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7 Chemo Bag Essentials to Pack

Chemo bag essentials

A chemo bag is a tote or backpack filled with items that you or your loved one can use during a chemotherapy appointment.

What do you put in a chemo bag?

Generally, the contents of a chemo bag fall into three categories:

  • Appointment essentials: Important documents, a bottle of water, and a snack.
  • Comfort items: A shawl or pillow.
  • Ways to pass the time: A good book, a tablet loaded with streaming apps, and a charger for your device can be packed alongside the essentials and comfort items.

7 Appointment essentials to pack in your chemo bag

What you pack depends on your personal needs and how long your appointment is supposed to last. Consider these chemo bag essentials as you pack.

1. Important documents

Consider bringing your insurance card, vaccination card, and credit card for any co-payment to each chemotherapy appointment. To help keep these items organized, you can store them in an organizer or case, which has multiple zippered pockets to place insurance cards, documents, medication, or even a small snack.

2. Personal protection equipment 

Your treatment center may have protocol in place to protect patients against COVID-19, such as wearing face coverings during your appointment.

We recommend:

3. Healthy food and drink

Stay hydrated and nourished during your appointment. Bring a banana, grapes, or other hydrating fruit, along with a green juice or your favorite protein shake. Consider bringing more than one option especially if it is your first appointment — given you do not know how you will be feeling. 

We recommend:

4. Something to pass the time

Your appointment could last for several hours, depending on your treatment protocol. Come prepared to entertain yourself with your favorite TV show, movie, book, or magazine. Consider packing an extra long charging cable in your chemo bag too. 

We also recommend:

A chemo bag is a tote or backpack filled with items that you or your loved one can use during a chemotherapy appointment.

What do you put in a chemo bag?

Generally, the contents of a chemo bag fall into three categories:

  • Appointment essentials: Important documents, a bottle of water, and a snack.
  • Comfort items: A shawl or pillow.
  • Ways to pass the time: A good book, a tablet loaded with streaming apps, and a charger for your device can be packed alongside the essentials and comfort items.

Create an Account

Create a Gift & Donation Registry on Mend Together to receive healing gifts and financial support during cancer treatment

7 Appointment essentials to pack in your chemo bag

What you pack depends on your personal needs and how long your appointment is supposed to last. Consider these chemo bag essentials as you pack.

1. Important documents

Consider bringing your insurance card, vaccination card, and credit card for any co-payment to each chemotherapy appointment. To help keep these items organized, you can store them in an organizer or case, which has multiple zippered pockets to place insurance cards, documents, medication, or even a small snack.

2. Personal protection equipment 

Your treatment center may have a protocol in place to protect patients against COVID-19, such as wearing face coverings during your appointment.

We recommend:

3. Healthy food and drink

Stay hydrated and nourished during your appointment. Bring a banana, grapes, or other hydrating fruit, along with a green juice or your favorite protein shake. Consider bringing more than one option especially if it is your first appointment — given you do not know how you will be feeling. 

We recommend:

4. Something to pass the time

Your appointment could last for several hours, depending on your treatment protocol. Come prepared to entertain yourself with your favorite TV show, movie, book, or magazine. Consider packing an extra long charging cable in your chemo bag too. 

We also recommend:

5. Relaxation tools

Practicing healthy relaxation habits can help minimize anxiety and stress during the appointment. We recommend:

6. Journal or notepad

Journaling can help keep you or the person you are accompanying occupied while providing a healthy therapeutic outlet  

We recommend:

7. Items to keep you comfortable

Add items to your chemo bag that will help you or your loved one stay comfortable during the duration of your treatment.

We recommend:

Got your chemo bag packed? We have additional resources for you

As you or your loved one figure out needs, Mend Together can help you access the items and resources to help. Our shop offers dozens of items that you can pack in your chemo bag, from nutritious snacks to meditation guides. You can build your Gift & Donation Registry, help a loved one create and manage their own, or make a purchase of any item without a registry.

For help with packing a chemo bag, keeping company at the appointment, or getting to and from the doctor: our Volunteer Calendar feature manages helpers, allowing them to sign up for tasks and times as you or your loved one need them. Finally, keep your loved ones updated through our Community Journal, which gives you or your loved one a platform to share medical updates from one place. This helps you keep friends and family updated without fielding calls or telling the same story time and again. Learn more here.


Stella Morrison is an award-winning journalist who partners with mission-driven companies to share their stories. She is based in New York City.

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.

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The 10 Best Essential Oils for Breast Pain

essential oils for breast pain

Essential oils have soothing therapeutic and natural healing properties and can be bought in organic form,  free of chemicals, preservatives or other ingredients. Some oils are applied directly to the body, some taken as supplements and some are inhaled as part of a course of aromatherapy.  Whether using them for breast cancer- related soreness, or pain from other types of cancer treatments, essential oils give you a natural way to care for painful, tender breasts at any stage of your cancer journey.

The therapeutic effects of essential oils for breast pain include:

·  Anti-inflammatory effects – They diminish the inflammation in breast tissue that may occur during and after treatment.

·  Analgesic (pain-relieving) effects – Some oils can numb pain receptors, like Peppermint. Others can overwrite the pain signals to the brain, like Lavender.

