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Breast Cancer . Tips for Preparing Physically and Mentally for Mastectomy

Updated on April 19, 2013

If you are undergoing testing for breast cancer or have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer it is very important that you prepare for the surgery mentally as well as physically. I know this because I am a breast cancer "survivor" since 2004 - although I hate that particular term - when I had a mastectomy.

"You have breast cancer" are four words that no woman wants to hear. Although I already thought that I had breast cancer, before my doctor said those words, the physical and emotional impact of the reality hit me like a brick. I felt numb - in shock.

Dealing with the diagnosis

"Nothing is more difficult for a doctor than telling a patient that they have a malignant tumour. Even the word malignant seems malignant. Regardless of the type or prognosis, people freeze up immediately upon hearing the word "cancer". Dr. Dave Hepburn, MD. Foreward to Mummy Had an Owie by Liza Miles

Take a trusted friend, family member or colleague with you to the doctor, or the hospital, if you believe you may have a malignant tumour. Choose someone who is well grounded and will make this all about you - comfort you, help with practical matters and empathize with you, rather than telling you how your diagnosis makes them feel.

Over the next weeks and months you will be faced with many choices. Not everything treatment wise that is offered will be right for you. This is the beginning of a journey. Being in control of decision making is an essential component of the healing process. Connect with two or three people who will be your cheerleaders, respect your decision making and field negative or unhelpful offers of assistance.

Sometimes families find this a difficult role - they are also in shock and impacted by your diagnosis, especially your close family and children. Keep them in the loop about your choices and encourage conversations that support both you and them.

Tips for getting through....

Based on my experience these are my top ten self care preparation tips that will help you on the journey...

  1. Identify how you want to share information about your progress. Think about who will be the "go to" person or people who can let everyone else, who is concerned about you, know how and where you are at.
  2. Ask friends, family and neighbours to make meals for the freezer for after surgery
  3. If you have children, talking to them about your diagnosis will help reduce your anxiety about what they are feeling and their anxiety and confusion. It is important they are not left out. For more about this visit my hub page: How to talk to your children about having breast cancer
  4. Try and finish work at least two days before your surgery. Make that time special for you and your family and mark this as a milestone. Go for dinner, visit the cabin, have family movie night - do something that you can all do together that is fun and does not revolve around the diagnosis. Give yourself and them a "mind break" from cancer.
  5. The night before surgery create a ritual and take time to talk to the breast that will be removed. Saying thank you for the pleasure, the breastfeeding, what ever comes to mind as important. I did this in the bathroom, in a scented bubble bath surrounded by candles.
  6. Choose something that you want to take to the hospital with you for comfort . Also select something that you would like to wrap around yourself if you are staying in the hospital and will have visitors.
  7. Make a card or write a letter to your children, husband, partner or someone close and tell them how much you love them. Thank them for being brave for you.
  8. Set up a place in your home for returning from the hospital where you will be able to rest and receive visitors, if you want them. Make sure you have enough books/DVDs/music that you can easily access.
  9. Make sure that you give yourself lots of time to rest after the surgery. Do not feel obligated to answer the phone, write emails and receive visitors. Do things you enjoy and connect with others to support your outlook and focus on getting well.
  10. Connect with a counsellor or coach if you begin to feel overwhelmed or cannot cope.

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    • Lizam1 profile image
      Author

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      I am sorry to read about your sister - she is fortunate to have a caring family. Please feel free to share any information that fits for you. This is a challenging time and I hope you will take comfort in being together.

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 5 years ago from Fort Myers

      My sister was diagnosed with cancer a few days ago and she underwent surgery today. Her circumstances may be very different, but I would like to share on the part about what happens mentally after the surgery because we all do not seem to be ready for that part or even anticipate it. I wrote a blog about her, if you do not mind you can read it from my profile. Thanks for sharing. I know who else to ask questions when need be.

    • Lizam1 profile image
      Author

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thank you for sharing this with others Flora.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      I am going to share this with my followers. These are important tips. Lots of relatives of mine have had mastectomies.

    • Lizam1 profile image
      Author

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thank you Susan.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      These are all excellent tips and I'm sure others dealing with Breast Cancer will appreciate this article.