Surgery and Hospital Stay Tips

20 Aug 2021

In the weeks leading up to your surgery and treatment, there are some essential things to organise and ways to prepare, plus a few simple things you can do ahead of time to help you recover faster. Here are our tips: 

Pre-Surgery Tips

Each time you are seeing a surgeon, ensure that you have a list of questions written down as it can be quite overwhelming. If there is someone that can attend the appointment with you, bring them! It can be difficult to process all the information on your own. Take a notebook and pen and take notes (or ask your support person). Categorise your notebook into sections such as Breast Surgeon, Plastic Surgeon and Medical Oncologist (if you have one). 

Keep yourself busy on the week leading up to your surgery, such as cleaning the house or meal preparation. This can help to relieve anxiety and it’s great to have home cooked meals prepared rather than having to eat the hospital food. If you ask for permission, you may be able to record the meeting using your phone. Ask for copies of all of your results and keep them together in a folder. Always research your different surgery options and ask your surgeon to see results of the different types of surgery. If you are unhappy with the advice given by the surgeon, seek a second opinion. If you can avoid it, don’t pay for parking. It can be expensive. Arrive early to your first appointment and have a look for free parking. If you are travelling more than 100 KMs you may be reimbursed for your petrol and accommodation.

Before your surgery, stock your fridge by cooking and freezing some meals for when you return home. Consider buying a wedge pillow for when you return from hospital. There are some great options at Ishka or Aldi. And perhaps have a boob-voyage party! This can be a fun idea that puts a bit of a spin on what can otherwise be a very traumatic event.

Sit down and write a list of all the items you will need a week before your surgery, so you can spend the week stocking up. Ask your surgeon for a medical certificate if you are studying or working. Reach out to support groups, remember that you are not in this alone! This financial year, 18,000 women alone were diagnosed with Breast Cancer. That’s a big number! Although there are different types of Breast Cancer and it affects people differently, it’s somewhat comforting to know that there are others out there who are in the same boat! There are online support groups through organisations’ websites you can reach out to. Even reaching out to different hospitals can lead to a referral for a face-to-face support group. Your hospital’s Breast Care Nurse can also be helpful! Just remember that you are not alone in this!

Lastly, take the time to do something you love. Whether it be going out and exploring, pampering yourself or staying in and watching movie. Recovery can take its toll on you, mentally and physically, so self-care is important.

Post-Surgery Tips

It will be up to individual choice where you decide to sleep after your surgery. Some people prefer a reclining chair, or perhaps in bed, with a number of small pillows to put around your body. Gentle exercise is very important once you have approval from your doctor. Buy a thermometer. It is very important to take your temperature after surgery, especially if you are feeling unwell. Oh and a plastic garden chair can be useful in the shower for the first week after surgery.

Ensure that you have lots of loose-fitting clothing and zip-up hoodies, and when travelling in the car, bring a pillow for the seatbelt. If you have private health insurance, post-mastectomy bras may be covered so look into this. The pharmacy team will normally visit you before you’re discharged, to go through your take-home medications. If you live with someone, ask them to take note of any medications you may already have and let the pharmacy team know.

It’s important to take the medication as recommended but if you notice that there is medication making you feel really unwell, contact the hospital and request to speak to someone from the pharmacy team and go through it with them. Before you’re discharged, enquire about how your drainage tube will be looked after. You may have some at-home nurses coming to visit you to check everything, or you may have to go in. This depends on the hospital you’ve had or are having your procedure at.

Have a long list of TV shows, a good book or some movies you’d like to catch up on. Trying to keep yourself distracted can be quite difficult and recovery can be quite depressing. It’s important to self-reflect and think about how far you’ve come. It’s also important to keep your mind busy, so if you can find a way to do that, then do it!