As you likely know, I had surgery to remove any remaining breast cancer recurrence as well as removing my implants, skin/nipples, and closed up flat recently. I already wrote a post about my pathology report so I suppose I am backtracking here a bit—oh well!
As per usual, some links in this post are affiliate links and I may receive compensation should you click on those links and then choose to purchase any of those products.
As I was packing, I thought it might be helpful to pull everything out and take some pictures to share with you all what I packed and why I packed it. Of course, I ended up packing more than I needed or used but I would much rather pack more than I need than forget something or not pack enough. I am definitely an over-packer. I’ve never been backpacking but I would be HORRIBLE when it comes to packing for it! I would definitely need my husband to pack for me or I wouldn’t be able to carry my own pack.
Starting at the top left corner (zoomed in picture below), I have my compression sleeves, which help reduce any lymphedema that might be triggered by the surgery. The pink box next to it contained my drain holders—trust me, you will want one of these if you will have drains placed after a surgery otherwise you will be stuck using safety pins to pin them to your clothing (the set in the link comes in various colors and includes a drain pouch for the shower). Then I have a powdered bone broth protein powder (that I put in a small container next to the large black container). Bone broth is rich in minerals and nutrients such a collagen and those are vital components your body NEEDS to heal. Most hospitals will have broth available after surgery but it’s likely not a quality, organic bone broth and that makes all the difference in the world. I do highly suggest drinking bone broth at least once daily for a week after surgery! The beauty of this brand of bone broth is it comes in flavors so you don’t have to choke it down if you don’t like the flavor of plain bone broth. Even better is making your own bone broth at home ahead of time but let’s be real, most people don’t have time for that (I happen to have a lot of bone broth in my deep freezer).
Next to that is an antioxidant/green powder pouch that is berry flavored alongside a shaker bottle to easily mix water in and drink (I didn’t end up drinking this at the hospital but the antioxidants are also highly beneficial to the healing process). My kiddos actually LOVE this mix and I often put it in their water bottles that they take to school so it’s beneficial for the whole family. Antioxidants are another nutritional necessity for a cancer patient but especially when the body is healing. Below the shaker bottle are a number of essential oils and essential oil rollers. There is one for upset tummies, one I made for healing that contains helichrysum, frankincense, copaiba, tea tree, and a few other oils, one for sleep, and arnica oil. The arnica oil helps with bruising, swelling, and inflammation and is a MUST for anyone undergoing any surgery. Just above that is Host Defense MyCommunity mushroom supplements which help boost the immune system and to the left of that, 3 packets of liposomal vitamin C. Vitamin C being vital to the healing process as well as boosting the immune system. A lip balm, gloss, and hand cream below that to help with dry lips and hands. Finally, individual orange Power Paks to the left of that that are wonderful for the immune system and healing!
On the bottom left is a bag with my nausea prescription meds as I normally have HORRIBLE nausea after surgery (but thankfully had none this time), and plastic ziplock bags with my supplements as well as my Plexus pre & probiotics & biocleanse to keep my GI tract healthy. This is especially helpful after surgery since I was given antibiotics during surgery which ward off infection but also ruin the gut biome. To the right of that are the homeopathic supplements I posted about this weekend…..MUST HAVES in my opinion!!! Just below that is another little pouch with ginger candies to help with any nausea (which thankfully I didn’t have this time)! I found it helpful to have small items in zippered pouches to make it easier to find in the duffle bag.
The items on the right side of the main photo include my wallet (don’t forget picture ID and insurance card as well as money/debit card in case your family needs to run to the cafeteria to get themselves some food)! Next to that is the spiral notebook with my drain chart and all pre/post-op pertinent information given to me at my pre-op visit. To the right of that is a reusable face mask that I posted about previously. I took it in case there had been anyone hacking up a lung in the waiting room while we waited to be called back for surgery prep but thankfully I didn’t end up needing it. The grey rectangular thing with the pink heart is a seat belt pillow. This is a MUST HAVE for post-mastectomy surgery (or open heart/any chest/abdominal surgery)! Seat belts are quite abrasive and painful on the surgical scars and swollen, tender chest (or abdomen)for quite some time after surgery. In fact, the seat belt rubs on my portacath so I use mine all the time when I’m in the passenger seat. Next to that is a neck pillow (more for my husband in case he needed extra neck support if he wanted to nap in his chair but also for me in case the hospital pillows weren’t supportive enough). I do recommend bringing your own pillow from home if you are particular about your pillows 😉
Below those items is the Sono disinfecting wipes. Yes you’d assume a hospital would have their own wipes (they did) and that your room would be sanitized (it should be), but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have my own wipes on hand just in case. Maybe overkill but when dealing with a major surgery and infection risk , one cannot be too careful! I purchased those wipes for airplane travel and now keep them in my vehicle. A few books lay below that to include a Bible, a word search, The Screwtape Letters (most highly recommend), and In the Midst of Life but honestly I just binge-watched “Call the Midwife” because my arms were sore and I didn’t want to hold a book open (It’s free on Netflix).
Side-note: If you haven’t read the Call the Midwife book set or watched the show, I HIGHLY recommend both. Be prepared to laugh and cry—have tissues ready. The books are the memoirs of a midwife working with nuns in Poplar, a poor East End district of London post-WWII. As a Sociologist, the way both the books and tv series capture the various social aspects (medical, social, religious, etc) of that area is just riveting.
Finally, clothing items included fuzzy, non-skid socks (gifted to me 4 years ago and picked out by our friends’ kiddos), a hat (to keep my chemo dome warm), BUTTON DOWN tops (pajama and blouse for home going), and loose pants that are easy to pull up/down. The key thing to remember here is that after breast surgery, one’s range of motion will be severely limited. You will not be able, nor will you want, to bring your arms very far away from your side nor lift them very far so you will want clothing that is easy to get on/off and preferably cotton or a soft material that won’t be irritating or snag on any stitches or your drains, should you have them. Not pictured is the obvious, clean undies. Not packed is also somewhat obvious— bra. That was a bit of a freeing moment realizing I won’t NEED to wear one again unless I WANT to wear prosthesis but understandably that moment of realization may be incredibly painful for some women. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself as this surgery is not just physically life-altering but mentally/emotionally life-altering too. I’ve been blessed with over 7 months to wrap my head around losing what’s left of my breasts and being “flat.” Most women are not afforded that “luxury” and instead are in a situation where they are feeling rushed to surgery.
There you have it…my surgery packing list! As I stated above, some of the items I didn’t end up using in the hospital but much of it I did. You may be wondering how the actual surgery/recovery went and I will certainly write up a post about that next! As always, blessings and peace to you and I pray this information is helpful to others who may be walking this journey too!