Breast cancer surgery is brutal, and it’s a horrible thing to go through. Surgeons gouge through healthy muscles in the chest and shoulder in order to clear out all traces of cancerous tissue.
For a couple of weeks afterwards, she’ll have tubes in her chest to drain the fluid which accumulates in the incisions. It’s not pretty.
If someone you know is having breast cancer surgery, a thoughtful gift can lift her spirits during the tough recovery period. It’s the thought that counts, but a perfect present doesn’t hurt.
She will probably be inundated with boxes of chocolates, so think about giving something which will make her feel better as well as making her feel loved.
1. Get-well-soon cards
It’s always lovely to receive personal mail, and a thoughtful get-well card with a personal note brings joy.
If you’re not usually a letter writer, try sending postcards with the sort of short messages you’d usually email or text to her.
A great gift idea is an Amazon gift card in a greeting card. This way she can indulge in some online shopping therapy during recovery.
2. Flowers and candy
Everybody loves flowers, everybody eats candy. These gifts are totally unimaginative but always welcome, and make a great choice if you care about someone but don’t know her well enough to get a personalized gift.
Flowers and plants are not just beautiful to look at. Research indicates that they also have a positive effect on the healing process.
Plants and flowers improve people’s moods and reduce stress. They increase levels of positive energy, help people feel relaxed and secure and actually help people heal faster.
3. Casseroles for the freezer
Freeze-ahead meals are the classic practical gift: in the tough weeks after surgery, a she can focus on recovery rather than thinking about dinner.
Bear in mind that breast cancer surgery leaves women unable to lift heavy things – if you’re cooking a lasagna, for example, cut it up into individual portions before freezing so she won’t struggle to lift a big tray into the oven.
Breast cancer surgery gift idea: Remember that the weeks and months of recovery can be just as tough as the first days following the surgery; think about sending a ‘thinking of you’ gift later on, when the get-well-soon cards have dried up.
Breast cancer surgery leaves women temporarily unable to lift their arms without pain, which means getting dressed is incredibly difficult.
And, of course, she might be getting used to a dramatically different body shape, which means much-loved old clothes suddenly look different.
Comfortable, attractive clothing can be a really thoughtful gift.
4. Recovery robe
A pretty bathrobe is warm, practical, and easy to put on. One step better is a special breast cancer surgery recovery robe. From the outside, it looks like a sleek satin bathrobe, but the inside has hidden pockets to hold the post-op fluid drain bags.
What’s more, she doesn’t need to pin the drains to her clothes with this soft recovery robe.
Similarly, a designer hospital gown is a stylish, more comfortable and thicker alternative to what the hospital provides. It will make her feel confident during radiation treatments or post-op while making it easy for the nurses.
5. Front-button pajamas
She’ll probably live in pajamas for a couple of weeks after surgery. How about gifting her a stylish pair to lift her spirits?
Choose a pair which button up at the front (so she can put them on without lifting her arms) and choose butter-soft, stretchy fabric.
6. A nice big shawl
Shawls and long scarves are a great gift for many reasons. Along with being warm and comfortable, they are far easier to put on than a coat or sweater.
They also add an element of ‘camouflage’ when a woman is feeling self-conscious about her appearance post-surgery – swirled asymmetrically around the shoulders, a long scarf looks glamorous but also disguises a woman’s chest.
7. Fuzzy socks
Hospital blankets are thin; many people feel permanently chilly when they’re in hospital. A pair of soft, warm bedsocks is always a welcome gift.
If you can afford it, pure cashmere socks offer a touch of luxury at a difficult time; or for a budget option, choose something in a favorite color to brighten up her pajamas.
8. Comfortable slippers
A pair of warm slippers will be indispensable when she’s recovering at home. Get a pair with a firm, waterproof sole, so she can pop out to the mailbox or step into the garden without having to change into shoes.
9. Vest with pockets
This seems like an odd suggestion to make, but the pockets are incredibly useful for carrying things like a cell phone – it reduces the need to keep picking things up and putting them down.
The bulkiness means it covers the chest, so she can slip it on over her pajamas if someone comes knocks at the door and she feels self-conscious.
10. Shower pockets
This garment holds the mastectomy drains while showering. It increases her freedom of movement while eliminating the risk of dropping drains while under the shower.
11. Mastectomy bra
Cool, soft, and wireless, a mastectomy bra is a godsend in the days after breast cancer surgery. Most post-mastectomy bras have inbuilt pockets which can hold a cool pack in the early stages of healing, or a prosthesis later on. Here’s more info on breast augmentation bras.
Breast cancer gift idea: There’s only one special consideration to make when shopping for someone recovering from breast cancer surgery. Special fund-raising pink products are a great way to give money to breast cancer research… and awful gifts to give to a breast cancer sufferer. Most patients get heartily sick of pink ribbons.
Helpful Books and DVD’s
12. Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul
Another installment in the perennially popular Chicken Soup series, this book brings together heartwarming stories from breast cancer patients and their families.
Reading about other survivor’s stories proofs comforting and instills optimism. Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul offers true support during harsh times.
