If someone breaks their leg, it is fairly obvious what they will need help with. You can appreciate what would be difficult in that situation, also they have a big white or even multi-coloured cast on it to remind you. But what about a mastectomy? What will be the struggles and what help would be most beneficial? Loved ones, from friends to family and partners will want to help, but they are unsure on how. I thought I would write a post aimed at them.
Obviously everyone’s personal circumstances will be different in terms of who they have around to support them during recovery, but at least this way, those of you that want to support someone going on this journey have a little guidance. Also the level and intimacy of the support will be down to your relationship.
The obvious one- a lift home! Like any surgery, driving is out the question. Also, get the car door for them (they are heavy, believe me) and also pop the seat belt on for them. Turning round to grab it and then plug it in may be difficult.
So what about at home…
Getting changed- depending on whether or not reconstruction has taken place and then also what kind of reconstruction- the support needed for changing clothes will vary. However, I struggled with pulling up trousers and then the obvious getting anything over my head. That covers pretty much all outfits! Remember- always put arms in/take arms out first once wearing one button up tops again. Then help with getting it over the head is needed. Always be gentle.
Helping getting up from chairs- do not yank your loved one out of a chair etc... that will not end well! Avoid placing arms under armpits too, you may end up with a strong kick to the shins as a response. It could be helpful to gently help your loved one shuffle forwards with a little pressure on the back, or holding the side of the arm carefully to offer some support.
Whilst dressings are still in place showering is a no go. Help someone wash, washing their head too, they will need help doing this for the first few weeks. Getting hands high enough to lather is impossible. Those with hair will also struggle to brush and tie hair up too. Being helpful will develop your hair dressing skills!
Cooking- chopping, grating, untwisting etc is difficult, plus recovering from a mastectomy is blinking exhausting!! A great help would be preparing some meals. If you are not their to cook, prepare meals that are ready to put in the oven (not heavy) would be useful.... however they may struggle to open the over door- assess this situation first.
Housework- it will be a while until they can hoover and clean, what a shame. Therefore some spring cleaning, putting a wash on etc I am sure would be appreciated.
After a a few weeks has passed, recovery is still difficult but independence can start to grow. To help, move cups/dishes out of the top cupboards and put them on the kitchen surface. This way there is no stretching needed.
Other types of help...
Phoning, chatting, popping over with cake (cake is always a good plan for me), bring a good DVD collection, arrange taking them out for a coffee or cinema trip. Bringing merriness (is that a word?) and a distraction is great. With being limited in movement and independence can be a real drain, dwelling doesn't make it any better so keeping your loved one occupied is good. At the same time, let them sleep!! It's exhausting, seems odd as they are limited with what they can do etc, but their body has been through a marathon, it needs a lot of down time.
Just a few ideas on how you could help. I have had a few partners email me about what they can do or what they should expect. If you are in that position or know someone who is, I am happy to help over email etc with any questions.
5 months down the line... I am still claiming the need for cake and slack with house work... ;)