Breast Cancer Resource Center Savannah, GA USA

Preparing for Treatment: Tips and Expectations


It’s hard to wrap your mind around the thought of losing part of you, even though you know that it’s in your best interest.  I think part of what fuels this anxiety and fear is centered around the unknown.  You’ve already spoken with your doctors, you’ve chosen to move forward with this surgery, and you know that it has to get done.  In your mind, you’ve already come to terms with the fact that this surgery will increase your prognosis based off of your personal medical needs. (If it wasn’t, you’d be reading a different post).  Still, fear lurks because you don’t really want to have to do it and because your firecrackin’-nerves don’t know what to expect.  At least, this all applied to me!  I wanted to embrace and welcome and love the new me, but I was afraid of meeting her…of becoming her.  I didn’t know what exactly to expect, and that can be terrifying.  So, to smooth out the wrinkles in ‘Fear’ and to feel better prepared and in control, here are some tips that helped me.  Some are ones that I noticed, and others were tips from survivors who had come before me. 

Hair care:

Either get that PONYTAIL FUND or arrange for someone to wash your hair for you when you have the drains post-surgery.  A clean head of hair will make you feel like a brand new woman!

Electric toothbrush:

It will be hard to move your chest muscles immediately following surgery, and the back and forth movement of brushing your teeth can be annoying.  An electric toothbrush makes that easier

Electric razor:

Using a straight razor under your arms after surgery (especially if you had lymph nodes removed, is a bad idea.  It’s hard to lift your arms to get the right angle, and if you have stitches from where the lymph nodes were removed, you don’t want to accidently cut them.  An electric razor can help make that process easier.

Car ride

Have a small pillow that you can place between you and the seatbelt for the ride home.  I rode (and soon drove) with my satin pillow in place until my wounds healed.


Many recommended sleeping in a recliner.  Getting in and out of a regular sized bed is hard.  After surgery, you will rely mostly on your core and legs to move.  Positioning yourself in bed usually requires some shifting with your arms, and post-surgery, that’s just not possible.  I didn’t have a recliner.  However, check with local resources in your area.  I have heard of people renting them for the time period.  I did not have the space or desire to rent one; so instead, I set up camp on the couch.  We lined it with lots and lots of pillows to help prop me up, and that worked rather nicely.


You’ll want some soft, post-mastectomy bras that fasten in the front.  My hospital sent me home in one, but I needed a few more.  You can find them on Amazon.  I don’t recommend skipping the bra altogether.  I tried that once, and my shirt would just chafe against my wounds and irritate me.  Having my scars tucked away and protected in the mastectomy bra helped them heal faster.  (No worries… once you’re completely healed, you can ditch bras forever.  But, for now…wear these special soft ones and allow yourself to heal.)


Getting dressed is going to be a new challenge, but it won’t last forever.  I promise!  In those first few weeks post-surgery it was impossible for me to get a regular shirt on over my head.  I just couldn’t move my arms.  I recommend finding soft shirts that fasten in the front.  I also preferred wearing soft skirts instead of pants because it made it a thousand times easier to go to the bathroom.  Think about it!  When you go to the bathroom, taking pants down and pulling them up again requires a lot of arm/torso movement.  Well, that’s going to hurt and/or be exhausting.  Skirts, on the other hand, operated more like this: hold it, sit, stand, drop it, done.


I had small kids at home and they wanted to jump up and give me hugs and kisses.  I didn’t want them to feel like I was unavailable and that they couldn’t show me their affection, yet they could NOT climb on me or really touch me at all.  So, we came up with FAIRY KISSES and HAND HUGS.  Fairy kisses were just a fun way to describe blowing me a kiss; and hand hugs were when we’d go to do a handshake, but would just tickle each other’s fingers instead.  They loved it.


