When you’re about to undergo breast surgery, there are many things to think about and plan for. But it’s difficult to really consider all of the parts of one’s life that the surgery will affect. You think about the obvious things, like planning ahead for meals and grocery shopping, and you enlist friends and family to help you get around, get your laundry done, keep your house in order. But there are a host of things you might not consider, and paying attention to these can make a big difference in your comfort and peace of mind during recovery. Here are some Dos and Don’ts with respect to your pre-surgery preparation:
- Get organized. Get yourself a clear plastic folder (like the one included in the BFFLBag®) to keep all of your medical information in one place and easily accessible. Such information will include pre-op and post-op instructions as well as physician information, appointment cards and test results.
- Pay your bills. Paperwork and banking are no fun when you’re feeling lousy.
- Have your post-op prescriptions written and filled ahead of time, if possible.
- Talk to your employer if applicable, and tell them that you will be on medical leave for at least 2 weeks. You might feel up to going back sooner, but it’s better to be conservative.
- Make sure you’ve discussed payments and coverage with your health insurance provider before your surgery. Get all pre-authorizations in writing, and make sure you’re aware of any out-of-pocket costs you will be responsible for. Don’t forget to bring your photo ID and proof of insurance with you to the hospital.
- Make hair appointments for days 4, 7 and 10. It’s impossible to wash and blow dry your hair after surgery, and it will feel really good to have it done for you. Also, if you regularly color your hair, have it done before surgery.
- Pamper yourself—maybe get a pedicure or leg wax so you can go into surgery feeling your best.
- Pack the following items:
Pajamas or nightgowns with front buttons and elastic (not drawstring) waistbands
Extra underpants and comfortable socks
Outfit to go home in that buttons/zips in the front
Shoes that are roomy an easy to slip on/off
Cell phone and charger
- Visit BFFLCO and consider buying the following products:
Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra
Vitamin E creme
- Designate a “gate keeper” and email chain administrator so you don’t have to do it.
- Prepare and freeze microwave meals, and make sure things are at counter height so you don’t have to reach. Keep a stock of bendable straws to make drinking easier, and stock up on crackers and broth-based soups for the first few days after surgery.
- Do as many chores ahead of time as you can. Remember, pushing a vacuum or changing sheets will be impossible for quite a while.
- Get a very lightweight handbag—carrying anything heavy is a non-starter when you’re recovering.
- Go to the bank and get small bills for tipping in the weeks after.
- Get a journal and write down how you feel, what pills you have taken, and what you need as you heal and recover.
- Get a manicure—when you’re in the operating room, the medical staff needs to monitor your oxygen saturation through a finger clip, and nail polish would make that impossible.
- Smoke. If you do, stop at least two weeks prior to surgery. Patients who smoke and undergo surgery have an increased risk of heart and lung complications, including problems related to general anesthesia given during surgery. Smoking also makes it more difficult for the surgical wound to heal and may increase the risk of infection.
- Wear contact lenses to the hospital. Bring your eyeglass case.
- Start weight lifting—besides being a futile exercise, it could make surgery more difficult in terms of any required manipulation of your pectoral muscles.
- Start a new diet or take new supplements—you don’t want to do anything that could upset your system.
- Take any medications or supplements that could interfere with blood clotting (natural coagulation of blood). Aspirin, ibuprofen, herbal medications, diet pills and high doses of vitamin E can be problematic, so check with your doctor.
- Bring anything valuable to the hospital. Ask whoever is accompanying you to hold your phone, wallet, keys and other personal items and/or jewelry. Even shoes often go missing between pre-op and going home.
- Use alcohol or any controlled substances for at least a week before surgery. Be honest with your doctor about what you take or drink, no matter how insignificant you think it might be. Your surgeon is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, and withholding information about your drug and alcohol habits could be life-threatening to you.
- Eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery—not even a sip of water. It’s dangerous to have anything in your stomach when you have anesthesia as it might cause you to “aspirate” (push stomach contents into your lungs) if you vomit.
Of course, talk with your surgeon to see what she/he recommends and requires. No question is a stupid one. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be!