The Truth About The Dreaded Surgical Drains
Have you suffered through the pain of surgical drains? In this guest blog post, Ann Marie shares the raw, honest truth about what she experienced after she had her drains removed - from chest pains to numbness and everything in between.
As many of you know, drains SUCK. They are gross, they smell, they tug, they hurt. (ain't no "body" got time for that!) Although having them pulled was freeing, I had this notion that the pain would stop when they came out. NOPE!
I am more than two months out now. On New Year's Eve, my girlfriend who is a certified nurse (yep, I did a background check) came over with many sterile utensils and pulled my drains. My son, Julian, sat there and watched - it didn't seem to faze him at all. Meanwhile my other son had nightmares after of drains falling from the sky and hitting him - something tells me he is very fazed.
Let's Get Physical
People keep acting like because I go to out of the house, I am all healed. The reality is that I do those things to keep me sane, but to be honest, they wipe me out and I pay for it the next day. My stomach muscles have been ripped apart and literally cut in half. That will not heal in 4 weeks. I am usually really good from the time I get up until 11am, but then I must sit and doze. Then at 2pm I am done until 4pm and I get a small burst until 6pm, and then I am done for the night. I spend my days in a recliner that a friend of mine was going to throw up but has ended up saving me for two years! But even sitting in a reclined position makes my stomach hurt after a while. I do not mean the little ache that my 13-year-old seems to think is nothing compared to a sprain; I am talking pain like I-don't-think-I-should-move-because-if-I-do-something-is-going-to-explode type of pain. My doctor wants me to stretch a little so at night I sleep in my bed with a nest that my dear husband sets up. I am up all night with aches, pains and have a difficult time sleeping on my back.
I have spent the last four weeks watching "The Little Couple" with Jennifer Arnold (after I found out she has been DX with cancer, I binged watched it every night!) When it's time to get up I need help getting out of bed because I have no abdomen muscle to pull me up. It is actually a little humbling to have your sons help you up, but since I carried them for 9 months and carried them around for years - I figure it's the least they can do.
That's When The Chest Starts Killing
I have had some trouble breathing from the pressure. My chest is still swollen (sorry honey they won't stay this large). The pain is similar to the mastectomy but more intense and long lasting. I have hard pain in the middle of the toobs which the doc thinks is funny cause that is the one spot he didn't dig around in, but I feel bruised there for sure. Sometimes the pain is so severe it takes my breath away.
My arms and legs are still numb, which is normal. My biceps feel like they had the muscles ripped out, leaving me with no strength which is fine because lifting or picking anything up is painful. This is normal - in the words of my doctor, "as the retracted muscles start to wake up, they get pissed."
Don't even get me started on plucking my caterpillar eyebrows, I cannot lift my arms to do that! Bringing up hair, I now go for laser treatment next week to remove the "fur" (thanks doc for that term) on my toobs! It just keeps going ya know. But you gotta laugh like my friend says, "yup all the way to hair removal of the belly hair on the boob. Good thing it isn't butt hair." (Those full-blooded Italian genes at their finest.)
Add constipation to the mix, and the stomach is in constant pain. It is bad enough having the pull and pain but a gut ache is not good. Smooth Move tea is not cutting it, I may need more dramatic steps. Let's just leave it at that. There comes a time for TMI and I think this may be it.
But here is the clincher...
I am so happy mentally so ALL of that, and I mean ALL of that, is doable for me. I am me again. Not the same me, or the pre-cancer me, but I am still me. I took two back from cancer and I feel "strong like bull." I feel confident again. When I look in the mirror and see these patch work Raggedy Ann/Bride of Frankenstein scars, all I see is ME. Maybe not with a model-like-body or "perfect," but still me. I feel like me because they are me - hair and all. They are warm and imperfectly round and just what I needed mentally. I am ready to regain my figure once I get cleared to kill it in the gym and I cannot wait to start walking slowly next week!!! Take that cancer.
My tiara is back on; shiny and sparkling, nice and straight. The physical healing is taking shape slowly but nicely and the mentally healing is strong. This month marks my 1 year cancer free mark or NED (no evidence of disease), whichever you prefer, which means it's time for blood work and scans. It's time to check three swollen lymph nodes and redo an MRI, so I need some strength.
I want 2014 to be about happy times and getting "me" back, so I will not let these tests drown me, which will be a task as I cannot swim. I will also be standing by one of my best friends as she faces stupid dumb breast cancer. I will be standing there showing her that tough times do not last but tough, strong, badass people do. And if her princess, pink boa, tiara wearing, stiletto rocking BFF can do it so can a granola, hippie, barefoot, recycled material, organic beautifully strong badass!
What has been your experience with drains? Share your stories in the comments below.