Um yeah, no it’s not, but I just really wanted to use that title so…
Let’s all say a collective prayer that I am nearing the end of my indentured drainitude. My output has been pretty low so far today and if I can squeak in under 30mls today and tomorrow, I can have my last drain removed Thursday. This would buy me approximately 18-20 hours of no drains or surgeries until my surgical port placement on Friday at 11am. I dream big, guys.
Since my mastectomy and axillary lymph dissection ended up being two separate surgeries (reminder; the surgeon said this only happens once a year), I was the super lucky recipient of 2 separate drain experiences.
Most women have these two surgeries at the same time thus ending up with all their drains at once. Not me, I like to be special so I was like, ‘psssttt, nodes… hey guys, can you hide that one tiny micromet of cancer so we can be the 1/500 that needs a second surgery please?!’ And my nodes were all, ‘Sure thing, captain! We love playing hide the cancer with pathologists!’
I just did the math, which may or may not have required a calculator, that I have had drains hanging out of my body for 29 out of the last 35 days. Though I have become accustomed to my new lil appendages, I would not say that they are a welcome addition. The day I don’t have to calibrate my ‘output’ and chart it, will be a good one.
As we may be approaching the passing of my drainage, I think it time we spend a few moments going over drain-life (that’s like thug-life but for people with drains).
Exhibit A: drain shirt
My particular drain shirts were given to me by my bff Lesley Shifrin. A friend of hers had breast cancer and told her that these shirts were a must. She acquired 2 for me from her friend who makes them from tshirts donated by the local bike shop and 2 others as hand-me-downs from her friend with cancer. Little did I know these would become my uniform.
- Sleeveless. A breast cancer chick has to know what is happening in the armpit/drain area at all times. Plus sleeves are for losers, am I right?
- Pockets on the inside. Arguably the most important feature on a drain shirt. Keeps the drain contained and away from anything the tubing could snag on or perhaps from a small child who thinks pulling cords is fun. Also crucial to wear at night, as the last thing any Drainhard (that’s what we people with drains call ourselves, I might have just made it up), wants is to have the drain in the pocket of a pant and you pull those down to use the lavatory while groggy and boom! You just pulled your drain out of your own body. Did you hear that sound? It was me wretching thinking about it.
- Easy front open access. Got to be able to get to those drains in a jiffy if need be.
Next topic, the drain itself. Its function is to collect excess fluid from around the surgical site to prevent a seroma. The tubing is stitched into your skin and just hangs from your body. At the bottom is a grenade-like bottle that collects the fluid.
Every few hours you ‘milk the drain’ which is quite possibly the most horrific term after ‘moist panties’ in the English language. Milking the drain is using one hand to hold the drain at the insertion site to the body while using the other hand to firmly squeeze an alcohol wipe to pull fluid down the tube, out of your body and into the grenade. Since the grenade is sealed shut, it then creates a vacuum for more fluid to be pulled from the body.
Drains are emptied as often as necessary using a little spigot they have at the top. More in the beginning when more fluid comes out, and less so towards the end as the body heals, like where I am now. Before discarding the fluid, it needs to be measured in milliliters and logged in a chart. The drain then is squeezed and folded in half before the spigot is closed in order to reinstate the vacuum.
Here is a drain:
You see the tubing, the grenade, the spigot and the ever important safety pin. You must always have the drain attached to your shirt with a safety pin. Don’t mess around with that sucker falling out (see bullet point 2 under ‘Drain Shirt’ above).
Final note about drains. You may be asking yourself, how would one shower with nothing to attach the drain to? Well thank you so much for asking! The docs give you a lanyard to wear around your neck while you shower that you safety pin the drain to.
Cut to the sexiest picture you’ve ever seen:
That’s me wearing a drain shirt and a lanyard which is redundant other than for the means of this teaching session. Needless to say I have never felt more en fuego than when I am showering with my drain/s hanging around my neck.
I have been dreaming about the day when I can wash and fold my 4 drain shirts and package them up to pass along to my new breast cancer buddy who will be having her surgery soon. They are just cut up tshirts, but they become your uniform, almost like an identity. They have served me very well, but I am ready to send these work horses out to another pasture.