13. Just Get Me Through This
If your friend is a no-nonsense type, she’ll love this book of helpful tips: it combines a roll-up-your-sleeves practicality with a wealth of information, from what to ask your doctor to how to tie a chemotherapy headscarf.
Touted ‘the breast cancer bible’ and a ‘truly helpful book’, ‘Just Get Me Trough This’ makes for a both practical as well as thoughtful gift.
14. Now What? A Patient’s Guide to Recovery After Mastectomy
Breast cancer surgery is often only the first step on the road to recovery. This book details what to expect, from surgery preparations until the last bruise fades.
It answers questions such as; ‘What about these drains?’, ‘Why am I so tired all the time?’ and ‘Should I worry about Lymphedema?’.
15. Yoga for Breast Cancer DVD for Patients and Survivors
As the pain of surgery begins to recede, breast cancer patients often find they are have lost strength while healing. Yoga is known to help patients cope with stress.
The ancient practice focusing on breathing, meditation and postures helps increase strength, flexibility, and balance.
This DVD shows gentle yoga poses which will stretch and soothe damaged muscles, improve blood circulation (thus reducing blood clots risk) while so called pranayama breathing techniques help reduce post-op swelling by mildly stimulating the abdominal muscles. .
16. The Whole-Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors
Extensive research shows a link between diet and cancer risk; this book discusses the science behind eating to prevent cancer, and has easy whole-food recipes to help you put the ideas into practice.
Reading about healthy foods, and implementing that new-found knowledge into your daily diet feels empowering. Learn about cancer fighting foods, science-backed nutritional wisdom and delicious recipes.
17. Breast Cancer Husband
Breast cancer is almost as tough on families as it is on sufferers. This is a helpful guide for men whose partners have been diagnosed with breast cancer, discussing everything from saying the right thing when your wife is feeling down to staying intimate after mastectomy.
Toiletries and self-care
18. Throat lozenges
Mastectomy patients have tubes put down their throats to help them breathe during surgery, leaving scratches in the throat which will hurt for a few days afterwards.
She’ll welcome some soothing throat lozenges to ease the soreness. Lozenges with the exceptionally soothing manuka honey are a great choice for anyone desiring throat relief.
19. Lip balm and moisturizer
Hospital air is incredibly dry, and can leave skin feeling parched. A rich lip balm and a nice-smelling lotion will help her get rid of that ‘lizard skin’ feeling.
20. Dry shampoo
After surgery, it can be days before a woman can shower, and weeks before she has enough strength in her arms to wash her hair like usual.
Dry shampoo tidies up greasy hair and will leave her looking like her normal self, even if she doesn’t feel it.
21. Electric toothbrush
Even a movement as small as brushing your teeth can be too painful on the arms after surgery. If she doesn’t own one already, a battery-powered toothbrush will do the work for her, meaning one less difficulty in her day.
22. Spa basket
Why not put together a few goodies in a basket and deliver it to her at the hospital? In addition to toiletries, you could throw in a few things like magazines, candy, or puzzle books.
23. Waxing treatments
Between the drainage tubes and the pain, it takes a long time before she’ll be able to shave her underarms after surgery.
If your girlfriend is usually fastidious about grooming, a pre-surgery waxing session is a considerate gift which will remove one small source of worry in the next few weeks.
Gifts for in and around the home
24. The Clapper
This is a sound-activated plug which allows her to turn devices on and off without getting up – two claps for the lights, three claps for the TV….
It will be welcome in the hazy early days of recovery, when the idea of getting up and hitting a switch feels like climbing Everest. Once used to the convenience it offers she probably doesn’t want to do without the Clapper.
25. Gift certificates for the home
However responsible her partner and kids are, however helpful her family is, it’s likely to be chaos at home while she recuperates. Normal routines are disrupted, and the simplest housework tasks suddenly become impossible.
Why not relieve some of the burden by paying for the services of a reputable house cleaner, or hiring a local handyman to take care of the yard? This will leave her free to focus on getting better, knowing that everyday tasks are taken care of.
If you’d like to help out yourself, remember that many people have very low levels of energy after surgery and can feel tired out by social calls.
It’s wonderfully kind to drop by her house and clean the kitchen; but if you always sit and visit with her for an hour afterwards, you may leave her as tired as if she’d done the work herself.
26. Self-care gift certificates
This can cover anything from meditation to massage. If she’s mentioned an alternative therapy which she’d like to try, then why not gift her a short course of treatments?
Treatments like reiki and acupuncture have been credited with reducing pain after surgery – though of course, you should consult with a doctor before booking to check the treatment will be safe.
You could also consider paying for something like a facial or a manicure. The side-effects of breast cancer treatments can really shake a woman’s confidence, and small beauty treatments like this boost morale.
27. Gift certificates for the kids
Young kids are a handful, and they don’t stop being a handful just because Mom is recovering from surgery. A gift certificate for Pizza Hut or Imax means that Grandma can take the kids out for a few hours and leave the house peaceful.
Gifts to help her heal
28. Double Mastectomy BFFLBag
This is a handy bag containing all sorts of useful goodies – soft support cushions, toiletries for the hospital, drain care supplies, even a pack of cards to pass the time between appointments.
