Two weeks ago today I had prophylactic breast surgery on “the remainder.” I chose this option for symmetry (have you ever tried wearing clothing when asymmetric? A tee shirt will wind around you like a vine on a shepherd’s hook) . A lot simpler than reconstruction and hah! – no more mammograms. Or bras!
This go-round, since I didn’t have upcoming cancer treatment to ponder, I especially noticed the craziness and discomfort of the two drain tubes that invaded my torso for 9 and 12 days following mastectomy. (Removal of tubes is one at a time to make sure the job is really done before completely unhooking all the apparatus.)
Here is a picture of one of my tubes after removal.
The suction bulb hangs on the outside, as does half the tube. Notice the black stitches about midway on the tube. That’s where the tube entered my torso – and 14.5 inches of tubing snaked its way just under the skin, curving its way to a point under my armpit. (One wonders if the armpit location is chosen for maximum discomfort.)
The tube, though it appears enclosed like a drinking straw, actually has a tiny drainage ditch (slit) all the way along the length – allowing it to slurp up any extra lymph fluid in its path during the healing process. The suction bulb collects the fluid so it doesn’t build up under the skin, causing trapped pockets of fluid, or “seromas.” The bulb must be emptied twice daily and output recorded. When output is, at last, at an acceptably low level, the tube can be removed.
I scared myself silly watching YouTube videos of women having their tubes removed, writhing in pain as the doctor pulled, hand over hand. But in fact, my removals were remarkably easy because my surgeon, as she explained, was kind enough to use “the kind that don’t cause pain when you take them out.” Thank you, most sincerely, Dr. Honnie Bermas. (Known in our household these past five years as “Honey Bee.” She is indeed a sweetheart.)
Anyone who has ever had drain tubes will identify with the relief following their removal. I threatened the medical staff that I’d be dancing naked in the park that night, but in reality simply celebrated with a visit to the Murray Hovel Farm, as Josh and Brenda have dubbed their 7-acre kingdom near Plover.
So the month of June, for me, will be one of spoiling myself rotten -- except for physical therapy. PT is undoubtedly going to continue to hurt until I buckle down and do it faithfully, with sufficient effort.
Next blog: Your quiz on DRAIN TUBES: their function and logistics, complete with pencil sketch.