Saturday, September 10, 2011

Down the Drain

When I began blogging about my journey with breast cancer, I wanted to make certain that I was real.  My feelings and emotions expressed through my writing are real, and I don't want to sugar-coat the experience.   This is as real as it gets...I can't just pick the days that I want to have breast cancer, nor can I just pick the parts of surgery, recovery or treatment that I want to experience.

As I asked other survivors, patients who had breast surgery, and researched on the Internet, everyone and every article mentioned the dreaded "surgical drains", and how they were the worst part of the entire experience.  You may think this is too graphic, too much information, or that I shouldn't include this, but as my goal has been all along...this is real.  Drainage tubes are a very real part of my recovery...and therefore my blog.

A drain was inserted underneath my arm.  It is secured with a stitch, and apparently ropes through my breast area, underneath the skin.  The drain helps release blood and lymphatic fluids that could build-up up in my breast area, causing swelling, discomfort and possible infection.  You can read more about mastectomy surgical drains here.  The empty drain looks like a grenade, and the suction pulls down fluid through the drain.

 My surgical camisole has pouches for the drain, but I also received several hand-made pouches from the hospital.  Volunteers make the pouches and give them to mastectomy patients.  These are just cloth pouches with a ribbon that hangs around your neck or arm.  They are machine washable, so it's not a big deal if you get them wet or fluid on them.

 The drain has to be emptied, and the contents recorded.  The color will change from dark red (Wednesday and Thursday) to a more light color; right now it's turning orange-red.  There may also be solid bits of clots or tissue mixed in the fluid.  Each time the drain is emptied, the amount and time must be recorded.  The drainage tube usually remains in one-two weeks, so I hope that it will be removed at Thursday's appointment.

It has been a family effort to empty the drains.  I find that I like them emptied every 2-3 hours, as the weight tends to start pulling a bit on the stitch.  We've attempted several different things today, and have discovered that a piece of gauze cut around the point of insertion helps distribute weight evenly.

After each empty, the amount is measured in a specimen cup, recorded on the log and then discarded.  Arleigh has taken it upon herself to be the official "disposer"...and tells everyone it's "her job" to pour the contents into the toilet and flush!

I am very fortunate that my parents have been able to be with us during my recovery.  Mom and Dad were able to attend the "Grandparent's Day" breakfast with Griffen yesterday, and then watch Adelia perform with the "Marching Greyhounds" last night at the home football game.  Arleigh is enjoying having full access to Nana's jewelry and perfume, too!  Many of you know how Jeff's work schedule is, so having him home 24/7 is a great treat for the children.  Spending time with my family are sprinkles on my day, as are the prayers, cards, messages, emails, flowers and homemade goodies that friends have gifted us with.  Thank you!

As with most pain medications and surgery, I'm a little "behind" schedule in certain areas.  So far, no amount of Colace, watermelon, mixed green salad or raisin bran has helped.  Please pray that this will be remedied soon!



Anonymous said...

Love your blog, Shelby, especially how you are keeping it "REAL".
Hope the healing continues!

Anonymous said...

I remember those drains well. No fun at all. They do get more annoying than anything...... but don't hurt when they come out, promise! You'll feel like a new woman. How's the sleeping going?
Heal well, thinking of you!
Missy Swim

Anonymous said...


My husband and I have been praying for you daily. It thrills my heart to know that you have so much family support. You are so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love you. Speaking of people who love you, if you ever tire of being the media specialist at CRMS, I think you would make a great author! Please keep us posted on your recovery.
With hugs and faith in Him,

tracy said...

shelby, i will start with the last thing u brought up first, I have a girl friend of mine who is a massage therapist and once when Anna had similar troubles this is what she told me to do: lay on your back and with gentle pressure begin just above your navel and rub counter clock wise (downward only) toward your lower abdomen, than pour about 1/4 c. or so of mineral oil on an old but clean towel, place the towel on your tummy and than place a heating pad on top of the towel to warm it. the oil, (its the old stuff the grannies used to make their kids drink when they were backed up) any way u dont have to drink it, it will absorb through your skin and the heat with the massage and the oil will gently get u moving:)
i cant speak for anyone else but i didnt find your pictures and writings TMI at all and i am proud of little Arliegh taking her "job" so seriously. its important she feel helpful and involved. I am also thankful for you that Jeff is able to be home. that is a blessing for sure!

vickie said...

So glad to see you back able to blog. Praying for you, that God will continue to heal you, give you the strength you need to go though the healing process. You are a brave one. Stay that way. Remember God is in chargeand taking care of you. Hugs

Anonymous said...

i know how frustrating that last bit can be (post childbirth for me) and i hope things "move along" real soon for ya! i am glad you are keeping it real and i could see my children doing something like sweet arleigh and helping mommy. :) i think they probably have a super attitude and learning alot about attitude from you! still praying for you!

Brandi said...

Shelby, Your Aunt Elouise told me about your cancer, (I'm her granddaughter) I'm so sorry to hear. We as well are going through Breast Cancer on my husbands side, His grandmother is about neck and neck with you in the recovery process. I think you both had surgery around the sametime. I hope you are doing well, and in good spirits, God has a funny way of slowing us down and making us look at the bigger picture in life. It is nice to see your blog here I had no Idea there was such a bag, though his grandmother told me about it I never saw it. She has opted to go without Chemo and Radiation and go the "natural" route which is just raw foods and no sugar or salt diet, she has had 13 lymphs removed and hopes this diet helps with "killing" the cancer instead of, going the "Toxic Route" as she calls it. Hang in there seems you have a great support system.
Always, Brandi