·  Diuretic effects – Some oils have the ability to increase urine production by promoting excess water and toxin elimination. Edema is common in swollen and tender breasts.

·  Circulatory effects – Aromatic oils can stimulate the blood circulation. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to the inflamed and painful breast tissue.

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The best essential oils for breast pain and tenderness:

1. Lavender oil

Lavender essential oil  originates from the aromatic lavender blossoms.

Why we love it: In addition to smelling great and having stress and anxiety-relieving properties, lavender oil can relieve pain, discomfort, and soreness of the breasts. Lavender oil is one of the best essential oils for breast pain. It promotes the proper functioning of the lymph nodes and the hormonal levels. Lavender also boosts the circulation process. It helps to channel oxygen and nutrients in the breast tissues. Finally, it also deals with lower blood pressure responsible for breast pain.

Mend Together favorite: We love a wood diffuser to bring the benefits of lavender into your bedroom or living room to help relieve you throughout the day.

2. Evening Primrose oil

Evening Primrose oil (EPO) is made from the seeds of the evening primrose flowering plant.

Why we love it: EPO is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, and fatty acid imbalance has been linked to breast pain. As such, evening primrose oil is widely used to treat endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The oil comes in capsules available at any pharmacy and is also good for bone health and reducing skin inflammation.

3. Clary Sage oil

Clary sage oil also works to balance the estrogen hormone. It is also a popular choice for women to relieve hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and other hormonal symptoms.

Why we love it: The therapeutic effects of Clary Sage may soothe sore breasts by working on both body and mind.  It can be easily used by applying it directly to your body, or you can also use a portable USB Aromatherapy Diffuser to help alleviate breast pain while working or catching up on life.

4. Peppermint oil

Peppermint essential oil comes from the leaves and stems of the peppermint herb. The use of the herb goes back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations.

Why we love it: This is one of nature’s most versatile oils which has many mind body healing applications. It has a refreshing aroma that stimulates the mind. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties when inhaled. These components help stop breast pain and soreness. It also has been known to balance female hormonal levels.

5. Frankincense oil

Frankincense oil is one of the most studied essential oils. Researchers have confirmed its potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. The medicinal oil or ‘King of oils’ is a solution to hundreds of health problems that we often face.

Why we love it: The sweet and earthy aroma of Frankincense oil has a calming and relaxing effect on your body and mind. This oil contains boswellic acids which are essential molecules to relieve tender breasts and associated pain. Because Aromatherapy is a soothing way to treat breast soreness, Frankincense oil is one of the more popular oils for dealing with this specific form of pain.

Mend Together favorite: Using a portable stone diffuser  for essential oil allows you to transport the benefits of frankincense from room to room. And its beautiful shape compliments any environment.

6. Geranium oil

Geranium oil is steam distilled from the stems and leaves of the geranium.  It is one of the best essential oils for balancing female hormonal levels. The oil promotes proper circulation and contributes to cleansing the body. Hence geranium oil can inhibit inflammations and infections of breast tissues.

Why we love it: This is another oil that does double duty as an aromatherapy treatment or a topical application. You can put two to three drops of this oil to an unscented moisturizer and massage this mixture into the breasts to alleviate pain and encourage better blood circulation. Or to breathe in the benefits, use an essential oil diffuser to put the aroma into the air.

7. Palmarosa oil

 Palmarosa Essential oil comes from a member of the lemongrass family, with a soft rosy scent with just a hint of citrus. Because it promotes fluid drainage from the lymph nodes, it is a great essential oil for breast tenderness.

Why we love it: Palmarosa is also great against excessive sweating which makes it an effective antifungal and antibacterial. A natural deodorant with Palmarosa can reduce breast swelling and it can also help to balance the heart, uterus, and nerves.

8. Roman Chamomile Blossom oil

Roman Chamomile oil comes from the blossoms of the chamomile plants. It is a great aromatic oil that acts as a stress reliever and mood enhancer.

Why we love it: This lightly fragranced herbal oil has sedative, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to have a penetrating effect on your nervous system and brain. It can relax your muscles and joints pains, headaches, and induce a sound sleep at night. Apply the oil topically to relax your muscles and reduce pain.

9. Black Currant Seed oil

Black Currants are one of the foods that have been studied for their ability to block the growth of breast cancer cells. And Black currant seed oil contains concentrated forms of gamma-linoleic acid. Studies have shown this to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, helpful in reducing breast pain.

Why we love it: Taken in supplement form this is a chemical free, breast friendly alternative to pain medication that is easily available at any health food store.

10.  Rosemary Oil

A popular herb for cooking  the essential oil of the Rosemary plant has been found to be one of the most widely-used oils in aromatherapy for pain. A 2015 study  found that rosemary oil is an effective adjunct treatment to pain medication.

Why we love it: As a delicious natural diuretic, fresh rosemary can be made into a simple tea that will help reduce water retention and pressure in the breast.  And as a fragrant aromatic oil diffused for gentle inhalation, it carries analgesic properties that control pain.

