good drape.  Reduce the risk of catching terry loops or fleece on stitches, tape, or incisions.
  • D) Elastic waisted pants.  Think bathroom with limited arm maneuverability.  (I made a few pairs of Hudson Pants - and they have pockets!!)
  • E) I needed a little bralette with a front do-up.  I missed that boat.  I am now into a light fitness top for minimal support that won't compress my armpits.
  • F) my doctor recommended putting feminine pads in my old front opening sports bras for comfort.  Go buy some cheap pads for this purpose, it's the padding and the smooth surface that works especially well, the flexible foam la-la-la core meant nothing.

"Cleansing Bottle"
Trust me.
Advice #3.  Bathroom stuff:

  • Take the stool softeners the Dr recommends. They aren't a laxative, don't worry.  They are necessary with the painkillers.  
  • Drink a lot of water. Get a water bottle with a spill - proof spout.  I have one with a trigger that opens and closes the spout. 
  • Stock Up:  Panty liners, yeast topical cream, the little squeeze bottle (the hospital provided mine) for your bits, and all the stuff you might need if you have bum issues (like hemorrhoids) be prepared so you don't have to send someone on a strange shopping trip.

#4:  Sewing addiction advice.  Get as much cutting out done ahead of time as possible.  Cutting is the most difficult of the process, the squeezing of scissors or the pressure needed to use a rotary cutter may not even be possible.  I found I had a lot of back pain from my shoulders being pulled forward by my pec muscles, and the sewing position was agony.  I did little bursts of sewing, planning, hand stitching.  If you blog, maybe concentrate on your backlog (this is why this posting exists) will keep your brain busy.  and start a pin board of things to read:  you will surf yourself to boredom in recovery.

1 comment:

  1. Heal Well. Great advice for almost any type of surgery or procedure.