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Mastectomy Shopping List: Yes, You Need One

Ellen Goodwin, Artifcts
March 29, 2024

As the co-founder of Artifcts, it’s probably somewhat fitting that I am thinking about the ‘stuff’ of cancer. I learned last year that Goodwill passes millions of pieces of medical supplies and items every year to veterans groups. I get it! You need a lot of special purpose items to provide comfort, mobility, and more for in-home care and to stay engaged in everyday activities. 

If you are having a mastectomy and want to get your ducks in a row ahead of surgery without buying a lot of unnecessary stuff, here’s my shopping list. 


Fill them ahead and have them waiting along with detailed information on when to take what and for how long. I also wrote the laymen’s name for each one on the label to make it simpler for myself and my husband to grab without having to remember the prescription name.

Other medical supplies

Luckily the total of this all will be no more than $50:

      • Aquaphor. This is required for the gauze pads you’ll use. I was glad I got a large squeezable tube as it was more convenient than a tub.
      • Q-Tips. To apply the Aquaphor to the pads.
      • Non-stick (gauze) pads, 2x3 inch. When my wound vacs came off one week postop, then I needed to use these non-stick pads. Getting the right size simply saves you the step of cutting the larger ones in half. I also realized that the smaller ones have a different sheen than the larger ones. Either one works, in theory, but my skin did not like the smaller ones with a high sheen.
      • Silicone tape, 1.5 inch. Three weeks give or take after surgery, with your plastic surgeon’s approval, you can use of this on incisions that are done scabbing. I bought MEDPRIDE Easy-Tear Silicone Gel Tape Roll.
      • Vitamin E. Two weeks post-op my plastic surgeon directed me to start on a daily does of Vitamin E, 1000 IU, for the next three months. Always consult your doctor before adding even a vitamin or supplement to your routine.


You will absolutely benefit from some adjustments to your wardrobe for the first weeks and likely much longer (at least as far as bras are concerned).

      • Post mastectomy shirts with drain pockets. I consider this medical as what would you do without this to hold your drains!? Get two shirts so you can easily rotate through them as long as someone is there to do the laundry. I spent less that $20 on each.
      • Soft bras. Ditto, "medical" in my mind, because your plastic surgeon will likely require you to use them. If you have a wound vac, this does not apply until one week (or so) in once the plastic surgeon removes it. My plastic surgeon recommended the Fruit of the Loom Women’s Front Closure Cotton Sports Bra, 3-pack, and said I would need to order two sizes up because the sizing is strange. So if you are a 32 get that 36, 38s go for the 42, ... and thank me later!
      • Button down pajama tops and regular day-time shirts. You’ll need these once you are no longer living and sleeping in your post mastectomy shirts to manage the drains. Around 3 weeks I was able to put on a regular shirt if needed but given that I was still not moving my arms with ease and needed to redress my incisions twice daily, button down shirts were simpler.

One pillow to rule them all

There are so many pillows marketed to mastectomy patients. Some are for under your arms, some go across your body as you sleep, others are for under your knees, again, as you sleep. 

In the end, there is only one pillow beyond my normal bed pillows that I liked in the slightest and it was the heart-shaped Axillapilla®. Why? The tiny bead filler means it is super soft and can mold more gently to your body than other fillers. The tiny loops on each side were strangely helpful as well to easily carry them and sometimes to hold the pillow more securely to my body.

The bolster and wedge pillow I bought were wasted investments. I’ll find a way to donate them somewhere so others can benefit from them.

Apart from the pillow, I will say this - had I to do it all over again, I would have borrowed or rented a recliner. Beyond the complexities of pain and of drains and wound vacs, sleep was my top impediment to recovery. I would wander my home during the night from bed to a chair to a couch seeking sleep. It was misery. Seek out a recliner (and still get the Axillapilla pillows)!

Creature comforts (also make great gifts)

Want to help yourself to a little comfort amid what’s an overall miserable experience to reach cancer free state? Or maybe loved ones are eager to send you something to express their support?

Combine potential side effects of prescription meds and being off your normal diet and activity with the fact that you can’t shower properly and have limited arm mobility, your skin and confidence can take a beating. These indulgences become less indulgence and more good mental health care:  

      • Hand lotion. I chose a Lala Retro™ Whipped Cream from Drunk Elephant, which my daughter immediately coveted. I let her use some as a thank you when she washed my hair. Ha. It absorbed nicely and worked.
      • Skin exfoliators. Any sugar scrub you like will do the trick.
      • Meal certificates. Skipping shopping and meal prep is a great de-stressor for the whole family during these long trying days of recovery. When loved ones far away went to help, suggest a local restaurant that has takeout!