A fantastic ‘grab and go’ gift if you want to show support but aren’t quite sure what to give. Click here for the exact contents of this truly helpful breast cancer recovery bag.
29. Cool packs
The tissue around the surgery site will be traumatized and inflamed, meaning it will throb with heat. A common recovery tip is to sleep in two soft cotton sports bras, with a cold pack slipped between the layers to anchor it against the chest.
You can’t just use the same cheap blue gels you use to keep beers cold in a picnic basket, though. A latex-free cold pack designed for heavy clinical use is the most comfortable solution – thin, pliable, and light enough to wear all day.
The coolness of a quality, medical-grade cold pack soothes offering pain relief, while reducing swelling.
30. Post mastectomy compression sleeve
Some patients have their underarm lymph nodes removed during surgery, and these long elastic sleeves are famously soothing for these awkwardly-placed wounds.
A post-mastectomy sleeve helps promote faster healing by increasing blood flow and circulation and reducing swelling in the arm from lymphedema or postoperative swelling.
31. Long handled bath brush / foot scrubber
There will come an awkward point in recovery when she’s healed well enough to shower, but not yet well enough to bend or stretch easily. A long-handled scrubbing brush makes it easier for her to wash without discomfort.
32. Breast surgery recovery pillow
After breast cancer surgery, the smallest everyday things are suddenly difficult – like wearing a seatbelt in the car. This soft pad clips around the seatbelt to cushion sore flesh from bumps and friction. This pillow by Hello Courage also protects the chemo port while in the car.
33. Silicone gel scar sheets
One of the last things she may have time to worry about is the appearance of surgical scars. Which is why you can take this off her mind.
Silicone gel is the only science-backed proven effective over-the-counter scar reduction treatment.
Messing with generic scar creams doesn’t help much whereas these dressings have shown over and over to soften and flatten discolored, raised scars while reducing itch and pain.
Additional benefit; they help prevent ugly keloid scars from forming. Silicone gel scar strips are also available in pre-cut breast surgery shapes. One of the most popular brands is ScarAway.
Gifts to keep her entertained
34. Reading pillow
A pyramid-shaped pillow such as the Peeramid, with a ridge around the bottom would be a great gift for a keen reader, as it keeps books in a stable position without having to hold them up to read. Some are designed to double up as travel pillows and have storage pouches to hold books and reading glasses.
35. Entertainment choices
An MP3 player loaded with favourite music is a lovely idea. Books and magazines are a great gift, but remember she’ll probably be feeling pretty groggy from pain and medication – choose something light which can be flicked through without needing too much effort. Audio books or DVDs are also a great choice, because they help to pass the time if you’re feeling too rough to concentrate on a book.
36. Overbed table
This is a swinging table just like the type they use to serve meals in hospital. It will allow her to eat comfortably, keep her remote, mp3 player, sudoku books etc. at hand.
A plain white plastic one is perfectly adequate for holding pills and magazines, but they are a bit depressingly institutional. For a gift, look for one of the sleek metal designs which look more like furniture and less like medical equipment.
Reading in bed is great, until you’re in recovery from surgery and it’s all you can do all day. A firm yet not too heavy bedrest helps to prop you into a comfortable seating position, so you don’t need to use your muscles to keep upright – this is far more comfortable than just piling up pillows.
Gifts to help her sleep
38. Big soft fluffy blanket
After surgery, it can be almost impossible to get comfortable: hard to move, hard to sleep. A soft blanket is a great comfort, draped over hospital sheets for a feeling of home or wrapped around the shoulders while reading.
39. Step stool
Getting in and out of bed can be difficult for a long time after surgery. It’ll take a while until she can even roll onto the unaffected side, let alone the other side. A small step next to the bed can make it easier to climb in and out of bed during this stiff, uncomfortable time.
The most essential aspect of a good step stool is that it’s stable. A popular choice, with rubber anti-slip feet is this Kikkerland Rhino stool.
40. Wedge-shaped pillow
It’s usually recommended that patients sleep on their backs while recovering from breast cancer surgery, which can be surprisingly awkward for someone who isn’t used to it.
The elevated shape of this wedge bed pillow helps to reduce movement during the night, which means there’s less chance of waking up painfully by catching a drain against the bedsheets. Also great as a trunk stabilizer for lying on your side or for elevating feet and legs.
41. Travel pillow
Because they are so small and soft, travel pillows can be used alone for support while sitting in a chair, or piled up on all sides to keep a patient locked into position while sleeping.
If your beloved one struggles to sleep on her back while recovering, a U-shaped travel pillow will allow her to at least twist her head left and right, which provides some relief.
42. Heart-shaped post-op pillow
Alternatively, there are special heart-shaped pillows designed to support the breast or arms after surgery. This way they take the pressure off of delicate areas.
Like these breast cancer surgery recovery gifts?
Got a great gift idea you want to add? Share your thoughts below.
Want more inspiration? Click here for 26 surgery recovery gift ideas.
Read the personal story and recovery tips of a bedside nurse based on her professional experience as well as her own mastectomy.