Considerations before trying essential oils for breast pain:

  • Look for organic oils that have been produced without chemicals. Oils made with chemicals can irritate the skin. The label should say “pure essential oil,” not “blend” or “massage” oil.
  • Some essential oils are poisonous. You should never taste or swallow any essential oil.
  • If you are sensitive, slowly to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction to the aroma of a particular oil.
  • Always do a skin test with new oils. When using an oil for the first time, do a skin test on a small area.
    • Spread a little bit on your arm and put a bandage over it.
    • Wait 24 hours to make sure there is no skin reaction before trying it on a larger area.
    • If the area becomes red, swollen, or sore, do NOT use the oil again.

Using oils directly applied to the body or inhaled as aromatherapy can help to significantly improve the physical discomfort in your breasts, as well as improve your mental health by reducing stress and boosting your mood and mental clarity.

Before beginning any therapeutic use of essential oils for breast pain, remember to consult your doctor, especially if the pain persists or gets progressively worse. Essential oils can be a wonderful addition to your treatment plan but should never be used in place of medications your doctor has prescribed. 


Kate Rigg is a cancer advocate and graduate from the Juilliard School in New York with an honors degree in creative writing from the University of Melbourne.

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.

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Top Must-Read Cancer Survivor Books

A cancer diagnosis turns our world upside down.  Surgeries and treatments can be challenging, and for many, recovery is equally challenging.  After treatments end, friends and family go back to their busy lives, even though this may be when we need them most. Cancer survivor books can be welcome companions during this time. 

The wisdom of experts and the experiences of other cancer survivors is invaluable. It can provide helpful insights into how to orient to life after cancer. And, if we are lucky, how to experience post-traumatic growth and live life to the fullest after cancer.

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Create a Gift & Donation Registry on Mend Together to receive healing gifts and financial support during a cancer journey

8 book selections for cancer survivors

Whether you need assistance processing complex emotions or you are looking to make diet and lifestyle changes to help prevent cancer recurrence, these eight books provide useful guidance. 

1. Life Over Cancer

  • Author: Keith I. Block, M.D.
  • What is it about? Life Over Cancer details complementary approaches to traditional cancer treatments , including what to do to help prevent recurrence once you have no evidence of disease (NED). The author is a respected Chicago-based functional medicine physician with more than 30 years’ experience supporting cancer patients during and after treatments.
  • Why we love it: Life Over Cancer includes recommendations on food, exercise, stress reduction, and nutritional supplements (alongside modern medicine) as the keys to restoring and maintaining health.
  • Great for: Life Over Cancer is an excellent read if you are looking for science-based alternative treatments recommendations

2. Option B

  • Authors: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  • What is it about? This No. 1 New York Times bestseller, from Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer and the Wharton School at UPenn’s chief psychology professor, explores how to build resilience and move forward after life’s setbacks.
  • Why we love it: This book draws from the Sandberg’s first-hand account of her husband’s unexpected death and what she learned as she prepared her life to move forward. The compassionate and expert advice that results can be of help as you continue with your life after cancer.
  • Great for: Option B is a great choice if you want to learn practical skills for exercising the “muscle” of resilience.

3. Anticancer: A New Way Of Life

  • Author: David Servan-Schreiber, MD
  • What is it about? Servan-Schreiber draws from his own experience with brain cancer and how diet, exercise, emotional health, and environmental awareness activities helped him thrive after his initial brain cancer diagnosis. The New York Times bestseller eventually inspired the Anticancer Lifestyle Program.
  • Why we love it: Servan-Schreiber details the small changes that can make a big difference in boosting your body’s healing abilities.
  • Great for: Anticancer: A New Way Of Life is an immensely helpful guide if you are looking for lifestyle modification you can make to improve resilience.

4. The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for Living Your Best Life

  • Author: Marianne Williamson
  • What is it about? The Gift of Change is an international bestseller that teaches you how to avoid viewing the world through a lens of fear and instead embrace a loving, anxiety-free approach to life.
  • Why we love it: After cancer, you may need help shifting thoughts and attention to focus on moving forward. The Gift of Change can help readers change perspective, move past fear and anxiety, and find opportunities for growth and healing.
  • Great for: The Gift of Change is a good selection if you are feeling anxious about the future.

5. Had I Known: A Memoir Of Survival

  • Author: Joan Lunden
  • What is it about? The former Good Morning America host penned her New York Times bestseller, Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival, after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Her book dives into the transformative effect this diagnosis had on her life.
  • Why we love it: This honest, first-person account does not flinch from the realities that make fighting cancer so physically and emotionally draining.
  • Great for: Had I Known is an enjoyable read if you are inspired by personal accounts of enduring cancer and thriving after cancer. If you are a breast cancer survivor, this book may be especially insightful.

6. Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds

  • Author: Kelly A. Turner, Ph.D.
  • What is it about? A New York Times bestseller, Radical Remission reports on stories of unexpected remission (known as radical remission) and finds nine commonalities between them.
  • Why we love it: Dr. Turner, a Harvard-educated social worker and integrative oncology expert, analyzes evidence from more than 1,000 cases of radical remission. Her conclusions include suggestions for situations where conventional medicine has failed.
  • Great for: Radical Remission provides hope to those of us concerned about recurrence.

7. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence

  • Author: Sarah Young
  • What is it about? Beloved by many, Jesus Calling offers words of hope, encouragement, reassurance, and comfort, with space in the book to reflect and write your own prayers and thoughts.
  • Why we love it: This daily devotional makes it easy to set aside time for spiritual practice that can help bolster emotional wellness, and includes reflection suggestions and journaling space.
  • Great for: Jesus Calling may be especially meaningful if you find comfort in Christian scripture.

