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What to Pack for Your Hospital Stay

Hospital stays are rarely pleasant and after surgery, usually uncomfortable. Combined with the nerves, worry and stress of cancer related surgeries, it may be difficult to even process what you should bring to make your time there as easy and comfortable as possible. 

I remember the morning my mother was going into surgery for her mastectomy. It was very early – still dark outside. I don’t think any of us really slept that night – my mom least of all. When I went to check on her, she was just getting out of the shower and shaking uncontrollably. At first I thought she was cold, but quickly realized it was her nerves – she was understandably frightened.   I helped her finish getting ready, not that she was incapable but she was so preoccupied with the hours, days and years ahead that the simple task of getting out the door was challenging. I remember being thankful that she had packed and prepared ahead of time as it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful to attempt on the morning or day of surgery.

 Times have definitely changed since her surgery 15 years ago but some things still stick out as “good thinking Mom!” as I marveled at her ability to plan ahead for her time at the hospital.

 SUPPORT: As Canadians, we all know that our hospitals are extremely busy and understaffed. Despite their best efforts, the nurses simply have too many patients to care for adequately.   My mother was blessed to have a network of loving friends and family that were eager to help. There was rarely a moment when she didn’t have back up. One of her closest friends was a retired nurse and after having spent so many years doing her share of night shifts, she offered to stay with my mother during the over night hours. While I don’t think she necessarily made any new friends with the staff on those nights, she proved to be invaluable to my mother both on a physical and emotional level. Things always seem so much worse at night and it brought my mother comfort to have someone there during those dark hours.

SOMETHING FROM HOME: My mother also brought her own pillow. Admittedly, my family has a bit of a love affair with their pillows but I recall thinking how smart that was. My mom hated the smells of hospitals in particular and she said that having something that smelled like home brought her comfort and made the hospital beds just a little more bearable. And for all the same reasons, don’t forget to pack your own toiletries!

 NOTEBOOK & PEN: Long before the advent of smart phones and devices, my mom kept a list of questions for the doctor and made notes of what they told us. There isn’t a lot of time when the doctors make their rounds so we wanted to be prepared.  

 FOOD! : While I don’t remember packing food for her personally, I do have visions of thermoses of herbal tea and wholesome snacks at the ready. My mom always knew what her stomach needed and hospital food was never it!!

 With a little pre-planning, time at the hospital can be made more bearable. Take the time to do a personal inventory of what makes you comfortable and helps to calm and reassure.

 I recently came across an informative blog post about this topic written by Kim Angell. She has some excellent suggestions, particularly if you are scheduled for any breast cancer related surgery (ie. mastectomy, lumpectomy, lymph node removal, reconstruction). 


 Kim lives on Vancouver Island and has put the “thriver” in breast cancer thriver! Kim’s blog, “Smile Through the Fog”, is about her personal journey with breast cancer. You can follow her on Instagram @kangell82.

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