Post-Surgery Recovery Tips Models Wish They Had Known

For many women affected by breast cancer, surgery is necessary either as a preventative measure or as part of their prescribed treatment. To better understand the post-surgery recovery experience, we turned to two of our longtime Runway “models” to ask what products, tips, or advice they had to share. Kristina Coccoluto, who is also our Chief of Community, underwent a preventative double-mastectomy, and Lindsay McGloughlin shares her experience after over 7 years of surgeries for her treatment.

Kristina Coccoluto (left) with her sister, Vanessa. Both are previvors.
Lindsay is a two-time survivor.

Here are some practical tips Lindsay and Kristina shared about how you can prepare:

1) Prepare for the limited mobility during recovery.

  • Before surgery move necessary items to a lower shelf or countertop. Have things within easy reach to keep some feeling of independence.
  • Get yourself some comfy button down pajamas – we like these! or ask your friends to donate old button down shirts — you won’t be able to get in and out of regular shirts.
  • Deodorant wipes like these help make you feel fresher without the pain of a roll-on deodorant.
  • A shower chair can seem silly, but is really so helpful once you can shower again.

2) Prioritize comfort and healing. Identify things you can do that make you feel good or that make you more comfortable.

  • Scheduling a blow out is the ultimate when you can’t shower for 1-2 weeks. It makes you feel human again. Tip: many salons will wash and blow out at no cost for patients!
  • Therapies like acupuncture can also help relieve pain and promote healing.
  • Try to exercise to prepare for your surgery and ask your doctors for movements to do to promote mobility and healing afterward. (The Breasties also have a free workout program for getting surgery ready and gaining strength back!)
  • Zero gravity chairs and ice chips have been amazing for Lindsay during her most recent recovery.

3) Find ways to acknowledge, document, and understand your journey.

  • There are many different emotions that come with a mastectomy. Kristina took photos of her chest before surgery (just like the surgeon does). Because she chose reconstruction, she would reference her before images. On days when she felt emotional, she would look at her before images and realize that the reconstruction did look better than her before anyway ?
  • Be patient. What you look like a few days after your surgery is not your final result. It may look awful and scary but your body needs to heal. Be patient.
  • A mastectomy is also a long experience. It’s like a marathon, except that when you cross the finish line you don’t receive a medal. You are left with the experience. So their advice would be to document how you feel through pictures; you don’t have to share but you’ll be able to recognize for yourself and just how far you have come.
  • Choose a way to celebrate a milestone that you set for yourself. It could be a dinner out with friends (or socially distanced picnic); planting a tree or something that continues to grow with your recovery; having new headshots taken of yourself. And/or if you like dancing, you can celebrate by being a model on the Runway for Recovery stage at our annual event!

4) Recovery is a process — mark your accomplishments along the way, however small!

  • Celebrate all the small victories! Being able to brush your hair, use the microwave, dress yourself, put on a sports bra, all of it!
  • The little milestones like buying a first bra, trying on a new bathing suit, putting on a strapless dress can all be tough. Mentally give yourself a break when you are getting ready for any of those experiences.
  • Kristina felt, at times, like her foobs looked fake or even “too good” for someone who had a mastectomy, but instead of focusing on that, she chose to celebrate. She celebrated the small victories and the big ones. And she is a big fan of celebrating the 1-year-mark because “no one understands how difficult it is to forfeit your breasts for your health unless they have lived through it.”
  • If you are a friend reading this blog, an awesome gift to give someone who is going through recovery is a book. One that has short, inspirational messages to encourage you that you’re doing great and to keep going. We like this book or this deck of inspirational cards.

The biggest thing both Kristina and Lindsay agree on?

Don’t go it alone, and be kind to yourself.

Kristina: “It’s invaluable to learn from and connect with others…but it’s not about comparing yourself to them. Everyone’s experience is SO different. Yet we need each other to get us though.”

Lindsay: “I wish someone told me that it was okay to fall apart. I spent so much energy trying to be strong for the sake of everyone else around me. Connecting with other people who have been there is so important in the process.”

Kristina & Lindsay are going to take their experience, their wisdom, and their hilarious personalities to the “streaming world” on Thursday, August 13, 2020 on our Instagram account. Join us live at 8:00 p.m. and ask them questions, thank them for their honesty, and listen to them chat with one another about their experiences.