8. Not Quite What I Was Planning

  • Authors: Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith
  • What is it about? Not Quite What I Was Planning is a collection of six-word memoirs and storytelling from famous figures, obscure authors, and everyone in between.
  • Why we love it: Challenging yourself to tell your story in six words can be a useful tool for bringing clarity and focus to your recent experience.
  • Great for: Not Quite What I Was Planning is an entertaining and unique read if you are looking for thoughtful exercises as you reorient after cancer.

Add these intriguing books to your Gift & Donation Registry

Our Gift & Donation Registry allows patients to accept cash funds and specify precisely which items will be most helpful for healing, including cancer survivor books. Our additional offerings include the Community Journal which makes it easy to keep everyone updated in a private setting, and our Volunteer Calendar to help take the mystery out of practical, everyday support.


Stella Morrison is an award-winning journalist who partners with mission-driven companies to share their stories. She is based in New York City.

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.

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The Complete Recovery Bra Guide

After breast surgery, you will need the right clothing to facilitate healing. A recovery bra fills that role: Depending on the surgery type, recovery trajectory, and their care team’s advice, you may opt for this supportive and comfortable undergarment. With several models available for each stage of the healing process, you can choose from many features and styles that best support your needs. This Mend Together guide explains what a recovery bra is, how it aids in the healing process, and what your options are as you recover from breast surgery.

What is a recovery bra?

Recovery bras are an undergarment designed specifically to support breasts or reconstructed breasts after surgery. They make a great addition to a surgery recovery gift basket for a loved one who underwent breast surgery. Patients wear recovery bras after surgeries related to breast cancer treatment:

  • Lumpectomy (removal of tumor only)
  • Single mastectomy
  • Double mastectomy
  • Unilateral or bilateral breast reconstruction
  • Removal of lymph nodes surrounding breast tissue

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How do recovery bras help after surgery? 

You might assume that you would be more comfortable foregoing a bra after breast surgery, but these garments are a must for most. A recovery bra can help facilitate healing in the following ways:

  • Recovery bras put comfort first – and ditch the underwire. Comfort is of utmost importance post surgery. A wire free, ultra soft bra is supportive without restricting flow of fluids in and out of the surgical area. Plus, wire free bras are excellent if you are undergoing radiation therapy. Wire can rub painfully against sensitive skin caused by this treatment.
  • The right recovery bra helps improve circulation. Proper blood flow is vital after any surgery, and breast surgery is no exception. The right recovery bra can help support healing and reduce the chance of post surgery complications by encouraging blood flow around the surgical site.
  • Recovery bras are practical. Breast surgery will limit your range of motion, making back clasps difficult to use. Recovery bras keep this top of mind, putting clasps in the front to avoid reaching and straining. Plus, these front clasps help minimize breast movement, further supporting faster healing.
  • They can help support implants after breast reconstruction surgery. “Implant shifting” is a serious risk after breast reconstruction surgery. A recovery bra can help hold implants in place as the area heals.
  • Recovery bras can help reduce the risk of developing lymphedema. This condition is common after breast surgery. It occurs when lymph node fluid builds up in breast tissue and may spread to the arms or legs. In particular, a compression bra can help prevent lymph fluid from building up.
  • The right recovery bra can be worn well after surgery. Post-mastectomy bras are designed both to reduce pain and incorporate pockets that hold breast forms and prosthetics.

What are the recovery bra options?

Compression bras

  • Why we love them: Compression bras help you minimize the chances of developing post surgery complications like swelling, infections, and lymphedema. They also prevent sudden shifts from regular, everyday movement, which can pull on incisions that are extra sensitive after surgery. Often worn in the days and weeks after a procedure, compression bras also encourage blood flow while guiding lymph fluids away from the incisions. They are also important for holding implants in place during recovery if you undergo breast reconstruction.
  • What to look for: Compression bras should fit snugly, but not too tight as to constrict breathing. Even though they’re strong and supportive, compression bras should be breathable to help keep the incision site dry and clean. Look for natural fabrics that allow for proper airflow. Compression bras should also have closures located in the front versus back as well as straps that are easy to adjust.

Drain management bras

  • Why we love them: You may have surgical drains placed during the procedure. These prevent fluid from building up underneath the incision site. Drains can pull on incision sites so it is important they are held in place to minimize pain from pulling.
  • What to look for: Drain management bras come in different styles, including openings for the drains and pockets to hold the collection pouch. Some may offer extra support for post surgery healing. Alternatively, a soft robe with drain management can hold the tubes and pouches in place.

Mastectomy bras

  • Why we love them: Mastectomy bras are designed to be worn both during and after recovery.  Whether you opt for breast implants, undergo DIEP surgery using your own tissue to construct a breast, or choose not to reconstruct at all, a mastectomy bra can be helpful to either support the new mounds or hold a prosthetic device.
  • What to look for: Mastectomy bras take many forms, from sporty racerback straps to ultra-feminine and romantic lace varieties to comfortable, everyday recovery bra options. No matter which style you prefer, look for a mastectomy bra that offers wire-free designs and pockets to hold breast forms, if needed.

