Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Coming home from a bilateral mastectomy is an event — not of the red-carpet, Oscar-worthy variety, but an event none-the-less. I was happy just to smell fresh air, see the sun, sit in traffic. I was going home.

And that's when the party got into full swing. No guests yet (just our two furry barking machines). And yup, a few pretty floral arrangements. But what I was most stoked about were all the accoutrements on my bedside table (see Step No. 5 for post-surgery boudoir table tips). Snacking in bed? Never do it, but bring it on! Watching TV while the sun is still out and I’m still under the covers? (Yeah, baby!) Pain medication? (Par-tay!) Remote control all to myself? YES! Husband feeding me because I can’t use my arms or bear any weight? (OK, that one didn’t actually happen.) But it was a comical side show just getting me in the bed (forget about getting me out of it to use the bathroom). I’m tired just thinking about it.

Lucky girl that I am, Husband has taken two weeks off from work to take care of me. He’s even placed a bell on the nightstand should I need anything. I rang it once. He didn't hear it. Well. It's. The. Thought. Right?

What I remember most about those first few days home were all the odd sensations. I felt supremely uncomfortable. Frustrated. Sweaty. And smelly. And I can’t take a shower until my drains come out. Have I mentioned my lovely drains? Allow me to paint the picture again ('cause they're just so dang much fun). I’ve got four thick-like-a-straw tubes hanging off me, and they each connect to a bulb into which fluid drains. I preemptively bought a Marsupial pouch belt (see Step No. 7), which was an awesome solution: I tuck two bulbs into one soft terrycloth pocket, two bulbs into the other, and my pain pack in the pouch in the middle. (Bought four pouches but only use three on the belt). Oh what a sight. (See purty picture above.)

Husband has been tasked with emptying said drains and measuring their fluid outtake. Actually, he volunteered. (I think.) He’s normally a little squeamish but is handling the drains with surprising aplomb. I won’t go into further detail because, quite frankly, they are icky and gross and I’d rather not relive it. You can thank me now.

Am I in pain? Yes, but mainly because of the drains. They are poking out of my sides. They hurt more than the mastectomy (my pain pouch is working its magic there). I guess the worst part of it all, so far, is the pressure I feel, which can only be described as this: Imagine having two coconut shells (sans the hairy stuff) wired to your chest wall. Then imagine being engulfed in gauze and zipped into a very [un]sexy compression vest. And then wrapped up some more in a fat ace bandage. It's freakin' weird.

(Copyright ©2011 Rennasus)
Because of (or despite) all this, and because I am a good and compliant patient, I take my meds right on the button. And since I am married to a pharmacist, that means he has the pill deal covered. He delivers my capsules and tablets bedside (though I like to imagine it more as poolside), with a glass of water, exactly at the time I need to take them.

But he neglects to tell me ahead of time that this is The Plan.

Now normally upon awakening, I do what I always do: I take a Synthroid tablet. Which is exactly what I do my first morning home. (Remember, I am unaware of The Plan.) Husband hears me stirring and comes in right away to check how I'm feeling. I don't even see him counting out pills; but he folds a few into my hand and gives me a glass of water. I notice there are some different pills in the pile (pain meds and Colace and such) than I normally take. Unfortunately, I don't notice that there also is a Synthroid tablet. In my post-anesthesia brain fog, one plus one only equals one.

So. Yup. Took a double dose of Synthroid. That is not recommended. By the time I realize I've taken mine and his, it's too late. I do have a bit of an emotional meltdown thinking I've just tried to kill myself, but Husband assures me that I will not die from taking two. (I may feel a little warm and fidgety, however. And he would be correct.)

I spend the remainder of the day in a hot flash haze, wearing washcloths dipped in ice water as scarves. And yes, I felt revved. But I also slept a lot. By evening, my double-dipping had worn off.

I stopped worrying about taking my meds after that. Decided I would leave that up to the professional. I just relaxed and became [a] patient.


  1. Ughhh those dreaded drains!!!!
    They didn't even bother to tell me I could pin those up
    I ended up coming home from the hospital with them swinging.
    Boy was that uncomfortable as they filled.
    Only on my first post-op did my surgeons nurse tell me... Duh ~

    Poor thing...My Mom takes a extra half pill everyday
    sometimes a whole one if shes feeling sluggish
    No...she doesn't tell her Dr this...I'm sure he wouldn't approve.
    Glad you made it thru that with no serious SE

  2. What a great post! I'm new to your blog. Was this from last year then? I laughed out loud when I read about the bell and your husband not hearing it. And his prior squeamishness. I so relate to all of this! Hope you're doing well.

    Oh, and I know you've been to my blog. Sorry it's taken me so long to get on over here...

