15 Items You Need When Recovering from a Mastectomy

Had to edit this photo bc someone 
flagged it as pornography even though
75% of my post-mastectomy-breasts
were covered by at white rectangle. GRRR.

Let me begin with the obvious: you don't need any of this.
But just like when you have a baby, you'll find that during mastectomy recovery, while you don't need most of "the stuff," some of that "stuff" actually improves your quality of life.

Jump straight to my Amazon storefront to see these items.

I've compiled a list of things I genuinely enjoyed having during my post-mastectomy weeks (I'm three-weeks out as I'm writing this). There will be a Round Two someday because I was also gifted some pretty amazing things from friends. Check back for the Mastectomy Gift Guide when I have the energy to write again.

I hope this list is helpful. Maybe you click all the links and buy all the stuff. Maybe you just read through and find that having knowledge of what to expect helps you feel a little more in control of your current situation. Most importantly, mastectomies are major surgeries. Allow yourself time to heal. Be kind to yourself. Splurge if you can. Life is short (don't we all know that by now)...

1. Mastectomy Pillow
I wish I'd remembered to bring this to the hospital with me. It would have been nice for the ride home, so my seatbelt wasn't so miserable. This pillow has notches cut out for your arms, which gives support and a great cushion to your chest. You won't be able to hug anyone properly for a while. Having a cushion helps hugs feel better, but also it's nice to just hug the pillow. This particular one has a great pocket in front to hold your phone or a pencil or airpods or whatnot.

$25 on Amazon.

These are Amazon links. I'm part of an affiliate program. Clicking on the links helps me. Thanks!

2. Button-up pajamas.
Buy a few pairs of these, and wear one of them to your surgery, especially if your surgery is outpatient. You will not be able to raise your arms above your head for at least several weeks, so button-up pajamas (and eventually shirts) will be your best friend. Splurge on something soft. You've got cancer (or BRCA+) and it SUCKS and you deserve soft pajamas.

3. Button-up shirts A close second to the soft pajamas. You might already have these in your closet (or can borrow from a partner or friend). When you finally feel like getting dressed for real, you'll still have limited range of motion in your arms/shoulders. Putting a shirt over your head is a challenge, so button-up shirts are everything.

4. Shirts that hold your drains. I have two of these, and they were great. I just got my drains out, but I still like the shirts. They're really soft and have the perfect pocket for your drains. I could have clipped my drains or used a fanny pack, but these were much more pleasant. Also, the clips that came with my drains lost their clamping ability after a few days. The feeling of a drain falling down and tugging at your skin is painful and scary, and shirts like this prevented that. Also: SO SOFT!

5. A mesh bag for your drains This was SO nice for the shower. One friend told me I wouldn't need them, and I totally respect that everyone recovers differently. My mastectomy was outpatient and I knew that showering would be difficult without help, so I got the bag anyway. And I LOVED it. I hate things around my waist, so having this around my neck was a lot more comfortable in the shower. Also, check out local sewers, as this has become a popular item for people to sew. I had a mesh bag made in Louisville by Necessary Comforts. It was a gift from a Twitter friend.
Mesh bag by Necessary Comforts

6. Throat lozenges General anesthesia is a beast. You'll have a breathing tube during the surgery -- for a few hours. Your voice will be really hoarse, sore, dry, maybe even painful the days following the surgery. Keeping throat lozenges by your bed helps mitigate that.

7. Chapstick  Much like your throat is dry, your lips will be really dry. Treat yourself to some nice chapstick. You deserve it.

8. Wedge pillow

I LOVE this wedge pillow. It's adjustable, so you can gradually get flatter. Sleeping with drains in is tricky, so I also lined my sides with pillows. When you are able to sleep flat again, keep this around. I used it for a rotator cuff surgery earlier this year, and my husband uses it for reflux. My kids use it to relax. I use it to read in bed. It's really helpful, and I see us living with it for years.


9. Sleep mask

Sleep is everything to keep your mind and body healthy, but it's especially important when you need to heal. I had a stash of eyemasks from plane trips, but this eyemask changed me. Complete darkness. Soft. Room for your eyes to open but not brush against the inside of the mask. Luxury.

10. Earplugs I typically despise when companies market things "for women," like when you see a pink drill "for women" or a pink pen "for women" -- like, only the color is different, that's dumb. But these: they are pink, which makes them easier to find when you drop one. Mostly: they fit beautifully in my tiny ears. Also: you need to sleep. A lot. These earplugs + the above sleep mask = pure magic.

11. Resistance bands for at-home Physical Therapy You may go to PT, or during a pandemic you may not feel safe there. Either way these small resistance bands are helpful to stretch your muscles and regain strength and range of motion.

12. Tablet holder - for bed This was SO useful, especially when I was up in the middle of the night for no reason. Your arms will be weak and you will be tired. It's nice to put a pillow on your lap and put your phone or iPad up there.

13. Soft housecoat with POCKETS I have become obsessed with housecoats. And they have pockets!! I had my mastectomy in October, so plush housecoats are my jam. I have two, and I live in them.

14. Witch Hazel wipes
It might be difficult to poop after surgery -- it usually is. Once you do squeeze one out, you'll be glad you have these on hand. You're welcome!

15. Long phone charger You'll be stuck in bed for a long time. You want to make sure your phone can reach the charger while you're lying in bed doomscrolling.

There are a lot of other items that I acquired, either gifts or painkiller-purchases (be careful about this ha ha -- oxycodone makes you LOOOOOOOPY and you might buy a 75" television if you're not careful), but I'll save them for another blog. 

I hope this was helpful! Thanks for reading.
UPDATES ON MY CANCER: https://tinyurl.com/brigidupdates
Other ways to support: https://linktr.ee/brigidkaelin (This has links to EVERYTHING, my website, my cancer updates, my Venmo, my Patreon, and all my social media! I've been a professional musician since I was a teenager. COVID has eliminated career, so I'm doing all I can do stay afloat. I so appreciate all my friends who have jumped in to help my family. We love you so much.)


  1. Fan. Tastic. This is an excellent list that I wish no one needed but hope many use.

    1. Thank you! I am trying to post some useful stuff instead of just journal entries :)

    2. You are amazing and STRONG, woman, daughter, wife, mother, singer,song writer!
      You can do this and you are doing it well, feel the love and prayers and vibes from your MANY MANY fans and friends. WE LOVE YOU !!!

    3. Thank you so much, Alice!! That pie was amazing :)

  2. Dear Brigid, read your story on C-J. I see you've the strength, friends and family to meet this challenge. Grab it by the collar, kick it to the curb! I had similar cancer experience, 11 yrs ago. I cried once, hard. There after my coping mechanism utilized humor. Yes the casserole parade was divine! But my husband and sons gave me a laptop. We plowed through every Seinfeld episode. Your musical expression is such a gift! Thinking of you and family, HC

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad to hear you are doing well. What a ride this is. I've been primary caregiver three times for someone else with cancer, but being the patient is a whole new thing.