Loved ones will want to give gifts. Point them in the right direction!
My world was rocked after my breast cancer diagnosis.
As we moved forward with the plan for a double mastectomy, I had a friend reach out and text, “I really want to buy you a gift. I know you’re not a gift person, but is there something that would be useful for your surgery?”
It was a great qusetion. And I hadn’t thought about it.
I devoured the internet and every blog post trying to compile a list of what I may need in the upcoming months. I housed everything in an Amazon Wish List and sent it to my friend. Almost as an afterthought, I posted it to my CaringBridge page as well. I was shocked that within the week, I had to add more items to my list because everything had been purchased!
I’ll admit that Receiving Gifts is my least favorite love lanauge. However, this experience has shown me that this form of affection can be incredibly meaningful. People feel good about sending gifts, and if feels good to get gifts, especially when they are items you truly need and want.
I will share with you tips on creating a list featuring a variety of price points and categories to give your friends and family lots of gift giving options. Also, think of it this way… if you don’t create a list, people will still send things, but it probably won’t be the things you actually need! Point them in the right direction. Here’s how!
Create the List
Log into your Amazon account and click “create list.” You will want to click on “manage list” and set the details. I recommend making the list public so your family and friends can easy share with others. You will also want to look at the details, like name, mailing address, and email to ensure that the items get to the correct location. With each item sent, you receive a QR code that you can easily scan and immediately send a thank-you note to the gift giver, so they know the gift was recieved. I found this especially useful when I was post-surgical and in no state to track gifts and handwrite thank you notes!
Add your Items
Now it’s time to go shopping! Instead of clicking “Add to Cart” click on “Add to List.” Now, here is the part that I think is the most important in creating your list. Click on “View Your List.” Here you can “Add comment, quantity & priority.” For each item on my Wish List, I added a comment on why I needed the item or how I would use it. I think this narrative helps would be gift givers decide on the perfect item to choose. Another must-do feature is the priority. Some items on this list are must-haves. Meaning, if someone doesn’t buy it for you, you’ll have to buy it yourself. Other items would be nice, but aren’t really necessary. Amazon defaults the priority as “medium” so make sure you go through and indicate your intended priority.
My favorite items for your list!
- Surgical Bras
I was blown away to learn that my insurance covered two post-surgical garments! My reconstructive surgeon wrote me a perscription and had me fitted at a shop by a certified mastectomy fitter before my surgery. I brought this Front Close Camisole to my mastectomy and I wore it home. I also bought a few of these Zip Front Sports Bras that are pretty comfortable. Zip front is key. You for sure do not want to be stepping into your bras or trying to find someone to get them over your head. These Coobie Bras (avaialble in many fun colors) are great for when you are ready for slip on or over the head.
- Compression Socks
This might seem like an odd item of clothing, but I found them essential in my recovery. Especially the first few weeks when you may not be moving much. These Compression Socks are cute and super comfortable! At the hospital my nurse told me, “I have these same socks and wear them every day!” I feel like if they get rave reviews from a nurse working a 16 hour shift, they have to be good! Plus, I think I will wear them post-surgical as well occasionally for plane rides or long workouts!
- Button Front Pajamas
Again, you are not going to be taking clothes on and off your head, so good button front pajamas are important. I recommend Ekouaer Pajamas for a super soft cotton. Also ask for the short version for temperature options. I also received these Lonxu Silk Pajamas for a great alternative fabric. (My 5 year old son loves the feel of these too!)
- Front Close Tops
Even though you could stay in pajamas all day, I found it helpful for my healing to actually get up and get dressed! While you have drains (2–4 weeks), you will want a top with inner pockets, like this Inspired Comforts top. I also opted for a mastectomy bathrobe that included the inner pockets. Check your closet though… most Athleta and Lululemon Hoodies have the inner pockets. I also recommend supporting Kelly, a breast cancer survivor herself, and her custom recovery clothing.
- House Shoes
Whether it is slippers or slides, make sure you have a good pair of house shoes. You may already have a pair in your closet, but this is an opportunity to either upgrade or expand the collection. These Ugg Slippers were one of Oprah’s favorite things, and who can disagree with Oprah! I also sometimes choose to keep it simple with the socks. For a slide option, I love these foam Birkenstocks, and people will love buying you pink things!