  3. Oh, I remember that feeling of pressure in the chest right after my mastectomy, too. I panicked a little because I felt like I couldn't get enough air into my lungs. And the drains, oh the drains -- a little bit of hell on earth, for sure. I agree -- they're worse than the surgery pain. The only good thing about it all is that it's temporary.

  4. Oh, girl, I am SO glad your sweet husband is helping with all of this. I stayed overnight with my best friend a couple days after she came home from the hospital and those drains were unreal. I was 7 months pregnant with my first baby and I didn't want her to have to empty them, so I was pathetically trying not to be sick. It was nothing compared to what she was feeling, but still. I empathize with the huge headache that the drains can be. I hadn't even remembered that you would be dealing with that at home now.

    I'm sending you HUGE (gentle) hugs now and agreeing that you should enjoy the rest you are able to get and just be the patient. Let others take care of you as often as possible.

  5. i didnt know about the overdose, that can be scary, glad hubby is a pharm & reassured you.

  6. Thanks for visiting my blog so that I can now visit yours! Your sense of humour in the face of all you're dealing with is amazing/wonderful. I did laugh about your husband not hearing the bell! I'm signing up to follow you - hopefully you'll be able to get those ghastly drains out soon!
    Mary x

  7. @Debbi: Oh my dear, I'm sorry no one told you about clipping up (or tucking in) the drains! ERGH! I hope you are feeling OK.

    @Nancy: I had my BMX in February but didn't start my blog until April and am slowly catching up to real-time. I only have 6 months of complications left to write about! (Gotta laugh about it, right?)

    @Pink: Yes, very true, have to remember most of the %$#@ we go through is just a blip on the screen in hindsight! ;-)

    @Barefeet: Good on you for staying with your friend. That's a BFF! I'm sorry she had to go through all that too.

    @Anon: It was pretty funny, though at the time, not so much!

    @British Mum: LOL! My drains are out. (Had to have them twice... but that's another blog post! Still trying to catch up to real time over here!) PS I can't wait to try your Tuscan Kale Salad!

  8. Hey Renn....
    I'm catching up on FIVE years of this "stuff" but I seem to have lost my brain in the process. The drains. OMG... the drains are the absolute WORST. My surgery nightmare will be in an upcoming episode on my blog. Your story brought back so many "memories" .... ummmm, do I really want to call them memories???? Love to laugh... keep writing and I'll keep reading and cheering and laughing with you!!!!

  9. Thanks AnneMarie! I'll do the same. Looking forward to hearing your "memories"!! :-)

  10. So glad I found you through Marie's weekly Round Up. Love your writing style and can so relate to the drains. Even though my double mastectomy was over a year ago, I have pouch envy - that was quite the contraption you had rigged up. I had my drains pinned to the front of my button up shirt. A really attractive feature for my boyfriend of less than six months to see when he came to visit. And don't even get me started on the smell whilst draining them...ugh. enough said.
    Look forward to keeping in touch and catching up on your saga...big hugs from Vancouver!

  11. Thanks Terri! I loved your anxiety post. Can SO relate. I added you to my favorites!

  12. Those crazy drains..... My drain container looked like a little change pouch.... I had this dreaded hose poking out the side attached to this circular round pouch and all that yucky stuff drip dripped inside. Of course it was my job to drain the pouch compress it to make sure all the air was out....During the day when I was home alone I didn't care I'd tie a pretty pink ribbon through and wear it around my neck like a necklace... I hid it only when someone was here. In fact it was compact enough I could fit it into my pants pocket I would go shopping. I went to the grocery store put my drip pouch in my pocket, I was standing and a lady came over to me said "Excuse me but your hose sprung a leak" Mortified I looked sure enough it came apart I managed to shove it back in. I always laugh at these misfortunes with me. To an outside observer no understanding. To me a second time drainage unit You know Stuff happens.....I had my drains in for 6 weeks, it was a gift that just kept coming....
    Your hubby sounds ideal!!

    Love Alli....xx

  13. Alli, You had a drain for 6 weeks? O.M.G. I am still chuckling at the image of the drain and the grocery line. (I agree, we gotta laugh about it, how else to get past it?) Yes having a medical hubby is helpful in so many ways. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Those drains... I called them my turkey basters. Would you believe I was fool enough to go to an outdoor Sting concert in San Antonio, 106 degrees, 10 days after my mastectomy? My two best girlfriends since high school were with me, we had a handicapped sticker, and of course, I knew best. Husband was being too much of a mother hen. Bottom line? In a couple of hours I was begging God to turn back the clock and let me stay in bed. I thought I was dying! Isn't wonderful when our husbands take care of our nasty drains just like they've been doing it all of their lives.

    Wishing you an uneventful recovery.

  15. Brenda, I thought I was brazen for going out to eat at a mexican restaurant 1 week post-BMX. Can't imagine going to a concert. In the heat and humidity of San Antonio! (YOWSA)

    PS Turkey basters is an apt description...!


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