      • Books and streaming services. You can’t move much. You need to nap. You also need to kill a lot of time. Some balance of books and tv/movies will help. Ask friends for their favs and stock. Try e-books and reduce the ‘stuff’ you’re accumulating, too.
      • A professional facial or pedicure. At home masks, yes, but here’s where a trip or two to the spa once you are through the worst of the recovery phase would be well worth the investment, if feasible. (Great group gift!) You can't move your arms enough to properly scrub your face, and you generally feel yucky, so go for it! Likewise, you’ll likely only be interested in this once your drains are out, but then… in might feel good and doesn’t require much walking or movement.

Any "must haves" from your own experience that I missed? Let me know, and we can add to this article. Reach out to


© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What's New at Artifcts
Collection Management Made Easy and Meaningful  

Artifcts thanks Sarah Reeder, Artifactual History Appraisal, for her contributions to the following article.

Reading time: 4 minutes

You may have one or many collections, intentional collections and accidental collections. Part of the fun of collecting is keeping track of it: Knowing what you have and what you’re still hunting for, what is sentimental vs. valuable, and what is okay to sell some day versus you’d prefer to pass down to someone special.

Short checklist about collections

We know a thing or to about accidental collections. Try out our free checklist available here.

If you were a professional archivist, librarian, or appraiser, you’d have a ready tool in your pocket to help manage your collections. It’s called a finding aid. But guess what? As you Artifct your collections, you are implicitly leveraging the best of finding aids, but in a friendly form that all can enjoy and benefit from. 

Here’s your peek inside the world of archivists where we show you how finding aids and collection management are made easy and meaningful with Artifcts!

What Is a Finding Aid, and Why Should You Care?

Unless you are a collections professional (archivist, librarian, appraiser…), the concept of a finding aid is likely foreign to you. For the longest time at Artifcts we even mistakenly referred to them as finding keys. Oops!

A finding aid is exactly what it sounds like: A tool that helps you locate items within a large collection in a fast and efficient way. A finding aid is a guide that describes the contents of an archival collection. A well-designed finding aid makes quick work of determining the topical relevance of any collection. After all, what good is a collection if discoverability hinders locating and using elements within the collection in the future.

Many of us have experienced the feelings of dread and being overwhelmed upon contemplating many boxes of inherited items that probably have something important contained in them but what and where? Imagine if you had a finding aid that told you exactly what was important and where you could locate it!

This is the magic of what finding aids do.

To a large degree, information within a finding aid is standardized per guidelines from the Society of American Archivists, “Describing Archives: A Content Standard,” better known simply as DACS. Standardization means a professional could work with or for any gallery, library, archive, or museum (aka GLAM) and their collections without much difficulty. They might simply display the information differently than one’s accustomed to.

A finding aid would have information such as: reference code, title, date, extent, name of creator, description, dates, and location. Does that list look familiar? If you Artifct, it should… 

For those of us who didn’t go to Library Science school, in our daily lives we probably do not want to think about taxonomies, metadata, bytes of storage, or even finding aids. We want to enjoy and share the meaning behind the items we’ve collected and ensure the stories and value behind them live on!

Enter Artifcts: Solving Age Old Problems of Finding Aids for Every-Day Collectors 

What we created at Artifcts is the solution to several age-old problems of finding aids in an individual and family-friendly fashion. And this means great things for you all!  While finding aids are brilliant tools for professionals, they are disconnected from how most of us describe and catalog the ‘why’ of our collections. We need more multitasking support in our lives.

Here’s how you can use Artifcts to preserve the history and the value of your collections beyond the constraints of traditional finding aids.

Use those QR codes.

If you were to work with a professional appraiser, archivist, or collections manager of any type, they will likely offer as part of their services a description of the collection and list organizing the inventory within your collection, a finding aid of some sort. But how do you link that list to your physical collection? At Artifcts, you can print a QR code or use Artifcts QR code stickers to link the physical and the digital.

music box with Artifcts QR code on the bottom of the base

An Artifcts QR code unlocks the story and value!

Record your stories.

Move beyond “scope notes” and “meta data” inherent to the archivist’s expertise – “This is a 19th-century {name of item}” – and breathe life, context, and personal meaning into the objects in your collection, e.g. “This is what Great Great Grandma brought from France when she moved to New York. And I’m giving it to you now.”  

Artifcts offers the options to share your story, indicate what you want to do with items in the future, and supply critical other information like where on earth you’ve stored the item in your home or elsewhere and the supporting documents (receipts, appraisals, and more). 

Connect the dots.

We typically describe each Artifct you create as connecting the dots, because only you know how photos of those specific items relate to shape a story or history. But we help you go a step further, too. You can use our @ feature to cross reference one Artifct with another, tying together pieces of a collection and pieces of a story that others may not otherwise realize relate.  

Description field on Artifcts with menu open showing options for linking with @

Simply type @ as you add the story or description to your Artifct to link to other Artifcts.

Leverage your community.

Let’s not forget the value in sharing and collaboration to learn more about items in your collections. Through Artifcts Circles and the option to give ‘Edit’ permission to other paid Artifcts members, you can crowdsource information from your loved ones and experts alike to capture important details about your collections that may add historical and family history information as well as increase the value, too. 

Preserve what is.

