Warning: Slightly ooky post follows, to explain the nuts-and-bolts and set up the dialogue with Widget that follows. But this is my reality today. And maybe it will help another mom explain it to her kid someday. I wish it weren’t necessary. I wish no one else had to go through this.
So the aftermath of a mastectomy is not nearly as gory as I expected. It’s hard, sure, but the aftermath of any surgery or hospital stay is, right? The hardest part about this I think is managing my drains. After the bulk of the surgery, as they were closing me up, the surgeons inserted drains at the end of each suture. So I have one under my left armpit (simple mastectomy), and two under my right armpit (modified radical mastectomy, which means they took the lymph nodes out as well). Each is basically three feet of tubing attached to a little bulb, which I pin to my shirt. The bulb is squeezed a bit so that the fluid on my chest flows down the drains and into the bulb instead of building up on/in my chest where it shouldn’t be. Then we (and by we, I mean WonderDaddy) empty the drains every few hours. When they’re almost empty for a whole day, the surgeon will take them out. But this might take a while. So this is the hardest part. It just feels uncomfortable and makes dressing awkward.
I’ve tried to hide the tubing and the drains from my little ones. Widget in particular is a sharp and empathetic 3 year old, and I have been telling him “Mommy’s just tired,” since I returned, but he knows better. Yesterday he hopped up on the bed and wanted to hear a story about what happened when “Mommy, Daddy go to the hospital.” So I told him, relating it to the story of Huckle and Dr. Lion in one of his Richard Scarrey books.
Today he peeked under the blanket and saw some of the tubing hanging out while I was asleep. He woke me up and asked about it, matter-of-factly, so I answered him, hoping that if I just gently told him the truth it wouldn’t be a big deal for him, and he wouldn’t get scared.
Widget: Mommy, what’s that?
Me: It’s a tube.
Widget: What’s it go to?
Me: It goes to this little bulb right here. (He had already seen that by the time I woke up fully and realized what was going on.)
Widget: What’s it do?
Me: It takes away some stuff Mommy doesn’t need anymore.
Widget: – silence –
Me: Like ear wax. You know how ear wax comes out of your ear and you don’t need it anymore, so we take it away? Well, Mommy has some stuff coming off her that she doesn’t need anymore, so this takes it away.
Widget: Like ear wax?
Kind of. I mean, if ear wax were bloody and full of fluids that I don’t even recognize. But it was a good enough answer for him, and he settled in to watch a little Arthur with me, thumb in mouth and hand on mine.
I love this kid.