One of the hardest things for me to contend with was losing my hair.  I know it seems silly because I’d already lost my breasts, and I knew that my hair would at least grow back.  However, this was something that people were going to see.  I was afraid that when people saw my bald head, they’d immediately know that I was sick and perhaps wonder if I were going to die.  To be honest, I was afraid that that’s exactly what I was going to see when I saw myself in the mirror.  Plus, the last time I had been bald was when I was one.  Yet, I knew that my hair would fall out despite my trepidation.  I wanted to say when and how the strands would go; I wanted at least an ounce of control in my life.  So, after my first chemo, I made plans with friends to go and have my hair shaved off.  I cried the whole time.  However, I’m so glad that I did it on my terms.  It was hard enough a few weeks later when those itty bitty strands fell out.  I can’t imagine having waited and seeing gobs fall out on my pillow or at the table.  I had taken matters into my own hands and did it on my terms!  After an emotional “hair cut” we had a ladies’ lunch out.

photos by TPerry photography

Some people choose to wear wigs, others scarfs, others hats.  There’s really no right answer.  You do what you feel is best for you.  I can tell you, that your head will likely get cold.  I found myself wanting a hat on my head….in Georgia…in August.

Neulasta– a battery operated sticker that administers medicine a few days after treatment.  The purpose of the medicine is to jumpstart your white blood cell production.  If you are scheduled to have Neulasta, here’s what to expect:

  • When they attach it, there’ll be a little flick.  It really doesn’t hurt too badly.  It feels like a rubber band just snapped.  Truthfully, I hated when they pricked my finger for blood more than this.
  • When it goes off a few days later, you won’t feel any prick, but you will hear a ticking noise until it is done.
  • It caused my bones to ache.  However, remember what the goal is: to jump start the production of white blood cells.  This happens in your bone marrow…deep inside your bones.  It’s no wonder that my bones ached; my body was working on overtime to build up my immunity; and for that, I was grateful.


I’m not going to go into all the side-effects of chemo because there are so many different kinds of medicines that they can use, different dosages, and every person’s body chemistry is different and will respond differently.  However, I will say two things:

  1. Ask your oncologist for information and potential side-effects of the drugs that they plan to administer to you.  Also, ask what their recommendations are to help alleviate those side-effects.  My doctor recommended biotin (to help with hair, skin, and nail growth).  It was also recommended to me to use liquid Band-Aid or a keratin 3-day growth nail-aid to help with brittle nails.
  2. When something happens, when you experience a symptom of any kind, be sure to tell your oncologist about it.  Often times they have suggestions that will truly help, but they can’t tell you about them if they don’t know that you’re experiencing them in the first place.  So, have a very honest relationship with them.  No news is too small for them to hear.


I felt like I was in junior high again, waiting for my boobs to grow and getting excited when I got to go up a cup size (though I ditched the bras, so it was more in the figurative sense).  There are different means for reconstruction; however, for implants…here’s what I know:

  • They first place tissue expanders that have a magnetic port at the top.  They use this to find the spot where they can inject the saline and fill ya up.
  • They used a needle for injections, but it never hurt me.  They numbed the area, and I closed my eyes so as not to see it.  So, really, it wasn’t bad.  The tissue expanders are hard and uncomfortable, but every week my boobs got bigger. 
  • After each injection, there’s a tightening feeling; but it wasn’t painful.
  • They’ll fill you up to your desired size, maybe put a bit more in to allow for wiggle room in the switch-out surgery, and then have you hold at that size for several weeks.
  • Then you switch them out for implants, and y’all, it’s a whole new world of awesome!  So, hang in there!  They’re soft and perky.  A survivor had once told me, “I don’t even remember what my boobs were like before.”  I didn’t get what she meant at the time; but now I do. These become part of you…a new you.  I love mine!


 Good news!  The machine doesn’t touch you!  That was huge for me. 

  • First, they’ll map out your treatment by doing a CT scan.  They’ll put a special moldable pillow under your head and use blue marker on your body in places.  Both measures are to help get you in the exact same alignment each time so that they’re targeting the exact same place.
  • Length of treatment varies anywhere between 5 and 6 weeks on average, and you go every day for that duration of time. 
  • The machine circles around you, never touching you.
  • Here’s my tip for radiation: make a countdown chain of some kind; and every day break one of those things off.  When you get to see the progress that you’re making, it becomes less daunting.
  • Side effects will also vary, so talk to your doctor about what to expect.  They do have medicine should you need it.