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The daily grind March 28, 2014

Posted by Judy in Musings.
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It’s been a week since my surgery, I managed to bust out of the hospital on Saturday afternoon, and have been happily at home ever since. Hospitals are terrible places. Really, they are. You go there to get well, but there is nothing about hospitals that makes it easy for a person to convalesce. The interruptions are constant: vitals to be taken, drains to be emptied, urine to be measured, medication to be given, showers to be taken, visits from the doctor . . . it is endless! I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get more than 2-3 hours of sleep at any given time. It is really difficult for your body to do recovery work when you aren’t getting rest. I don’t really have a solution to the “hospitals are a terrible place” conundrum, though.

In any case, I’ve settled into a daily routine, which is quite different from the routine I followed heretofore. I generally wake up feeling totally unrested with an achy back. After a bilateral mastectomy, the only way you can sleep is on an incline or flat on your back. That’s the one way I can’t sleep thanks to my bulging disk. So I spend the whole night waking up and tossing and turning and then I wake up feeling only marginally rested. (Since starting this post, my surgeon has informed me that I can sleep on my sides. Hooray! Maybe I will start getting better sleep!)

Once up, I have to deal with the drains. Drains are a very necessary part of post-surgical recovery, but I’m pretty sure everyone thinks they are a giant nuisance! In order to avoid excess fluid buildup in the surgical cavity, a tube is placed there which then exits the body at the side, secured with a stitch, like this.

drain exit

A bulb is attached at the end of the tube and uses a vacuum seal suction thing to bring the fluid out of the body. The day of surgery, my drain outputs were crazy high, especially on the side with the hematoma. They were emptied every 4 hours, I think, and it was at least 50-60 mL each time. That has now slowed waayyyy down. When I empty the drain in the morning, I get maybe 20 mL per side.

Prior to emptying the drains, I have to strip each drain to ensure that no clots are present in the drain. This is done by firmly pinching the drain at the point where it exits your body. With the other hand, you pinch the drain and run your hand down to the bulb.

No-one told me this would be painful.

Someone should have told me this would be painful.

Each time you do this, you are recreating suction. Since the drains can be felt through my skin, it feels like it suctioning my skin. I was supposed to do this 4-5 times a day. I only do it twice a day because
a) it’s painful
b) the drains are working fine and I can see fluid moving
c) it’s painful
d) the nurse said 4-5 times per day wasn’t necessary.

After the drains are stripped and emptied, then it’s time to get ready to shower. This is a process. Generally, I have a snazzy little apron I wear at nighttime to hold the drain bulbs.

drain apron

I can’t wear that in the shower, so I wear a lanyard, and then attach the drains to the lanyard with safety pins. Then I hop in the shower and sit on my handy bath chair (yep, totally makes me feel elderly!) and then hubs helps me with my shower. (My arm mobility is improving, but I still don’t reach over my head very well and definitely can’t reach my back.) After the shower is over, I have to get a clean towel to pat dry the surgical area and the drain exit point. The drains are then detached from the lanyard and dumped back in the apron, and I carefully step into my super soft post mastectomy camisole, complete with tummy control.

Let’s take a brief detour here to discuss tummy control. I never realized the giantness of my abdominal area until after the surgery. Even the 3 year old noticed. (“Mommy! Your tummy is huge!”) I guess the boobs offset the abdomen! In the absence of said boobs, the abdomen now looks huge. So now, I think about tummy control, and I’m very thankful for post-mastectomy camisoles with tummy control! 😀

Anyway, gauze is then placed around the drain exit point as a cushion. I then retrieve the bulbs from the apron and place them in smaller bags, which I then safety pin to the outside of the cami. Now I’m ready to put the compression device on. In order to keep the fluid levels down, it’s important to apply compression to the area during the waking hours. I’ve been using a belly band left over from pregnancy.

cami drain setup

Phew! Now I’m ready to get dressed. Several friends have been kind enough to loan me a slew of button up shirts to use until my arm mobility is back to normal.

Next up: my blood thinner shot: Lovenox. These are painful shots that go in your stomach twice a day. I tried to give it to myself once . . . .couldn’t do it. Thankfully, my mom has that part under control. The actual poking isn’t too bad, it’s when the medication is being injected that I wanna yell “OUCH!!” Fortunately, I’ll only have to do the shots for a total of seven days.

And now, an hour or more later, I’m ready for my day. I generally feel pretty good first thing in the morning, but my energy tanks mid-morning, at which point I veg on the couch or goof off on FB. We’ve been blessed to have people providing food for us, and they usually deliver something delicious just as my energy is tanking =)

Not much happens during the day since my energy levels are totally mercurial. According to the surgeon, it will take about 4-6 weeks to get back to normal levels! I’m so very glad to have my mom here and to have a hubby whose work has given him lots of time off!

In the evening, I have to again drain and strip the drains, get another Lovenox shot, and take my daily iron pill. I lost a lot of blood during the two surgeries, so the iron pills are an effort to boost my blood levels without having to give me a blood transfusion. Iron pills have the side effect of constipation. Lucky me, right? So right after taking my iron pill, I load up with anti-constipation aids (Miralax, prunes, flax seed, etc.)

The final action of my day is to remove the compression band, re-don the apron and then head to the couch for bed.

I’ve settled into a daily routine, but I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a grind. I guess I shouldn’t complain. By and large, I’m not feeling any pain from the surgery, so that is good. But I am complaining, cuz it’s a grind and it’s annoying. I figure I’m allowed a little bit of whining, right?



1. Mary - March 28, 2014


2. r - March 28, 2014

Ooph, this sounds like a tough period of time to get through. Good for you for keeping your spirits up and all of us informed! Loads of (gentle) hugs and good wishes for a speedy recovery!

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