As you can see from the previous post (Mastectomy #7A – Best Gift for someone who’s having a mastectomy), I prefer gifts that are practical, but if someone had given me a pair of diamond earrings I wouldn’t have said no! To drown out the noise of the Bair Hugger, the perfect gift would have been a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, like the Bose Qc20i, but at £200 plus, they were but a dream and I suspect out of the reach of most of our pockets.
So here are some other gifts that are a little more affordable (and a little bit more practical than the ubiquitous flowers) and would come in handy for someone who’s had (or about to have) a mastectomy. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.
1. A pair of earplugs if your budget doesn’t run to the Bose QC20i. The ones I use and recommend are Howard Leight Laserlite earplugs – they are soft and squishy, and made of foam and come in candy pink-and-yellow stripes. They are pretty awesome and supposed to block out up to 35 decibels of noise. But they didn’t block out the noise of the Bair Hugger. And they got hot and sticky and uncomfortable with prolonged use.
2. An eyemask to cut out the light from medical equipment and windows that don’t have black-out curtains. The eyemask I recommend is the Mack’s Shut-Eye Shade Premium Sleep Mask. It doesn’t look like much (and even feels cardboardy), but it is designed to shape itself softly around the eye region, and hug the area. It is almost 100% light-proof. It is also the most comfortable eye mask I’ve ever used (and believe me, I’ve got a drawerful of eyemasks!). It gets softer with repeated use. It is not heavy and does not leave rings. It doesn’t put pressure on the eye itself.
Do not get confused and buy the Mack’s Dreamweaver mask – this is a contoured mask and does not work as well as the Shut-Eye mask.
3. A pair of pyjamas or nightdress. Button-fronts because after a mastectomy, women don’t want to fuss with lifting their arms up. Lands End does a nice range. Silk if you’re feeling flush.
4. A weeks’ supply of frozen ready meals from Cook. Or vouchers from Cook. OK, their meals are not ketogenic-diet friendly, but they are excellent quality and very delicious and that’s what you want – cheering-up food after a mastectomy. Their nut roast is the best I’ve ever tasted.
The difference between Cook’s meals and supermarket ready-meals is in the quality of the ingredients, small cooking batches, and accountability. Also, no artificial flavours or additives. After a mastectomy, you want to build up strength and blood, and go easy on the liver (which in traditional Chinese medicine is very important). So think nutritious, nutrient-dense cooked food, not cold food.
I bought three weeks’ worth, and all I had to do was pop each meal in the oven, go back to bed, and the meal was ready in an hours’ time. Very good value. Saves on shopping, cooking, washing up, arguments with husbands about food etc. Free delivery over £90.
Send your friend the menu, ask her to tick off the items, then order online for her. Simples!
If you pride yourself on your cooking, by all means give your friend home-cooked ready meals, but be very very careful with the hygiene – you wouldn’t want to give your friend food poisoning on top of the mastectomy!
5. Childcare/cleaner. If your friend has children, then she’ll need rest (otherwise how is she going to enjoy her Bose QC20i earphones?). Please offer to feed the children and have them over at yours. Or pay for a cleaner to come once a week for at least a month. After a mastectomy, everything is sore, and there may be restricted movement. I couldn’t vacuum clean for months.
6. Visiting: call ahead before visiting. This goes for the hospital. Not everyone who’s had a mastectomy wants visitors – it is a very vulnerable time and if someone’s in pain or feeling low, or in discomfort, having to put up a front for visitors is very tiring. Please understand we’re not trying to be difficult – we understand you want to help, but it’s a challenging time for us. Someone tried to encourage me to have more visitors, saying that it was a chance for the visitors to show that they cared, so I had to point out: who’s in hospital, and why?
7. Taxi service to follow-up appointments.
8. A session with a myo-fascial release therapist about 6 weeks’ after surgery. Very very important if there is lymphoedema or tight scar tissue. I highly-recommend Pawel Wiacek of Yin Yang Bodyworks. He gets referrals from a woman who works with lymphodema so he knows what he is doing and he is not afraid of cancer.
9. An iPad or other tablet device – I know we’re into very expensive territory here, but it does make a difference to be able to lie down and type or watch DVDs or send e-mails. A Kindle is not a bad idea either. Or Amazon vouchers.