How long is a recovery bra worn after surgery?

The answer to this question depends on your loved one’s cancer treatment plan, the type of surgery, the reconstruction choice your loved one makes, and the challenges that may crop up during recovery. Your loved one may need to wear a recovery bra for days or weeks after a procedure. The amount of time spent wearing a recovery bra can vary, too: They may need to wear a recovery bra for a few hours each day, only during certain activities, or around the clock. Their patient care team will answer any questions you or your loved one may have about wearing a recovery bra after surgery. 

Tips for selecting a recovery bra

There’s certainly no shortage of recovery bra options out there, but not all of them are created equal. Prioritize recovery bras that put your needs first. Here is what you should look for when reviewing your options.

  • Put comfort first. Look for natural, breathable, and ultra soft fabrics that don’t rub uncomfortably against sensitive skin. The surgical site will be very tender after the procedure, and a soft bra assists recovery by not adding more pressure to the area.
  • Choose designs made for cancer patients, by cancer patients. Those who have been through breast cancer surgery know firsthand the features that assist recovery, reduce pain, and are comfortable day in, day out. Look for recovery bras designed with their input, such as the mastectomy bras available in the Mend Together shop.
  • Look for features that make the recovery bra easy to wear. Reaching, stretching, and adjusting can be difficult after breast surgery. Look for compression bras that make everyday wear simple, such as easy to adjust hook-and-loop closure straps and front clasps.
  • Your loved one may need more than one style. The initial recovery stage may require a different recovery bra than one worn later on. You may also need a different bra during the day than at nighttime. Together with your care team, you will receive instructions on which type of bra is best for what occasion after breast surgery.
  • Breathable fabric is key. The surgical area must be kept dry to prevent infection. Breathable fabric helps whisk away moisture and help further minimize the risk of bacterial growth. You should also buy several bras, as they need to be cleaned frequently to ensure germs are not introduced to the incision site.

Recovery bras put comfort and healing first

The right recovery bra supports you as you heal from breast surgery. Whether you can benefit from a bra with built in drain management, need supportive compression in the weeks after surgery, or want a romantic lacy bra to wear every day, recovery bras put comfort and ease of wear front and center. To learn more about recovery bras, visit the Mend Together shop to explore great options recommended by cancer patients and medical professionals.


Stella Morrison is an award-winning journalist who partners with mission-driven companies to share their stories. She is based in New York City.

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.

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Post Mastectomy Clothing for Function, Comfort and Style

post mastectomy clothing

What post mastectomy clothing should I add to my wardrobe?

After chest surgery many women ask themselves:

  • What are the best types of clothing to wear after surgery?
  • Am I going to undergo reconstruction or stay flat? 
  • If I stay flat, will I wear a prosthetic or not? 
  • After surgery how will I manage drains? 
  • Will I get nipple tattoos? 
  • How will I deal with my new body at work? At formal events? At the pool? 

Knowing what to wear after a mastectomy presents a unique set of challenges for women already weary from surgery and cancer treatments.  Each body is different and everybody will have a different set of wants and needs when it comes to finding the right post mastectomy clothing.

The importance of comfort

 “For me it was all about comfort. Everything had to be soft for the whole year after surgery. Nothing too clingy or that needed to be pulled over my head. No scratchy fabrics. My mother sewed linings behind zippers on the hoodies I bought to hold the drains. And my best friend was a special pillow I had to put between me and the car seatbelt.”

Catherine, double mastectomy 

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Considerations when preparing a mastectomy shopping list:

What post mastectomy clothing will I need right after surgery?

“Right after surgery I was very limited in my ability to move so I couldn’t put a bra on even if I wanted to and getting dressed at all was kind of challenging. I went to simple, slide-it-over-head kind of clothes. As soon as I was healed enough, I didn’t wear bras at all.

–Melissa, mastectomy 

Remember, you are going to be sore after a mastectomy. You are going to have limited range of motion. You are going to have scars and increased sensitivity at the surgery sites. If you have implants you will have to deal with lack of sensitivity and breasts that sit very differently on your body.

After the surgery for about 6 weeks I had these tubes and ports that filled up with fluid. So they had to be drained and I needed special shirts and camisoles with little specialty places, stitches and holes for the drains. And also, a pouch to wear around my neck so I had somewhere to put the drains in the shower.”

–Jocelyn, double mastectomy 2011

There will be drains, bandages and swelling. The hospital will give you a compression bra after your procedure, but after that, you will probably need a few different things to round out your wardrobe.

These are some post-surgery essentials for breast cancer patients:

  • Shirts that can accommodate drains and tubes
  • A shower shirt to help you seal off places that need to be healed
  • A pillow for tenderness under the arm or to protect you from seatbelts and chafing
  • A pain reducing bra
  • Something soft and loose-fitting to wear around the house that doesn’t have to be pulled over your head

What is the most comfortable post mastectomy clothing?

Most women crave comfort after a life changing surgery like a mastectomy. Long after surgery, pain can linger. Soothing tender areas on your body gentle, forgiving fabrics can be helpful. .

“My surgery was 30 years ago and still my scars are terribly itchy and also the bra digs into the scar tissue, which gets abraded, red & raw. Even though I wear a looser bra — it still hurts. I have basically given up on the bra — even though my other boob really needs it. Also, my underarm hurts a lot because they took the lymph nodes. So most of my shirts are made from flowy soft material and I wear them pretty loose.”

