Knowing you are about to undergo surgery can be extremely confronting, and sometimes terrifying.

And you can feel as out of control as a 5-year-old on a dodgem car.

Your surgeon and specialist will prepare you for the procedure. But here, we’ll help prepare you on what to take to hospital, in a Fox in Flats kind of way, by sharing some tips and advice from other women .


Last week, a dear friend of mine had her ankle operated on. Another woman, who is BFFs with my buddy,  had surgery to remove a brain tumour. And an old uni friend had a baby by caesarean section.

US research shows that as women, we are likely to undergo 9.2 surgeries in our lifetimes. The reproductive years are busy for hospital check-ins; from the age of 45, the visits tend to become even more frequent. It’s only a matter of time before hospitals start introducing some sort of frequent flyer system.

While we sometimes may not have control over what happens to our bodies, we do have control over what goes into our suitcases when we pack for hospital.  And we can do it in style, dammit!


So I turned to my gorgeous, and somewhat hilarious friend, Pene, who has endured her fair share of surgeries over the past two years. Despite her double mastectomy, and the multiple operations she sustained after this, she’s managed to look stunning throughout it all.

I asked her how she managed it, and in response she sent me a copy of a letter she wrote for another woman who was about to undergo similar surgery. Because she is awesome, she also agreed to let me publish it on Fox in Flats.

I’m sure you will agree that this letter and list is not only helpful, but inspiring.


Excerpt from a letter by my brave friend Pene to help prepare another fox for her hospital stay:

So Miss Control Freak – how you doing??!!
Sit back, breathe and take a little chill pill – or a glass of wine, or a foot massage, or a facial, or all of the above!I will put down the things that I found invaluable to take to hospital, and hopefully other girls can add onto this list:

* A drink bottle with a nozzle thing-o bit that you don’t have to unscrew – trying to drink from a glass with a straw in it while horizontal is a recipe for disaster…

* Magazines. Books are a waste of time as your brain is fish food at best with the drugs that you will be on. Unless you want to read the same line for half an hour, take glossies with non-brain-involvement. 
* Take your best and prettiest knickers. Let’s face it, you won’t be wearing pretty bras for a while so your bum may as well look hot. 
* Take your favourite perfume and a nice, smelly soap. Clean and nice smelling with a good-looking bum works well on your esteem. Also take in some make-up – even if it is just some mascara and lip gloss. Why should your bum have ALL the glory! 
* Take your own pillow. 
* Wash your hair and if it is long enough, tie it up. BUT DON’T TIE IT UP AT THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD!! You will be on your back and there is nothing worse than one of those headaches that comes with having a hair lump digging into your neck. Pigtail plaits work well – don’t stress about the look – remember your sexy knickers!! 
* Comfortable clothes and/or pyjamas. I found that wearing PJs all the time made me feel “sick” and so wearing clothes were better for my state of mind (and a strange mind it is, too…:-)). Leggings and shorts with loose t-shirts were what I found best for me. Someone mentioned that button-ups annoyed them – I agree. You are in and out of your tops on a very regular basis – wound checks, drain checks, dressing changes, etc, so having something that just stretched up worked best for me. I wore a lot of singlet tops too as you can pull the straps off your shoulders and drag the whole thing down. 
* Slip on shoes for when you want to roam the hallways seeking out a cup of tea that doesn’t taste like soap scum! 
* A big shawl/scarf that you can wrap around your shoulders if you get cool – go for something colourful and cheery. 
* A diary and a pen. Write down your day at the end of each one. You will be amazed at how much you improve when you read back over the last couple of days and realise that two days ago you were getting a bed bath and today you are in the shower washing your hair. It is a great way to remind yourself of how far you have come. 
* Take an iPod or a small radio so you can chill out to your fave tunes. TV just gets annoying after a while. 
* Take in some crackers/nuts/fresh fruit. Sometimes you just need to nibble on something, especially if you (like me) get a little nauseous with medications. 
* Mobile phone and CHARGER!! 
I think that pretty much covers the things you can pack. 
Now for what I think are the most important things:* Take in a whole bundle of patience – sometimes things just don’t feel like they are going your way.. PATIENCE!!
* Take your sense of humour – it really does help.
* Just because you might be feeling OK is not a licence to overdo things – for goodness sakes let your body have the time to heal! Sit your beautifully knickered bum down, polish your nails, spray some extra perfume and flick through those glossies. REST!!! 
* Be prepared to tell people to GO HOME!! Some people have no idea of what is appropriate. Threaten to vomit if you must – this is a guaranteed room-clearing technique. Ask the nurses to block all calls and visitors. You might need to be pretty firm, but that room is your home while you are there… Sometimes one person too many is enough to tip you off the edge into alien-style sobbing those wicked little hiccups that come with dam busting tears that follow hand in hand with red puffy eyes and generally require a nice shot of drugs (or tequila) and a box full of tissues. You know the sort??!!! 
* Learn how to breathe properly. Drop your shoulders down (they magically raise up to the base of your ears when you are in pain) and take deep lung filling sucks in and blow them out until there is nothing left. Breathe!!! 
And last – but not least… 
* Measure your recovery against no one but yourself. NO ONE!
I had a woman next to me who was up waving her arms around like a complete lunatic within two days, while I was lying there feeling like my ribs had been cracked, my breath sucked out of me, and a friendly elephant had taken up residence on my chest. Everything that happened to her put me into a flat spin. I was trying to pull the eject cord but it hurt too much to raise my arms! She was the worst thing that happened to me, until I worked out that my body was different to hers and comparisons were not helping me. 
Right – oh! It’s a bit long, but I think it covers the good basics!! … and then some!!… 
Take care,
Lots of love Pene xxx 


