As I am packing for my third operation in relation to my breast cancer and reconstruction, I thought it would be a great idea to take note of all the things I am taking to hospital to make the experience a bit easier. This list would be just as good for a lumpectomy, mastectomy, exchange surgery, creation of nipples, fat transfers, even revision surgery. It’s what to take to hospital for breast surgery of any kind.
I often see questions from others asking what to take to hospital for mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery. It’s a scary time and it’s easy to worry that you may forget something you need. The most importnat thing is to take things that will make you comfortable. Use my list as a starting point and include any other things that make sense to you.
Long Phone Cord
In both hospital rooms I have been in the power point for charging my phone was quite a distance away from the bed. The last thing you will feel like doing every time you want to use or charge your phone is to get out of bed to go and get it. Depending on how you are doing, you may not even be able to get out of bed. For my bilateral mastectomy, I had four drains and the things around my legs helping with circulation, so it took me ages to get sorted to get up and then get myself back in bed again.
An alternative to an extra long phone cord is to take an extension cable and your regular phone cord, but I discovered hospitals are a little funny about them. I had to get a maintenance person to come in and do an electrical check on mine before they would allow me to use it.
Unless you are an amazing sleeper who can sleep through just about anything, you will definitely want to take an eye mask with you to hospital. I was lucky enough to have a private room, but even then there was a night light on the whole time to allow the nursing staff to see what they were doing without turning on the main overhead lights. I need it to be totally dark to sleep, and even the slightest amount of light will wake me up so I made great use of my eye mask. These will be particularly essential if you are sharing a room after your surgery.
For the same reason as an eye mask, it’s a great idea to take some ear plugs with you too. Hospitals are noisy places. I was happy to be right down the end of the corridor on my first visit because I thought it would be quieter. What I didn’t realise was it was also right next to the staff bathroom, so people were constantly walking in and out the bathroom door, even in the middle of the night.
While my ear plugs came in very handy, I just had the basic foam variety. There are some much more sophisticated-but-inexpensive noise cancelling ones available too.
You will likely be asked to bring a surgical bra with you to hospital. I was not, but the hospital I was in had a lady who came to visit me the day after my surgery to talk to me about bras and what she recommended. Here in Australia you will usually be given a free bra from Berlei. Some people love it, but not only did I think it was ugly, it didn’t fit and it seemed like it was made for someone much older than me.
The bra recommended to me in hospital was one from Amoena pictured above. I bought two of these and wore them exclusively from the day after my bilateral mastectomy for about a month. They were soft and comfortable. As my expanders were filled though I found they didn’t fit me as well and rode up a little at the front – but that may have been because I am a relatively small framed person.
I ended up buying two more surgical bras from Target here in Australia and I have found these to suit me better. I find they are tighter around my torso so don’t ride up.
After my exchange surgery my surgeon wanted me to have a much tighter bra, and sent the lady in to me again with these Amoena post-surgical bras. I bought two and again wore them day and night for months. Two years later I am still wearing them as a sports bra during exercise.
The Target bra I referred to above is very similar to this Fruit of the Loom bra from Amazon which I know is very popular.
I found having my own drink bottle made life so much easier. I have one that will not leak when it is tipped over, so that I could easily drink even when laying down. It was fantastic in the middle of the night when the nursing staff would come in and wake me up to take my medication. Rather than having to push myself up into a sitting position (which is difficult when your chest muscles have just been operated on) I could simply take them while still laying down. Trying to do this with a cup is really difficult.
I found that I drank a lot of water in hospital. Having a non-spill bottle also meant I could keep it close to me, even laying it on the bed next to me, so that it was always within reach. You will likely not be able to reach for things easily, push or pull things such as your tray table, so every little thing you can do to make you do that less not only is better for your healing, but less painful too.
While I couldn’t find the exact water bottle I have, I do like these ones (pictured above) because they are pretty and have the reminders on them to keep drinking – and we all know how important that is!
Button Up Pyjamas
For your stay in hospital you will need button up pyjamas. Depending on your surgery, it is likely you will not be able to lift your arms above your head so buttons are a must. Admittedly I spent the first two days after my double mastectomy still in the surgical gown, but by day three I wanted to feel a bit more like myself and was glad to have some of my own pyjamas with me.
Think of your surgery as the perfect opportunity to treat yourself and update your pjs. Of course you will want these for home too, especially if you can’t lift your arms for six weeks which is what my surgeon required. I like something simple for hospital like the pair pictured above. They come in a whole pile of different colours and patterns too.
Slippers, Flip Flops or Non-Slip Socks
You will need to bring something with you to put on your feet as you walk around in your room and elsewhere. You will likely be given compression socks to wear during your surgery and for the next couple of days at least. I was quickly told I was not allowed to walk around with only those on my feet as they were slippery and it was a hazard. I hadn’t brought any slippers or flip flops with me, so I was given a pair of bright red, hospital issue non-slip socks.
I thought these avocado slippers were cute, but there are so many different styles that there are sure to be some you like.
As an Australian, I’m an expert in flip flops (or thongs as we call them here!) and I just can’t seem to go past Havianas. You can choose from dozens of styles in their Amazon shop here.