–Cathy, mastectomy 1991

Sensitivity around surgery and radiation sites mean you will want to avoid:

  • Seams
  • Unlined zippers
  • Tight clothes
  • Abrasive fabrics

A decreased range of motion in your arms means you might want to look for:

  • Tops that you don’t have to pull over your head
  • Bras with front closures
  • Tops with forgiving arm sockets that don’t ride up into sensitive surgery areas
  • Loose and comfortable  loungewear 

What can I do to look and feel like myself after a mastectomy?

Top of mind after a mastectomy is whether you will have breast reconstruction, wear a prosthetic breast, or choose to go flat. For some women, the choice is clear, while others take time to experiment with prosthetics, nipple tattoos, and padded clothing before reconstruction. One thing is for sure, it takes some getting used to.

The first time I looked in the mirror after my mastectomy I just broke down and cried. My whole body looked different. Suddenly my stomach and butt looked bigger because my chest area was smaller.  And I found out the hard way that reconstruction doesn’t always work at first – it takes several operations. I didn’t construct nipples, but my first implants were wrong, had to be redone – then they encapsulated, had to try to remove scar tissue…didn’t work & there was still a “ledge” in my left boob, that you could see in clothes so I had to have them redone by a specialist in fixing botched jobs. So each time I had to adjust and learn to hide what I didn’t like and feature what I did. My boobs do look good now. And I am very thankful for that.”

Anna Lisa, mastectomy 2004

Some women find going flat very liberating. Losing the bra, wearing soft clothes, choosing a different silhouette.

“I had a double mastectomy and soon after my last radiation, I put on a nice Calvin Klein suit for a job interview.  I also didn’t have much hair so I wore this wig from the hospital for the interview.  The suit had darts where my breasts once were which now made it look too loose.  I took a padded bra and went to the interview; but the problem was that the bra wouldn’t stay in place! It was moving around, up and down and all sideways and I got so hot under that wig. As soon as I got home, I took off the wig, took the bra off, and threw them both out. I had my suits tailored and cut to my new body. They actually look very sleek and natty now! When I showed up for work 3 weeks later (Yes, I got the job!)  my new boss sort of looked at me strangely, so I explained I was much more comfortable like this. He said ‘We didn’t hire you for how you dress or why, we hired you for your talent.’ And nothing was ever said again.”

Laura, double mastectomy 

Some tips to look and feel better after a mastectomy:

  • Makeup, fashion and accessories can help you feel more beautiful in your new body
  • Experimenting with temporary nipple tattoos and prosthetics is a good way to figure out what feels best to you
  • Experimenting with bras will help you find the right one
  • Trying out different  wardrobe silhouettes to compliment your new shape can reveal unexpected new fashion choices
  • Post mastectomy bathing suits designed for different kinds of breast surgery can help you feel comfortable at the pool
  • Flowy dresses and shirts enhance a feminine silhouette without irritating sensitive skin
  • Meditation and mindful practices can help you growing into your new beautiful self

Above all, remember that it is a process, and it takes time to adjust.  The good news is you have already shown the strength to come this far– so take a moment to celebrate yourself, pat yourself on the back for all you have done, and take comfort from the millions of women who have been through this experience and found new ways to express their beauty, inside and out.

The 10 best post-mastectomy items to add to your wardrobe:

  1.  A Lacey Mastectomy Bra

There is no need to look like an old battle-axe after a mastectomy anymore. A plush, lacey bra specifically designed without underwire with removable pads is great for anyone with a double or single reconstruction.  Underwire free bras are gentler on radiation areas and are much more forgiving when one breast is larger than the other. You can still look and feel good.

  1.  An Ultra-Soft Post-Surgery Robe.

After surgery use a multi-functional robe that accommodate r post-surgery drainage tubes.  We chose this one for its ease of use, softness and because it was made by a cancer patient for cancer patients.  

  1.  A Pain Reducing Post-Mastectomy Bra

For some people regular bra straps can pull and cause pain so this one has a front closure and razor back straps to alleviate pressure and stop lateral pulling. It is helpful for single or double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, FLAP reconstruction, lumpectomy and other breast surgeries including reduction. This is a wonderful everyday bra that can be worn for years after treatment or surgery. Built-in pockets can fit breast form inserts to give you a balanced look after a unilateral mastectomy.

  “Inside Out” Post-Surgery Tank Top

“I basically live in tank tops now. I put them under flowy shirts and sweaters both to protect my sensitive skin and to give myself coverage at all times.”

– Melissa, double mastectomy 

After surgery, shield incision sites with soft and smooth fabrics that prevent irritation. We chose this one because the seams are constructed on the outside of the garment minimizing discomfort and it is easy to step into.. IThe shelf bra adds support and there are pockets that accommodate expanders, breast forms, prosthetics, modesty pads or even ice packs. The deep armholes help avoid contact with incisions and pain points making this garment a lovely solution during treatments or post-mastectomy.

