Thursday, April 8, 2010

Okay, I Know I Said We Would Speak No More about This

I am blogging about this because it's on my mind today and maybe it will help inform somebody, somebody who wants to be informed about something yucky. These were my words the other day:
"I am only going to say one gross thing. That thing is: surgical drains. Now let's not speak of that again."

I didn't think that I would need to speak of them again because I thought they wouldn't be hanging around long enough. I have two, and they are still with me. The nurse said, "You will probably keep these for 7 to 10 days." But when you hear something like that, don't you automatically think, "Oh, well I will be done in like five days because I am very advanced"? That's what I thought. Or certainly that I would be closer to the 7 days than the 10. Well.

If you don't know what a surgical drain is then I am glad for you. Maybe skip the rest of this post and go get a FroYo. If you want to know what a surgical drain is, it is a plastic grenade-sized bulb that is attached to your body with a thin little tube. The little tube disappears somewhere inside you. That plastic bulb is draining extra fluid from your surgical site, fluid that would otherwise build up somewhere or ooze somewhere or do something unpleasant. Something even more unpleasant than collecting in a grenade-sized bulb that is attached to your body.

I think I am a typical mastectomy patient in that I have two of these things: one drain is for my boob and one is for my armpit, where the surgeon took out some lymph nodes. They both come out under my arm and are sutured (and kind of taped) under there, and then there's a few feet of tubing and then the bulb. The trick is where to stash these babies while you go about your day. You cannot ever let them dangle from your body, obviously, so they have to be attached to your clothing somehow, but preferably somewhere out of sight.

Here's where I think I might be able to be of help to someone: I have heard that some women wear a fanny pack and put their drains in that. A fanny pack. Remember those? That is certainly a utilitarian solution, but can we do a little better? For one thing, I don't own a fanny pack. I asked my sister if she had one that maybe I could borrow, and she was like, um, what? I think I offended her. So no fanny packs.

Another solution is just to wear a big blouse and safety pin the drains inside. This didn't work for me--I could feel the bulbs against my skin and it just looks frumpy. Or feels frumpy. I don't know.

In the hospital, these awesome ladies from the auxiliary breast cancer support network visited me and gave me some gifts. One of them was a black jacket that has pockets on the inside for tucking the bulbs into. I was very grateful to them for all their kindness, and this jacket thing was on the right track. However, it was a big one-size-fits-all, kind of a hot fabric for the weather here, and just not a good look for me. That didn't work, but it got me thinking.

I have two down vests from Lands End. They look like this.
It's hard to tell in the pic, but they have slash pockets on the sides. It dawned on me that these vests (I have this pink one and another green one) look exactly the same inside out as they do right side out. I figured out that I could just wear a loose t-shirt, or really any shirt I want, put the vest on inside out, and tuck the drain bulbs into the pocket, which is now on the inside. Then I pin the bulbs to the pocket for security. Even when the vest is unsnapped you can't see the drains or any tubing, because the vest is just slightly longer than your shirt hem.

Then I look totally normal, and what's more, I feel like I look totally normal, because this is what I wear all the time, as you can attest if you know me. A tee, puffy vest, and jeans is my uniform. Though today I wore shorts. The puffy down has the added benefit of camouflaging any asymmetry you've got going on with the bosoms, and of making you feel a little more protected from the world. The last couple of days, when it got really warm here, I switched to a zip-front Gap vest I have, in a lighter cotton material. Same principle though--turn it inside out so the pockets are on the inside. If you find yourself or someone you know in this situation, remember the magic of the Inside-Out Puffy Vest.

So anyhoo, the drains and I am tired of them and I can get rid of them plz? Their output has not tapered off like I wanted it to, and my armpit is bugging me, so today I called the surgeon's nurse. She listened to me and said, "Have you increased your activity with that arm?" I said that I was walking around my house some but definitely not doing any housework. Plus, Matt keeps an eye on me. He won't even let me pick up my purse. I told her that I didn't think I was being too active with it but that I guessed I could be even less active. She said, "You know, no wiping your counters or sweeping." I was like, "Oh honey, BELIEVE me when I say that I'm not doing any of that." But we said we'd give it another 24 hours and I would check back in. So I dunno. The more active I am, the more these tissues will produce fluid, which at this point, apparently, is not good and is slowing their healing. And it is slowing me getting these tubes out of my body.

And who is dealing with these drains and emptying them and keeping track of their data? That would be Matt. Dude can do anything, carefully and well. Except complain, I handle all of that.

26 comments:

Amy said...

No one should have to have a mastectomy and THEN suffer the indignity of a fanny pack. No one. Good on you with the creative solutions!

Clearly I have no idea, but it seems to me like activity would make it drain MORE. No? Maybe you can, like, hang drywall or something.

Becky said...

Yes that's right, I should have been more clear: more activity will make them drain more which at this point is not good. This isn't fluid that needs to come out, it is fluid that needs to stop being produced so these tissues can go ahead and heal or something. They can't take the drains out until they are producing very little fluid.

Kimberly said...

I have a fanny pack you can borrow!!! (Don't even ask me why I own one...) You know, just in case you want to change it up a bit.

Surgical drains fit into the category of medieval torture. Hang in there! A little more pampering from your sweet hubby and you'll have them out in no time.

Amy said...

