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 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.
The bra recommended to me in hospital was one from Amoena (see below). 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.
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, it is similar to the ones below.
Button Up Pyjamas
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 sugeon required. Here’s just one suggestion for some pjs.
Slippers, Flip Flops or Non-Slip Socks
Have a look at the slippers below or click through to see more options.
While you can take whichever style pillow suits you, I recommend these U-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.
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
Here’s my favourite lip balm for you to try
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’ve been using it for about fours months now and I am very happy with the results.
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.
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 (see it here, sorry, only available in Australia) that was easy to 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.