  1.  A Makeup Kit to put Your Best Face Forward

Breast and ovarian cancer support site Sharsheret has a FREE “Best Face Forward” makeup kit designed for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It includes make-up products for all skin tones, easy-to-follow make-up application instructions, and tips for those facing hair loss and changes in skin tone.  Sephora sponsors these kits as part of the Sephora Stands initiative which complement the “Face of Cancer Classes for Confidence” video tutorials and free in-store classes.

  1. A Waterproof Shower Shirt

Keep dressings and sutures as dry as possible to speed up the healing process. A waterproofshower shirt will seal everything off and allow you to take a refreshing shower while you recover from surgery. This one was created by a former cancer patient and is patented for its ability to protect chest surgery patients during showers.

  1.  Knitted Knockers

Knitted Knockers are special handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone breast surgery or a mastectomy. Traditional breast prosthetics are expensive, heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable. They typically and can’t be worn for weeks after surgery and require special bras or camisoles with pockets to wear . Knitted Knockers on the other hand are lightweight, soft, comfortable, and beautiful. When placed in a regular bra, they take the shape and feel of a real breast. They are knitted by an army of volunteers across the world who provide them free of charge to anyone who requests one.

  1.  A Breast Surgery Moon Pillow

Most women need some sort of cushion after breast surgery to take the pressure off sensitive breast areas when sleeping, sitting or driving. This one has a firm filling making it extra effective at relieving pressure. They are made by women at a correctional institution as part of a jobs training program.

  1.  Temporary Nipple Tattoos

After women undergo reconstruction after a mastectomy, there is the option of nipple reconstruction as well. Temporary tattoos can help you decide what you might want the new nipples to look like before any surgery or permanent tattooing takes place. And for women who choose not to reconstruct nipples, these temporary tattoos can be used on a daily basis to help feel whole again. Among a few brands we tested these were the most realistic options.

“I haven’t undergone nipple reconstruction and I was surprised at the variety of options—and how oddly healing it can be to have the illusion of nipples again.”

– Lisa Lefebvre, Mend Together Founder/Patient

  1.  Antioxidant Miracle Oil

A nurturing oil for the skin on surgery and radiation sites helps rejuvenate your skin under your clothes and has the added bonus of creating a healthy glow, when packed with antioxidants and vitamins like the one we picked out here.

10. A one-stop Post Mastectomy Gift Box
Kick-start a post mastectomy toolkit with our Mend Together Post-Mastectomy Gift Box which includes most of these items and is thoughtfully curated to help with healing.


Words from Our Founder

“First I had a lumpectomy, and then I had a mastectomy. And post-mastectomy, you have all these drains and plastic tubes in the surgical areas to empty the excess fluid into these round flat containers, which can get heavy. So it is really important to have bras, robes, and loungewear that support the tubes and the containers so they don’t pull on incision sites. I basically had to DIY it with something like an ace bandage inside my clothes to support the weight. It was so awkward and weird. I could have used a robe or special clothes with pockets for these things. 

The other thing is you can’t get those surgical sites wet for a long time, yet you are desperate to bathe. I had to buy a nozzle to stick on my bathtub to take a bath but sometimes I just wanted to shower. They hadn’t yet invented the shower shirt when I got sick, so I wasn’t really able to take a shower.

One of the hardest things for me was feeling a loss of confidence in my own femininity. Right or wrong, our breasts are often tied to what defines us as a woman and it is also very demoralizing the first time you see a typical post-surgery bra. An ugly, clunky thing. The one I got had a little pink rose on it — which infuriated me! Like that was in some way supposed to compensate for the loss of my breasts?  And you can’t really wear traditional bras with underwire or padding if you are flat or have some kind of reconstruction.

Luckily there are new companies like the one lingerie designer Dana Donofree started after her own mastectomy to create better options. We have come a long way since I had my mastectomy, and I am glad there are people out there finding solutions to these types of challenges for women needing attractive, functional clothing after a mastectomy.”

– Lisa Lefebvre, Mend Together Founder/2x cancer “endure-er”

Mend Together offers those with a cancer diagnosis and their loved ones a way to reach out and get the support they need. The registry offers gifts tailored by surgery (including mastectomy), type of treatment, diagnosis, symptoms, and other considerations, so a fellow “endure-er” can add the gifts that they believe will be most helpful to them for others to browse. Help your loved one start a Gift & Donation Registry today.


Kate Rigg is a cancer advocate and graduate from the Juilliard School in New York with an honors degree in creative writing from the University of Melbourne. 

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.

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3D Nipple Tattoo Guide for Post Mastectomy Patients

Nipple Tattoo Guide for Post Mastectomy Patients

Nipple reconstruction has been a common part of mastectomies since the 1980s. If you choose to opt for nipple reconstruction after your mastectomy, you have several options to choose from — some surgical, and some cosmetic. The 3D nipple tattoo has risen in popularity in recent years as a realistic alternative. This Mend Together guide explains the purpose of a 3D nipple tattoo, what you should expect when you get one, and what you should ask to ensure you have selected the right artist to create your tattoo.

What is a 3D nipple tattoo?

A 3D nipple tattoo allows you to add a realistic, dimensionalized nipple and areola to a reconstructed breast without an invasive procedure. This permanent cosmetic tattoo uses strategic shading and shadowing to ink a lifelike nipple and areola after restorative breast surgery. 

Why do some people opt for 3D nipple tattoos?