What a special letter.

What a special woman.


Me? In my lifetime I’ve seen more than my fair share of the inside of a hospital ward. To this list I’d add:

  • Dry Shampoo – it may be a while before you can wash your hair.
  • A box of your favourite tissues. Ironically, hospital tissues can feel like sandpaper.
  • Photos of your loved ones, to bring a smile to your soul.

What would you add to the list?




  • Miss Fox xxxx  Thank you and you’re welcome all in one big hug xxx 🙂
    Yes we have been through our fair share, but we have come through this will heads held high and a wonderful sense of direction….  You have made me a little misty!
    If this list can help anyone going through ANY surgery then I will be happy.  Knowing that it has helped others does give me a nice warm fuzzy pride..
    And one more thing to add to that list – Face wipes (not to be confused with Baby Bum wipes!!)..  they will make freshening up quick and easy, and when our face feels nice and clean it does have a certain magic in helping us feel a little better…
    Big Hugs Miss Fox – and lots of love xxxxx

  • Hand sanitiser for the doctor and nurse before they touch you. So many don’t wash their hands.

    A hair accessory or two like a bow headband, sparkly clip or vintage silk scarf make your hair last a day or two longer and perk you up!

    A nail file etc because you might actually have time to do your nails.

    Bed jacket or cardigan or pashmina. You will not want a dressing gown.

  • I have tears streaming reading this letter again. This letter was written to me and was such a lifeline. Miss Fox A, Miss Fox P and Miss Fox M, my life is so much rcher for you all, The Russian Reunion must happen!

  • I had emergency surgery just over a week ago… Wish I’d known before & had this list.

    I was confined to bed for a couple of days – no shower post op yuck! I’d add:

    Dry shampoo
    Cleansing face wipes
    Face/eye cream
    Soft socks/slip on slippers
    If your having anything “girly” done that may make a certain loo trip scary/painful a big bag of almonds…

  • All I can say is wow, tears in my eyes and also wish I had this list a few years ago, I didn’t think of the sexy knickers but did go with wrap tops ( it was january in ireland all the heating in the hospital couldn’t allow singlets!) and found bright purple and red wrap style pj tops too 
    I banned all visitors except hubbie and kids for first two days just so I could heal and that I think saved my sanity I could sleep, read  and just relax when I wanted. I decided to be super selfish for two days and I think I healed faster because of it, but that’s just what worked for me 🙂

    • Hey Carolann, 
      Hopefully, given its been a few years ago for you now, it’s just ancient history? 
      I think there is so, so much to be said about banning visitors. When you’re in hospital, there’s serious work to be done – getting better. And its kindof nice to have that time to yourself in your own little cocoon to deal with things. Thankyou for sharing your tips here. 
      Big hugs, Andrea

  • I’m not really sure why this is so right for me to read now, but it is. Having been a RN for most of my professional career, I would add the following to the list of must haves in Hospital – your own tea/coffee cup/mug, and chocolate for those hard worked and underpaid nursing staff – they will love you for thinking of them. I have also been painful in taking my own down throw that is much lighter and warmer than hospital bedding. I have very good friends transporting me and half of my worldly belongings to and from Hospital whenever I have been in need. Agree with the added face cleansing wipes and pashmina/wrap rather than dressing gown. Also a big fan of comfie PJ’s in interlock rather than woven fabrics. Blessings to all who are in the situation of needing Pene’s list and add ons….

  • Love this … we all end up in this situation at some stage in our lives. You tackle it with pathos and humour … nice mix and a helpful list. (BTW … was grt to hang out with you x)

  • This is a great list. I’ve had surgery more times than I count but (luckily) this is the first time I’ve had full abdominal surgery in years. A shout out for practical advice I hadn’t thought to ask the surgeon had one of them send me here, to this post. It was just what I was after. It’s the thing like what type of undies to wear, whether to wear day clothes or nighties (I usually wear things like tracky daks and t-shirts which double as day clothes but I’m worried they will hurt the scar this time). This is a fab guide which has taken all that into account. I just want to rest as much as possible in hospital so I can heal quickly. I also take my own electrical cord (if it’s not a mental health ward – big no no there), as it’s painful reaching electrical sockets after surgery and I can charge a few devices at once, all within reach.

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