Last night was a nightmare. After an hour or so of sitting downstairs talking to my family (my parents left and my in-laws arrived), I came back up and lay down for awhile. The pain mounted as the hours went on, despite the medication and rest. I just lay incredibly still, willing the pain to dissipate, as I tried to distract my mind (thank you, twitter, for the ideas!) and counted the minutes until I could take more medication for the pain.
It didn’t get better. At 1 a.m., I woke up my husband and asked for help. We examined the swelling under my arms, worried about fluid collection, and dealt with the drains (this means “milking” the tubes and emptying the bulbs at the ends of the tubes; it has to be done every few hours). He gave me more medication, but it wasn’t enough. We called the surgical oncology resident at the hospital (I was worried about a hematoma) but he said to apply warm compresses, raise the area, and hang on until morning, taking the medication and adding in motrin every alternate 2 hours.
I slept fitfully at best.
In the morning, thankfully, there was only a little leakage from the drain site, but the pain was not significantly improved. WD drove us down to the hospital to meet with my surgeon. The bouncing and potholes on the way were killer; we prayed that the surgeon would remove at least one of my three drains and that that would take away some of the pain. The pain, you see, was not across my chest where the majority of the wound is. The pain was at the hole under my armpit with one of the drains.
It would still be early to remove a drain, but we prayed for it, and hoped beyond hope that she could help us.
She did. After hearing what happened, and remembering that this drain caused me pain right away, she looked at the output and decided to remove the drain. With a quick WRENCH she pulled it out, applied a compress, and there was almost immediate relief. Apparently, the drain was in a bad place for me. Or there was a stitch through a nerve. Whichever, it’s gone now, and I am so much more comfortable.
Three tips on dealing with drains, for Sarah and Judy and other friends with cancer coming after me:
1) If it hurts, say so. The surgeons can give you medication to help. The drains will probably be very uncomfortable, but should not hurt;
2) Prepare to be uncomfortable, and to find alternate things to wear for a little while, like the “bra” that they give you in the hospital or a camisole with deep armholes. WD cut mine to give it extra room in the armpit so the drains didn’t get pushed around, but it wasn’t a perfect fix; and
3) Grab a couple big buttondown shirts from your husband’s closet or a friend to wear during recuperation. It’s impossible to lift your arms over your head at this time, but you want something big and comfy that can cover 3 feet of tubes and drain bulbs, both for your comfort and security (for example, you don’t want to roll over on the tubes at night; leaks happen way too easily) and for appearance’s sake, for other household members and the unexpected visitor. After an afternoon of frustated shopping for appropriate buttondowns, I “liberated” a few old shirts from WonderDaddy’s closet that were past their prime, and they’ve been perfect. Comfy too.
So that’s the skinny on drains and the nightmare that was yesterday. I have more news to post soon, after I finish calling family.