There are critical steps you must take if you’ll be alone in your home immediately after your double mastectomy.

My brother was my driver home postop and stuck around for a few hours, but then after that, I was completely on my own.

Before I move on with how to recover from a double mastectomy without any help, all by yourself, I need to qualify that this article pertains to a prophylactic double mastectomy – a “preventive” surgery that’s done electively due to a high-enough risk of breast cancer that the patient is eligible for this option.

Furthermore, I did NOT have reconstruction.

If you foresee being alone in your house during your immediate postop period, a high level of physical fitness, prior to prophylactic double mastectomy, is crucial.

If your surgery is planned many months in advance, or you have not scheduled the surgery date yet – AND you have not been working out … I strongly urge you to commit to fitness workouts before you go under the knife.

But whether you’re already in top condition or have couch potato fitness, here’s what you must do to plan for the solitary recovery from your preventive double mastectomy.

Bring everything in your home that’s on a high shelf down to countertop level. Think – what might you need to reach overhead for in the two weeks postop?

Because you will be told by your surgeon NOT to lift your hands overhead for two weeks postop.

So bring down the towels, linens, cosmetics, lotions, plant-watering pitcher, spices, soup mixes, popcorn, cereal, bowls, glasses, coffee mugs, whatever it is that currently requires an overhead reach to access.

Have as much laundry done as possible to avoid this chore during the first two weeks: all your panties, socks, button-up shirts and the pants you will wear during the first two weeks.

Wash your hair the night before surgery so that you can go a few weeks without washing.

Trim your nails, shave your legs, pluck your eyebrows, etc., but make sure your personal preop tasks do not conflict with your preop instructions – two of which are do not wear nail polish or shave under the arms.

Stock your kitchen with two weeks’ worth of food. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be so disabled in the two weeks postop that you won’t be able to drive to the grocers.

But let’s face it, who wants to shop while carting around drainage tubes and pouches and feeling surgical tape pulling at your skin?

So I got all my grocery shopping done, including a mass amount of blueberries and strawberries stored in my freezer.

Accessing them requires raising my arms past shoulder level, so prior to surgery I placed a 12 inch stool near the refrigerator. I set it in position with my foot when I want to get the fruit.

And also the protein that I stocked. I have a bunch of lamb, turkey and chicken patties preformed and wrapped in tinfoil.

Whatever you like to eat, just stock it up, whether that’s frozen dinners, cereal, rice, lentils, nuts, eggs, ice cream or cookies.

Empty and reline all waist cans. Clean your place from top to bottom so that postop you come home to a spic-and-span place.

Fill your car’s gas tank. If you have to drive somewhere you don’t want to be burdened with getting gas.

Make a list of things (e.g., shopping online, organizing your file cabinet and photo collection) you’ve been wanting to get done but have kept putting off due to lack of time or motivation.

With two weeks of restricted activity and being home alone, you’ll now have the time.

Being Home Alone, No Caregiver,
Following Double Mastectomy

Know that there will be things you won’t be able to do. For instance, I’d like to open my office window, but this requires shoulder and arm movement that’s on the restriction list. So for two weeks it’s locked shut.

Having no caregiver and being home by yourself during your double mastectomy (preventive) recovery will be so much easier if you’re physically fit first.

If you’re 120 pounds, smoke and don’t work out, good luck. You will need plenty of it.

If you work out like a beast and don’t smoke, it’ll be a breeze.

As I type this it’s 72 hours out from surgery and I STILL haven’t felt any more pain than mild soreness where my chest muscle meets up with my arms, and even then, it only feels like I overdid a chest machine at the gym. But the surgical tape will bug you.

Due to obeying the instruction of limited shoulder/arm movement, I’m using my legs more.

If I must retrieve something from the floor, it’s legs as much as possible to get down there and then up again. Thank you squats.

I have no problem sitting up in bed and exiting it without using my hands. Thank you deadlifts, straight-leg Russian twists and pull-ups (yes, pull-ups hit the core!).

Deadlift with barbell

“Prehab” is crucial if you plan on being home alone without a caregiver for your preventive double mastectomy.

Prehab is preparing your body with the trauma of exercise so that it’s less shocked from the trauma of surgery.

If you have a strong core and legs, and are in great health and overall fitness, taking care of yourself without a caregiver following a preventive double mastectomy will be a lot easier than you think.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.