A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Great Escape

It’s my third day after surgery and I’m ready to break out of this joint. Hospitals are like prisons, when you think about it. You have no control over your life and have to follow everyone’s orders. You’re fed institutional meals. You wear unfashionable garb that looks like all the other inmates. Consequently, I’ve even been on my best behavior, hoping for an early release. But no such luck. Alas, it’s time to make a bribe.

As indelicate as this subject may be, I must point out that you aren’t released until you pass gas. Yes, you heard right. It’s not the sort of thing Southern girls like me have been encouraged to do. So, now when you have all these nurses telling you that you’re staying in the slammer until the gas is passed, you get another perspective on this matter. They want to make sure that after the anesthesia from surgery closed down your intestinal system that it’s back in working order.

Even then, passing gas is not enough. Oh, no. Then, you have to graduate from clear liquids to a soft food diet to see how you’ll react before they release you. So, now I’m waiting for lunch, which will be something along the lines of pudding and mashed potatoes, when actually, I want to eat a horse. The greatest challenge once I get home will be to not stuff my mouth with everything in sight since I haven’t had solid food for almost a week.

I have to admit that this go-around, though, I have much more energy and less pain than my first surgery. I’m restless and have been strolling the hallways, pulling along my IV stand – kind of like a toddler pulling his wagon behind him. Back and forth I go along the same corridor, trying to avoid running into all the medical personnel with their machines. Walking makes you feel significantly better. I learned this the last time. Moving around and exercising produces endorphins, which is far more effective in pain relief than any medication.

A draining experience
I’m also waiting for my doctor to give the go-ahead for my drains to be pulled since these are two souvenirs I’d rather not take home from my luxurious hospital stay. Which reminds me that I never fully revealed the details of drains from my last surgery. This surgery, I have 2, whereas last surgery, I had 6. They hang from you like teats on a mother cow, filling up constantly with fluid that needs to be released from your body. Once the fluid fills the drain, the weight pulls on the tubing that is wound up inside your abdomen and extends out through a hole in your skin. Lovely, isn’t it? You need to empty your drains every few hours and measure the amount and not lie about it. You’re tempted to cheat because the less fluid you record, the quicker the doctor will remove the drains.

After my first surgery, I had 6 drains in my abdomen for 2 weeks. Unfortunately, the trendy fashion designers have not taken into consideration drains when they are creating their spring line. Alas, I have good ol’, reliable Target for my recovery wear—which includes stretchy yoga pants and knit tops. Drains are not appetizing, so you want to keep them hidden from small children and those with delicate stomachs. And, if you have a sensitive stomach, you’re out of luck, baby.

After a week of drains extending from you like snakes coming out of some mythical creature, they start irritating you. They itch and are cumbersome, and you want them out. Each time I got a drained removed, it was an enormous relief--despite the process of pulling them…which I will explain.

They do not administer any pain reliever when pulling your drain. You simply lean back on the examining table, take in a really deep breath and blow out hard, like you’re delivering a baby. As you do this, the nurse jerks out the long plastic tubing that has been wrapped up snuggly inside of you. I was shocked at how long some of these cords extended. No wonder I was so uncomfortable carrying around all that plastic inside of me. Removing the drains finally enabled me to stand up straight and move with more flexibility. You get a new lease on life! There is a tomorrow! Okay, you get the point. So, that’s why I’m impatiently waiting for the doctor to order my 2 drains out before I leave the hospital…otherwise, I’ll have them over the weekend. Joy.

Another thing I notice is that after all this surgery, my boobs look smaller than ever and my butt looks bigger than ever, so I’m wondering if they confused my surgery with someone else and gave them my boobs. That would be my luck.

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