Nipple-sparing mastectomies are not always an option for those with breast cancer. Some patients report feeling less “whole” without seeing a nipple on their reconstructed breast, even if their entire breast was not removed during surgery. A 3D nipple tattoo provides a non-invasive and realistic option to have a lifelike nipple. Getting a 3D nipple tattoo is also a way to avoid another surgery while obtaining the appearance of a nipple, as other nipple reconstruction methods involve skin grafts and subsequent weeks of healing.

Can you go to a tattoo parlor for 3D nipple tattoos?

You may be surprised to learn that 3D nipple tattoos are typically done by tattoo artists. In fact, several tattoo artists have made their name doing this important work. Many have experience dealing with scarring and the resulting thick skin that may occur as a result of lumpectomies or mastectomies. 

One leading 3D nipple tattoo artist, Vinnie Myers, travels around the U.S. tattooing realistic nipples and areolas on thousands of people who have had mastectomies. Some plastic surgery practices offer 3D nipple tattoos as well. We encourage you to seek out an artist who specializes in 3D nipple tattoos. Your surgeon is a good place to start for referrals.  

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Are 3D nipple tattoos covered by insurance?

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires health insurance providers to cover 3D nipple tattoos as part of breast reconstruction due to a mastectomy. As a result, insurance plans should cover 3D nipple tattoos, but how much a plan covers and which services are eligible depends on the health insurance company. Speak with your insurance company for specifics, as each plan may have its own requirements.

What is the 3D nipple tattoo process?

  • Get the clearance from your medical team. Your surgery incisions should be fully healed before you receive a tattoo. Check-in with your doctors to ensure you are good to go before scheduling an appointment with the tattoo artist.
  • Schedule a consultation with the tattoo artist. During your consultation, you will discuss the size, placement, and pigment of the 3D nipple tattoo. The artist placing your tattoo will also discuss the day-of plan with you. If you have any questions, you can bring them with you to your appointment.  (We have suggestions for questions listed below as well.)
  • Come prepared the day you get your tattoo. Arrive at your appointment with clean skin. Do not apply any numbing agent or lotion to your breast. It is recommended that you wear a bra (we recommend a front clasp post mastectomy bra) to your tattoo session to help hold the tattoo bandages in place. You may also want to wear a zip-up sweatshirt or button-down shirt to easily remove your top for the tattoo, although some parlors may have a gown or robe for you to wear.
  • Check the placement one more time. Your tattoo artist will plot out where the tattoo will go. You will also sign consent forms, and possibly medical forms, to move forward with the tattoo.
  • Care for your tattoo at home. Once your tattoo is complete, the artist will cover it with medical gauze and send you home with instructions for care. Keep your 3D nipple tattoo covered with gauze for at least one week. You will need to change your bandage a few times per day, as well as apply an antibacterial ointment.

What you should ask before getting a 3D nipple tattoo

  1. Have you inked 3D nipple tattoos before? A 3D nipple tattoo is specialized and requires great attention to detail. Not every tattoo artist has the experience or skillset to tattoo a realistic nipple or areola. Ask to see a portfolio before proceeding.
  2. How long does it take? While each tattoo artist has their own procedures, you can expect the actual tattooing process to take approximately half an hour.
  3. How much will it cost? Each nipple tattoo costs a few hundred dollars, but the price varies depending on the experience of the tattoo artist and the area where they practice
  4. Do 3D nipple tattoos hurt? Like any tattoo, you can expect to feel some pain. However, it is common for mastectomy patients to have reduced or no feelings in their reconstructed areas, so you may feel less pain than others may feel while getting a tattoo. 

What are your alternatives to permanent nipple tattoos?

If you are not ready for the commitment of a tattoo, there are other realistic routes you can take to add a nipple to reconstructed breasts. Temporary nipple tattoos allow you to experiment with different looks, pigments, and placement. You can use the temporary nipple tattoos every day, or you can try them before making the decision to get a 3D nipple tattoo.

If you are not ready for the commitment of a tattoo, there are other realistic routes you can take to add a nipple to reconstructed breasts. Temporary nipple tattoos allow you to experiment with different looks, pigments, and placement. You can use the temporary nipple tattoos every day, or you can try them before making the decision to get a 3D nipple tattoo.

“I haven’t undergone nipple reconstruction yet and I was surprised at the variety of options that are out there—and how oddly healing it can be to have the illusion of nipples again.” — Lisa Lefebvre, Mend Together Founder/2x cancer “endure-er”

Create the illusion of nipples without invasive surgery

For some who undergo mastectomies, not seeing a nipple can be a jarring experience. With 3D nipple tattoos, you can create the appearance of nipples without undergoing another surgical procedure and the weeks of healing it takes afterward. As you research your options, be sure to partner with a tattoo artist who has experience working with others who have had mastectomies. That way, you know your tattoo is in trusted hands. If you are not ready to commit or if you want to explore other options before a 3D nipple tattoo, visit our shop for temporary nipple tattoos recommended by Mend Together’s Founder, Lisa Lefebvre.  She personally tested many brands, and offers her favorite tattoos on Mend Together.


Stella Morrison is an award-winning journalist (Chicago Tribune, Greater Media Newspapers) who partners with mission-driven companies to share their stories. She is based in New York City.

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.