Preparing for Surgery: You and Your Support System

Preparing for breast reconstruction surgery is about more than setting up your home, buying helpful products, or engaging in self-care. While those are all important elements, it is also vital to set up a support infrastructure within your community. Folks with friends and family who are ready, willing, and able to help may not realize that those people will require direction. Those of us who do not feel that we have anyone should know that it is possible to find helpful humans in unexpected places.

Read on for helpful tips on how to make the most of the support you have and how to find more if you could use a boost!

Consider assigning a point person for postoperative communication.

People who are aware that you are having surgery will likely ask for updates on your status, care, and needs. This type of outreach can be as wonderful as it is overwhelming. Choose one person and direct all communication to them (with their permission, of course). Your point person can take questions, provide updates, and direct others on issues like whether you are taking visitors. Before surgery, you can work together to determine who may want to receive information and decide the best way to share it. Sometimes, it’s helpful to create a text or email thread through which your point person can address everyone at once.

Think about what you need—and ask for it!

Friends and family often ask what they can do for someone who is going through breast reconstruction surgery. The key is to get comfortable articulating those needs. Preparation helps. Take a look at your household chores, routine activities, things you do for yourself, and things you do for other people. Considering these things before surgery creates an opportunity to delegate ahead of time. It provides time to call on one of your helpers beforehand so that you can focus on recovering after surgery.

Get organized.

Postoperative coordination is often a large-scale project. Once you know what you will need, you’ll have to describe and assign tasks to your support system. If you and your community are computer savvy, shared documents are a great organizational tool. You can create a shared document or spreadsheet with tasks, including dates and helpful notes, and let folks claim them on their own. You can also get everyone together for a meeting and work it out in person. The key is to ensure that all required tasks are covered. It may seem overkill before surgery, but you will thank yourself as you sit back during your recovery.

Support is out there for just about everyone.

Not everyone is overwhelmed with support before surgery. If that is you, that’s OK! No matter the reason, no one who is facing breast reconstruction is truly alone. It can feel extremely isolating, but there is a vast community of individuals who are going through, considering, or moving forward after breast reconstruction surgery. It is a community full of people who want to help. We’ve put together some community resources that include organizations that can help you access the support you need. It can also be helpful to look locally. Talk to your doctor about what is in your area. There are thousands of small, local organizations and support groups for people facing breast and chest surgery and reconstruction. Check out community message boards, Facebook pages, and special interest groups. If you practice a religion, consider reaching out to your local house of worship. There is always support for those who seek it.

Make sure that the help you receive is, well, helpful.

People offer to do lots of things. Try to get comfortable saying “no” when someone’s well-intended offer does not suit your needs. It is not rude to gently communicate that their thoughtful contribution to your recovery would go further if they did or provided something on your list. Express your gratitude, then kindly redirect them. No matter who they are, no matter where they came from, remember that most people are happy to know what you need.