Between the consult with the Plastic Surgeon and Oncologist I met with a physical therapist to discuss mastectomy rehab and discuss what I could do before surgery that may help my recovery.
I got an extensive list of exercises I would need to do after the surgery. The exercises were organized into 4 phases and exercises didn’t start until 3 weeks after surgery when I would be on serious drugs and have drains coming out of each armpit. If I felt I wanted to do something she suggested I use 3 lb weights and just excercise my biceps.
Regarding preparation, I was to do anything that would strengthen my inner core. I had read some blogs were people could not get off the floor; they couldn’t use their arms to prop themselves up, and their stomach muscles weren’t strong enough to help them either. I started pretending what it would be like to do things with no arms.
I crossed my arms over my chest and lay on the floor. I could sit up, but I needed to roll a little to get my legs in the right place to stand up. The first few times I rolled on to my elbow. I understood what I needed to do and started doing sit-ups and crunches every day. I also did weights on my legs and arms to get as much strength as I could. Each day I went for a walk in the park. In 3 weeks my resting heart rate dropped from 68 to 63. I felt fit and healthy.
The bedroom in our house is on the second floor up a 17 step flight of open wooden stairs. I would not be able to hold the hand rail. I was not going to sleep on the first floor, and that wouldn’t solve much because the showers are in the basement or the second floor. I started using the stairs by leaning against the banister and going down one step at a time. I felt quite safe. I just needed to glide up or down and do a step at a time so I didn’t trip. If I did trip, my hope was that I would be able to steady myself against the banister rail and wall.
I was also told that for the first 3 weeks I would need to sleep sitting up. Most people use a recliner. I was resistant to the idea at first, but gradually I came round to the idea. All the mastectomy bloggers noted that they could only sleep in a recliner, and it helped them not get tangled with drips while they slept.
It took a few weeks before we started looking. Everything we saw was so ugly. At first there was nothing I wanted to bring into the house. We looked at renting a recliner, I looked on Craig’s list for a used recliner. They were all so, so ugly. Then one weekend we went into Macy’s. That is not a store we went to much, and definitely not a store where we would usually consider looking for furniture. It was a pleasant surprise, they had a good selection of smaller recliners. In everything I sat in I tried to make it recline without using my arms. I also tried to get out of the recliner without using my arms. Holy moly, I am going to need help, or develop a technique to get in and out of any recliner.
Our new recliner was delivered 4 days before my surgery. I bought a table on wheels to go with it and never regretted buying either.