For non-slip socks, these look warm and comfy, and would be perfect for around the house in winter too.
If you have spent any time in hospital you will know those beds are just not the most comfortable. After your surgery you will likely need to sleep on your back, which for most people, is not their natural sleeping position. Extra pillows will help you to get yourself as comfortable as possible.
While you can take whichever style pillow suits you, I recommend these V-shaped pillows. I have had one for years to use when I am sitting in bed reading. I found that by pulling it down to one side and hugging it, I was able to sleep slightly on my side by day three after my mastectomy, easing the pressure on my back. It was also good while in a sitting position to rest my elbows on so they weren’t putting pressure on the sides of my torso.
I discovered while searching on Amazon that there are a huge range of pillows for sleeping, sitting, reading and almost everything else! I know full body maternity pillows are often recommended for recovery once at home, but they are probably too bulky to take to hospital with you.
Another common pillow to hear others recommend are mastectomy pillows. These are small cushions that loop over the shoulder and support the arm from underneath. I was given one when I had my lumpectomy, but I found I didn’t really use it at all for either of my hospital visits. I have heard many people rave about them though. They are also useful for in the car, to protect your chest from the seatbelt.
Before you buy a mastectomy pillow (or two) first check if you are given them free through your hospital. Here in Australia, they are available free, ask your breast care nurse about them.
Just as an extra hint, another popular item is a large foam wedge. These are not normally needed in hospital because you can raise the head of the bed mechanically, but they can be really helpful at home to keep you propped up while sleeping.
Lip Balm & Moisturiser
I have a fairly simple skin care routine and don’t bother to take much more than the basics with me to hospital, but two things I can’t do without are my lip balm and moisturiser. I find that being constantly inside an air-conditioned building dries out my skin and lips a lot, and I feel so much more comfortable being able to regularly moisturise.
If you want to prepare for when your dressings come off, I highly recommend using Bio Oil to help soften and reduce the appearance of your scars. I am still using it daily two years later and I am very happy with the results.
After my lumpectomy my surgeon covered my wound with waterproof tape and allowed me to shower, but after my mastectomy, I was not allowed to shower properly until the dressings came off. It was a very long 18 days! While I was able to bathe with a washcloth, I found it labourious and exhausting. For a quick freshen up, baby wipes were fantastic. I used them a lot in hospital to make myself feel a bit cleaner while I was still trying to figure everything out.
To be honest, I don’t remember exactly which wipes I took with me to hospital, but there are so many different ones available you can just take your favourites. For an adult-sized option, these ones are available on Amazon.
I’m fairly sure this probably goes without saying since we all know hospital food is almost as bad as airline food! I am vegetarian, so my options were even more restricted. In fact, I was really surprised that there were really no vegetarian options for me at all. So I relied a lot on food brought to me by my family. Luckily my favourite flavours of potato chips are vegetarian 🙂
One thing that I did find useful though were some hard lollies to suck on to sooth my throat. During surgery a tube is put down your throat to help you breath. You will likely be warned that you may have a sore throat for a few days afterward. I found sucking on a lolly helped – kind of like if you have a sore throat with a cold. My favourite lolly in this situation are Werther’s Original. Yum.
You will want something to do while you are in hospital, especially if you will be admitted in the next few months like me, when visitors are no longer allowed. Here are the things I will be taking with me to use as I feel like it.
Books – I am a big reader, so I always take a book or two with me. strangely though, I did not feel like reading after my mastectomy. Browse on either Amazon US or Amazon AU to find the perfect book for your hospital stay.
Puzzle Books – this is what I ended up spending way too much of my time doing after my mastectomy. My daughter have given me a puzzle book and I had also picked up a Sudoku book, and I spent hours batttling with them. Other options are crosswords or find-a-words, or even a magazine of two that has puzzles in it, such as “That’s Life” in Australia. Have a look at some ideas below
Movies – if you are able to take a tablet or laptop with you to hospital, download a movie or two ready in case you feel like watching one.
Music – load up your phone with you favourite tunes, from relaxing music to something to give you a bit of energy. You may find the soothing music a good option to listen to as you try to sleep to block out some of the hospital noises
Podcasts – to go along with music, you could download your favourite podcasts. This is what I listened to as I was trying to sleep to block out the noise. I chose podcasts that I was interested in but that it wouldn’t matter if I feel asleep during them.
Audiobooks – another option to have something to listen to. Particularly good if you don’t feel quite up to reading. It’s nice to just lay back and listen to a good story.
A great option for covering many of these all in one go is to get an Amazon Prime membership – just click below for a free trial.
So that’s it, all the things in my hospital bag apart from my general toiletries. For clothes to wear home, remember you may not be able to lift your arms above your head, so ensure you bring something that can be buttoned up or has a wide neckline that you can step into. My mastectomy was in summer, and I have a fantastic wrap around dress that was easy to get into, wear and looked good too. While it’s made for travel, I found I wore it a lot during my recovery.
Have I missed anything? Was there something you took to hospital and found particularly useful? Let me know in the comments below.
Want to read more about my journey? Try these. (Be warned there may be photos of boobs)
- That Day This Journey Began
- Lumpectomy and Finally the Results
- My Bilateral Mastectomy with Tissue Expanders
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