To the Hospital
Truly, you do not need to bring anything to the hospital. Make sure you wear the clothes you want to go home in (button front pajamas, compression socks, and house shoes). I was pretty out of it during my two day stay and was definitely not reading or partaking in any activity. The only other items I would recommend are a device stand (for phone or tablet), the longest phone charger you can find (and brick), and headphones. I did use these items to check in with my husband and listen to music.
Pillows and Blankets
- Heart Pillows
I love these mastectomy pillows! I strongly recommend getting two of them! I literally have one under each arm 24 hours a day. I even bring them with me in the car to my doctor appointments. My son has been asking me for them when I am “healed from my injury.”
- Seat Belt Pad
This seatbelt cushion was nice to have for my ride home from the hospital. While you could probably make due with other padding options, this makes it super easy. I plan on keeping it in the car for awhile, until I’m healed from exchange surgery.
- Neck Pillow
I love this twist memory foam travel pillow for its versatility. You can use it as a neck pillow or as a bolster under you knees… and best of all, it has use post-surgical. I can’t wait to take it on an airplane. With a removable and washable cover, it is easily sanitized!
- Reading Pillow
If you need to sit a bit more upright in bed, to read or watch TV, this reading pillow works great.
- Fleece Blankets
Get a few luxurious fleece blankets. I put one on my recliner to sit on and one over me. It was like a bit, soft, fuzzy hug at all times. Highly recommend.
- Sleep Again Pillows
If you are looking to support a fellow breast cancer survivor entrepreneur, Rachel Baumel has developed the Sleep Again Pillow System espcially tailored to post-mastectomy care.
- Over the Counter Medication
You are going to have to buy it anyways, so might as well stock up on ibuprofen and Tylenol. Also, my narcotic pain killers did a real number on my gastrointestinal system. You may want to have miralax and stool softener at the ready!
- Tending the Wounds
I opted for a mastectomy with reconstruction and nipple sparing. Depending on your surgery, your wound care may look different. Ask your surgeon what they anticipate. For me, I needed gauze, medical tape, sharp scissors, and cotton swabs. It also may be helpful to have some ice packs.
- Hygiene Helpers
It can be challenging to shower post-surgical, especially with drains. I used these shower wipes and face wipes to keep clean. I did have my mom wash my hair a few times in the sink, but mostly relied on dry shampoo for a daily pick-me-up. I also made sure I had a fool proof hairbrush for my husband and son to use on me!
- Scar Prevention
- Hair and Head
- Sleep Easy
The first few weeks, you will be sleeping a lot. This eye mask is a must have, especially for daytime naps. I also have been using a sound machine that we had when our boys were babies, but I still find it very soothing and effective in drowning out daytime noise. I love being warm and cozy when I nap, so I like having a space heater and a heating pad as options.
With all of these items, it is important to stay organized. I love this durable tote by my side and a reacher grabber to find what I need! I also used a side end table to keep all my things accessible.
- Room Decor
I spent my post-recovery days in our guest room. I turned it to what I called, “The Zen Den.” Think about all the things that will make you feel peaceful and promote your healing. Create your very own spa lounge! Try a salt lamp, tabletop fountain, succulent, essential oils, or a candle. Then, settle in and try this meditation.
- Body Sensations
Since you next few weeks are going to feel rather uncomfortable, you should try and collect some items to create whatever comfort possible. Coming off of anesthesia I had all sorts of scratches and no range of motion, so a good backscratcher was super helpful. You may also want to consider a back or foot massager.
Get the Recliner
If you were to ask me, “What is the number one item that you absolutely could not have done your mastectomy without? What is the non-negotiable?” If you can get one thing, I would highly recommend a recliner. My parents bought me one and I literally sat in it 24/7. It is so much more comfortable to sleep upright when it feels like you have an elephant on your chest! Consider asking close friends to organize a group gift, or try and find a used recliner someone could donate. People can be incredibly generous on neighborhood group pages!
In conclusion, all of my gifts I lovingly refer to as my cancer prizes. In a scary, grim time, getting daily packages and feeling the love from friends and family, was a definite bright spot!
My surgery was a double mastectomy with expander reconstruction and nipple sparing. I have photos documenting the process that I am happy to share. I also have found comfort in amazing organzations. Reach out to connect at firstname.lastname@example.org or on instagram @stephkennelly
And try this meditation: