Surgery Prep

I thought I was fairly prepared for surgery, even though I only had about four days to become so. I cooked a lot, so our freezer was full of home-cooked meals. I did laundry, cleaned up the house as much as I could, did a lot of paperwork for work, taught my husband how to cook a few things, and made lots of checklists for anyone taking care of my son. I purchased some important items (pajamas, bathrobe, slippers, drain pouch belt, medical tray, pillow), all of which turned out to be very useful.

One area in which I was completely unprepared was medical supplies. When I left the hospital, they gave me a bunch of gauze pads and alcohol wipes, but I quickly went through those. So I (or my mom) have had to make several trips to CVS to get supplies. There’s a lot of things I probably could have bought in advance: surgical tape, gauze pads in a small and larger size, extra binders, and saline. I also wish I’d had an area set up for when I got home. I have this area set up now, but it would have been nice not to have to do it in my first few days home.

Here’s what my current set-up looks like:

This vanity table is in my bedroom, and I use all of these supplies before bed and after my morning shower. The make-up mirror is extremely useful. It has a light and it magnifies. So I can stand in front of it and adjust it as I need to see what I’m doing when bandaging my abdomen or breasts. I use the towel when I get out of the shower – even after I think I’m dry, I pat the towel over all incisions to make sure they’re extra dry – keeping them dry is really important for healing and to prevent infection.

The saline is useful in cleaning any areas that might need it; for instance, this evening I noticed some dried blood on the edge of my navel, so I used the saline and a gauze pad to clean that off. The saline was also useful to clean the drain sites; those get crusty and painful and burn a bit, so even just to put a cool piece of wet gauze on them feels good. Surgical tape and gauze are for any areas where there’s discharge, bleeding, etc. I also stuff gauze between the underwire of my bra and my breast – the surgeon suggested I do this in the area of my breast incision until I heal. Gauze is basically my best friend now – I use gauze and saline for everything because it’s all sterile, and I worry that a wet washcloth harbors bacteria (I’m not normally a germaphobe, but the last thing I want is an infection with wounds this large).

I bought the Neosporin with pain relief to help with the wounds from the drains, but it didn’t do all that much. Missing from the picture is the cortisone cream I’ve been using on those wounds now that they’re healed; they are very itchy and the cream helps a lot – I keep that on my bedside table so I can reach it easily. I keep the trash can on top of the vanity because it’s difficult to bend down often and during my post-shower process, I open and throw away a lot of different items. In the middle of the table are my extra binders. I have four of these. I was given three in the hospital and one in my surgeon’s office. You definitely need to have more than one, since you’ll want to wash it often and you probably won’t be allowed to go any significant amount of time without wearing it. Make sure to ask for an extra when leaving the hospital.

I definitely recommend purchasing some medical supplies and having an area set up for when you come home from the hospital. It’s a pain to have to shlep out to get something like tape. And it’s nice to have everything in one place and at easy reach.



    1. I wish. There are already a lot of books on this. I had a plan to write one with my family when we were all first diagnosed, but now this is actually an ‘old’ topic, I think.

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