5 Things That Helped Me After My Mastectomy

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you are 27-years-old and notice a lump in your breast. Sometimes a doctor tells you right before Christmas that your biopsy results show cancer: invasive ductal carcinoma. Sometimes you need surgery and chemo and radiation and hormone blockers to hopefully get every last cell, prevent recurrence, and make it to 30 like you always assumed you would.

And yet, I believe myself to be uniquely blessed – especially when it comes to friends and family. So when I ended up having a single modified radical mastectomy recently, I was not surprised to find radical support. There were practical parts of surgery recovery like drain care, arm exercises, and the never-ending reminder to drink more fluids. But, there was also comfort, peace, and care. Whether you are newly diagnosed and doing some research or your best friend is about to undergo a mastectomy surgery, here are the five items that helped me far more than I expected:

A Robe

I was gifted a robe by a dear friend right before surgery. This robe fulfilled the post-surgery requirement of needing a front tie or buttons and the Dusty Pink UGG Robe has proven itself unparalleled in softness, warmth, and fashion-ability. If needed, the pockets could even hold drains.

A Candle

Despite being an introvert, I loved having visitors during my recovery because it helped distract me from the discomfort I was experiencing. Lighting the wooden wick of the Magnolia Signature Candle was a good way to make my home feel a bit more hospitable even when I wasn’t up to my full strength. Not to mention the crackle was a calming filler sound to any silences during conversations.

Makeup Remover Wipes

I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone need makeup remover wipes when they are not even wearing makeup. In reality, it was difficult to wash my face thoroughly during the first two weeks post surgery. Although I had full use of my left arm, I still didn’t feel like I could get all the face wash off my face. Since I could only shower with my back to the water, these wipes got the oil and residue off my face at the start of each day. The wipes also served double duty because my surgeon advised me not to wear deodorant on my right side.

My Favourite Tea

My favourite is Asi Yaupon Elderberry and Hibiscus Tea. I first tasted this tea at my friend’s house months before diagnosis and I never stopped raving about it. No surprise that friend gifted me a box a couple days before surgery. It is similar to green tea in the sense that the dense concentration of antioxidants can conflict with chemo drugs so I will not be able to drink it during that portion of treatment. But until then, bottoms up.

My Strength Reminder

I can’t link this item for you because it is going to be different for each person, but I’ll let you in on the secret of what mine was. I spent the two weeks before my surgery in Australia and New Zealand. I had the trip planned for almost a year and my surgeon mercifully let me go. Through a series of events, I hiked to the top of Mt. Ollivier and I say that with both humility and pride. Humility because I wanted to quit approximately 82 times, but my friend Anna kept me going. Pride because it was the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever undertaken. I was thinking about my cancer mountain almost the entire time and on the way down I found a rock that had indents depicting a mountain range, so I stole it. (Don’t tell New Zealand.) The point is, the rock is not a source of strength, but it does remind me that my strength on the mountain was a compilation of my own, my friend’s, and mostly my God’s. And I need that. Although cancer and subsequent treatments are not a preferred way to spend time, the time was not wasted. I was still able to visit with friends and family, go on walks, read, and watch more movies than I ever have in a two-week period. These items helped, and on a hike like this, every little help counts. Kelsie Barnhart


Kelsie lives in Peoria, Illinois where she works as a Needs Advocate at Samaritan Ministries. Since diagnosis, she has also written for Girls Rocking Cancer. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube.  

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