Ah, I get it. That's why I was confused when we were talking about it the other day.

Beth said...

I was going to offer any number of the plethora of fanny packs that I have with my dad's company logo on them, but I see you are covered. I love the inside out puffy vest thing. GIrl, you might start a trend. People will just think you are cool and want to copy you. Fist pump, girlfriend. Yeeeahhhh, blow it up!

Pattycakereally said...

Becky, they told me that my drain in my lung was kite string, I was so dopey, I believed them. The day they took it out, I saw it as a garden hose size piece about ten inches long. With all of the drugs at the surgeons disposal, I thought it was pretty tacky that he pulled it out cm by cm, I screamed, literally, the whole time...Having said that, your drains may not be garden hose size, but if I were you, I would ask for drugs..aint Patty

Pattycakereally said...

BTW,you can be the first to know that I am gona start smoking, having lung cancer without ever smoking seems cruelly unjust. Thinking about Virginia Slims, don't know any other brands, but will investigate. BTW, my broken ribs and surgery are making my recovery very slow, I usually have about three hours a day when I can sit and do computer or paper work..glad to hear you seem to be getting around pretty good, I have not made it to the sainted Target yet, but it is on my list..

Mad Woman said...

I am SO glad you have avoided the indignity that is a fanny pack. I shudder at the thought that you might have been walking around out in the world in one of those. Yikes! Great idea with the vests...you should market those!

Michele said...

Leave it to you to create a clever solution. I am in total awe.

What an angel Matt is; I'm not sure if I could do that. I have a very low tolerance from icky.

The Dental Maven said...

Have your tried Drano? Just a thought...

Michele R said...

The vest sounds like a perfect solution for your hopefully soon-to-be-a-thing-of-the-past bulb/tube situation.
My Hubs would have probably wanted to go all MacGuyver and wrap duct tape around my torso.

Jenni said...

Oh, god, fanny packs. This is the SEASON for fanny packs in DC. I think those things are only still available for sale in the Midwest.

I'm sorry the draining hasn't tapered off yet. I hope it's not being caused by excess pillow shopping for your friends in the mid-Atlantic with lame Target stores.

M said...

I'm ignoring the snarky comment made about fanny packs being available only in the Midwest. OK. There is one on the floor of my hall closet which my sister accidentally on purpose deposited there after retrieving it from her own personal gift graveyard (this one was a corporate giveaway from Sprint back in the day) and it was refused by all local charity thrift stores. I could send it to you in case you wear out your vests. ; )

But just for the record, and I don't mean to sound defensive about this, I HAVE NOT SEEN ANY FANNYPACKS FOR SALE OR SPORTED BY PASSERSBY IN THE MIDWEST SINCE 1995.

Now, this is how much I like your blog: I am hanging with you through these graphic medical musings even though I haven't the stomach to look at a papercut on my own self because, well, that's just what fellow bloggers do. Keep getting weller!

Mary
Flat Rock Creek Notebook

Maggie said...

Becky, leave it to you to find a unique way to be a fashionista even when recovering from surgery. Also, Matt is so WONDERFUL. True love is maintaining your honey's drains tubes for them!! Keep on healing, we love you!!

Viki said...

The dreaded drains. I must say compared to me you are a rock star that you even care where to put the drains. I just pinned them to a flannel shirt that I wore for weeks. I never went out of the house. I spent all my time sleeping on the couch LOL. That is a very good solution though. Also, my husband emptied my drains too. I think I did try it once.

A Day That is Dessert said...

I wore an untucked shirt and tucked them into my jeans. Hated them and woke up a lot at night when I'd toss and turn and one would inadvertently get tugged on.

mbaumbick said...

I'll keep my hopes up that you get rid of them today. Rock stars, both of you, that's all I have to say.

Kelly said...

If it's any consolation, you totally rock the whole vest/t shirt ensemble. You're looking great!

Keely said...

I *totally* think that. When I had X, and needed stitches, and they told me it would be a 6-week heal, I was floored when it actually TOOK 6 weeks.

You really are a brilliant fashionista, btw. If you want to switch up your look, I remembered these 'gear' windbreakers over at ThinkGeek...
http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/miscellaneous/baae/zoom/

Marie said...

I know those drains must be a pain, but as for the drainage...better out than in!
Love you and LOVE that Matt!XXOO

Cassie said...

You're the coolest. Matt is a good dude. I hope that drainage settles the eff down, and quickly.

kathy said...

Becky,
I think you need to create your very own "after surgery drainage storage" fashion line! Who knows how many people have to deal with this problem?! You don't even think about what people go through after surgery. Hang in there. I love you.

jillbert said...

I've seen the drains (sort of) on Dr. 90210. They don't look fun, and those girls are getting them voluntarily!!!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

My husband has a pseudo f-pack . . . and was going to take it with us to Paris until he heard the cock of my shotgun.

I'm doing my "Damn drains be gone" dance now.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I remember helping my mom keep her tubes clear. I hope you will not have them much longer. How brave you are.

Lands' End said...

Good morning!

We read your story and were truly inspired by your courage and strength. We wanted to send you our best wishes for a speedy recovery and clean bill of health.

We were also hoping we could gift you with something fun to wear once you don't have to wear the surgical drains. Could you contact us at: fanservice@landsend.com ?

Sincerely,

Your friends at Lands' End