Add the photos, videos, and original documents you have to your Artifcts. There’s a spot dedicated to securely preserve each as is. No compression. No conversion. What you upload is what you can always download again, too.

In our spring 2024 series finale of Evenings with Artifcts, our expert guests shed light on the 'why' and 'what' of collections.

Ensure that if you work with an appraiser or other collections manager in the future, they provide documentary support through Artifcts, so that you can protect and share the value of your collections with friends and family as well as knock off those “to dos” with your insurance company, financial planner, and estate attorney. 


You may also be interested in these ARTIcles by Artifcts:

What to Consider When You Plan to Donate Art and Other Collectibles

From Rare Art to Family Heirlooms: Tips From a Master as You Consider Selling Your 'Stuff'

Everything You Wanted to Know About Appraisals but Were Afraid to Ask

How to Artifct that Collection

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Artifcts® Platform Now Supports Publishing to Custom-Designed Books with Partner Akin

Whether you think about photo books as unique and personalized gifts or dream of publishing a life memoir, we love our books! Today Artifcts announced a new partnership with Akin ( to offer simple, custom designed books to Arti Community members who wish to publish their Artifcts to books. 

You need only look at the explosive growth of photo book companies to support everything from build-your-own to instant print from Instagram or your phone to know how much we love to have and to hold books. 

Together, Artifcts and Akin have made it simple and affordable to publish a custom-designed, premium quality, personalized book of your Artifcts.  

“Not everyone enjoys spending hours combing through photos, uploading them into software, stressing over layouts, colors, and font choices,” commented Artifcts Co-founder Ellen Goodwin. “Our partnership with Akin means you can simply choose the Artifcts you want to publish, share them privately with Akin, and they’ll lay out the book in the template of your choice and ship it off to you! The whole process for our members takes minutes!” 

Artifcts excels in innovation that places the needs of its Arti Community members first. People expect to share their stories with meaningful context that includes photos, audio, and video. Artifcts has ensured this promise translates to printed books, too. Unlike a standard photo book, for every Artifct you publish, you can include a QR code that allows the viewer to scan and access additional photos and video tied to the story. Your book can come alive. 

“We don’t want our members to worry about the book creation process. We want people to enjoy spending time reliving their stories, and recording what they value most,” said Artifcts Co-founder Heather Nickerson. 

For more information, visit Concierge & Other Professional Services or review the FAQs available at 


© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Not Sure What to Write? Tips from Author Jeff Greenwald

He's authored 1000s of articles, several books, and what's maybe the first known travel blog. And during the Fall 2022 series of Evenings with Artifcts Jeff Greenwald shared with us simple but powerful tips, and a healthy dose of perspective, to help us craft our own stories behind the objects of our lives.  

Watch the full Evenings with Artifcts event here.

  • It is hard to write about an object with no personal meaning but even harder when it has tremendous personal meaning. Bear that in mind and go easy on yourself. 

  • Start with something true. This is the trick to writing anything nonfiction. For example, start with a little line about where you got the object: “I bought this in a street market in Istanbul.” And from there go on to describe the scene a little bit and what happened there that connects you with the object.  

Start with something true.

  • Other starters for your Artifcts:  

        • Where were you when you acquired the object? 
        • Was it a gift? Who gave it to you? Tell a bit about them. What was your relationship with them that they felt they should give you a gift like that? “The moon Rocket was a gift for my friend Dave Mccutcheon, and he and I have been friends for many years and share a love of robots and spaceships and dinosaurs... all those things we loved when we were kids.” 
        • Why is it important to you?
        • What feelings does it evoke in you?
  • If a story comes to mind, you can just start jotting it down anywhere. Let your thoughts go where they will. It can be a collection of random thoughts that you can look at later and put together into some sort of a story structure. 

  • We all have stories. Writers block comes from our internal critic. It challenges you with, “Why would anybody want to read it? What could you have to say? What makes you think you're so great that anyone should listen to anything you're telling them?” You have to tell yourself, “I have a right to do this because I’m a human being with a story, and the story deserves to be told whether or not you, my internal critic, thinks that it does.” Push the internal critic aside. 
I’m a human being with a story, and the story deserves to be told.
  • If you value the stories and need motivation to begin capturing and preserving those stories with Artifcts, make a deal with yourself like Jeff did. Jeff made a pact to give away the objects once their stories were told. Maybe you’ll choose to Artifct twice per week. Or perhaps you’ll start with those items that are most meaningful to you.  

  • A bit of advice Jeff shared from esteemed author Kurt Vonnegut: Write your stories as though you are writing them for one person, as if you are telling this person each of the stories. It gives all the stories a similar tone, a singular voice. 

  • Always include when and where the object was acquired. These are important details.

  • Struggling with a title? Write out 10 of them. It will help you to start to shape your story, too.

Our stuff, the objects that we collect, that inspire us, they are really not what's important. We do not need to keep them. The only thing that is important are the stories, and the only way to keep the stories is to tell them.


© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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