Advice on Taking Care of a Spouse after a Mastectomy
My wife is considering double Mastectomy and I need to know what I need to prepare/learn/read/understand before and after the surgery? We live in the DFW metro. Do not know if this ?? Goes at this site or the caregiver site.
Appreciate any info.
Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Breast Cancer Support Group.
This site is not limited to DFW, I'm in Mn and just wanted to tell you both I'm keeping you in my prayers for a speedy recovery for your wife dave
Dave, I might suggest Prayer, Laughter, and Broccoli by Peter Flierl. He wrote this book after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a two time survivor of breast cancer( and single), your wife will not be driving for upwards of 10-14 days, reaching above shoulder height is limited for upwards of four weeks, dressing and showering will be challenging for 1-3 weeks( different for all), lifting objects greater than 3-5 lbs. will be limited for 2-4 weeks, sleeping is challenging as your wife will need to sleep on her back for up to 4 weeks. So, your help will be needed! I hope this has helped. Best of luck to your wife ( and you). Will keep you in my prayers
In addition to all the good advice from @betsyk, you might have drains to empty (will there be breast reconstruction?) I didn’t want my husband to spend his time cooking and cleaning. I wanted him to sit and have coffee with me, etc. You may want to cook ahead of time, possibly get a housekeeper if budget permits. Even after the days/weeks of restrictions, I found that I could not open heavy doors at stores; not all are automatic. Had to sleep sitting up till the drains were removed. Walking will be encouraged inside the house and outside, best exercise and good mentally. I was told to get up at intervals and walk around the house to keep blood moving in legs. Initially, she can’t be on her own, so walk with her, even at night. A little seat in the shower was helpful just for a short time and I could not blow dry my own hair. I was actually able to do quite a bit for myself and shirts with front openings helped me be more independent. It’s a surgery that no one will be aware of from the outside, so I found myself in some pretty funny situations when I was out. I honestly was not in a lot of pain, so I wish the same for her and quick recovery.
Hi, @sirref Your biggest job will to to protect your wife and see to it that she gets rest. Too many phone calls and visitors can be exhausting! Maybe she could talk with her friends before surgery and ask 1 or 2 to be her communicators. They can be the ones she gives updates to and then they can pass them along. They can also collect questions from others so she only needs to give 1 answer. You and she can also put a daily update on the phone’s answering machine. Then, when folks call in, they will know how she’s doing without disturbing anyone. It’s important that you take care of yourself, also!
My husband had to do all this when I got sick and then was in rehabilitation for a month. You sound like a very caring man who’s going to take excellent care of his wife!
Your wife will need help in cleaning out her drains and bulb for the first few days. My husband was so kind and gentle doing that until I could do it. Also, prior to surgery, figure out where she can bend over at a sink easily and you can wash and rinse her hair. That is a very big treat having hair washed. Taking her out of the house for short walks is also a nice treat getting fresh air. Just be there and let her talk when she wants to and being her best friend is one of the nicest things you can do.
My Number One tip is to start a Caring Bridge site (there's no cost!). You and your wife can post updates there as she goes through the entire experience from surgery to the days of healing. Friends, family and co-workers you want to have access are e-mailed a link to your wife's "journal." When you, or your wife posts to the site, those who have access are sent an e-mail letting them know there's an update.
My husband made the initial posts to my journal letting everyone know when I went into the operating room, how the surgery went and when I was put into my hospital room. He posted updates for several days letting folks know how I was doing; about four days after getting home, I was able to post onto the site myself. I continued to use the site to chronicle my doctor checkups and what was happening to me as I healed. I still have access to my site; it has been an invaluable "diary" of what was done, when and why.
Tip Two—Get a small notebook to record when your wife takes any painkillers, or other medications; she may be on several that may be taken at different intervals and it will be difficult to remember what to take, when. The notebook will also be handy for tracking when her drains are emptied and how much fluid was in them. I found a 6" x 9", spiral-bound notebook very handy—enough room and pages for everything, yet small enough to take with me to followup appointments (great to have to jot down concerns I wanted to bring up at those checkups and to document my doctor's instructions).
Tip Three—Anesthesia can slow down digestion. Your wife may experience uncomfortable constipation—have some stool softener and Benefiber around just in case.
I had a double mastectomy by a breast surgeon and tissue expanders placed by a plastic surgeon in the same surgery. My incisions were giant "smiles" under each breast and a straight line down from where each nipple used to be.
Reading back through my Caring Bridge site, my breast surgeon recommended keeping my arms down—said it would lessen the use of the drains and they'd come out sooner.
Two weeks out from surgery, I was still in pain, but no longer on hydrocodone, or Valium, just ibuprofen. I had a lot of aching that was not really relieved by just ibuprofen (about a 6 on a 10-point scale). I constantly felt like I had a bad headache across the front of my chest all the time—the discomfort was from the tissue expanders. (The best way to describe TEs is to imagine wearing a hard plastic bra under your skin that pokes and pinches in odd places at different times.) I switched from ibuprofen to Naproxen and that helped.
A month out from surgery, it was still very painful to ride in the car—I felt every bump in the road and had to hold the seat belt away from my chest.
Bottom line: I was alone after my mastectomies and did fine. So in my view, anything you do is extra!
If I had had a spouse around, I think the main thing would be reassurance that he still loved me or found me attractive after the loss of breasts.
Hi @sirref, I added your question to the Caregivers group as well as the Breast Cancer group, so that the same discussion will be seen by members in both places. I hope you've seen the great advice and support posted by fellow members @texasduchess @trixie1313 @becsbuddy @windyshores @lcr2017 @betsyk @davej
This is another discussion started by @roch that might be helpful for you:
– Breast Surgery; any advice to prepare for surgery? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/breast-surgery-any-advice-to-prepare-for-surgery/
Sirref, when is your wife scheduled for surgery? How are you feeling as the date approaches?
Your spouse would off supported you and thank you for the post.
You bring up the same words my wife states. Will you love me and find me attractive after the double mastectomy?
As I said, you will find yourself a total new, different person when you awake from surgery. Plus, with almost 52 years of marriage, it has come down to the words of the vows. "I, (Name), take you, (Name), to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law, in the presence of God I make this vow" I, for one, feel more strongly and feel more love for my wife. After all these years of marriage.
A good site for a good read.
Coming to Grips with Breast Cancer: The Spouse’s Experience with His Wife’s First Six Months
When Your Spouse Has Cancer
Thank you for the reply. When I first read this post regarding the drains, it really hit hard that I needed to get in gear to prepare. At the same time, I seemed to have been going through the various stages of Kubler-Model grief. I never gave grief a thought for a surgery. That has changed to learn more of the grief stages. I did print out a sheet with the various stages of grief, so my wife can just point to what she feels any given day. On any given day she might feel, shock, denial a bit of depression and that aid me to know what she is feeling. YouTube's resources on taking care of drains and hearing the experiences of other women is just outstanding and needed. The one plus she has is an adjustable bed, so it is easy for her to remain upright in any position that is comfortable. There is a shower seat and I can adjust the shower head to any position for her needs.
Cooking and house cleaning is a no issue. I always enjoy preparing foods, especially on the grill, and our house is only 1,000 sq feet and easy to clean.