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Monday, November 8, 2010

Passing for "Normal" when I'm really a scarred, breast-less, chia-head woman

So my latest health update is that I STILL have a drain in me--the one on my right. It has pretty much been consistently draining between 60-50ml per day. I can't get it removed until it dips below 30 ml/day. And typically folks get their drains removed after 14 days (it will be 21 today). I emailed my surgeon last night, and he said that he wanted me to come into his clinic on Tuesday morning because he could help slow the output of my drain by injecting some "doxycycline" into my drain that would help.

[Aside: Everyone should be awed by the fact that I have a surgeon who responds by email ON A SUNDAY NIGHT and who did so within twenty-minutes of my initial email message to him. Dr. Amos ROCKS!]

Being the inquisitive person (and academic) that I am, I googled the following terms:

"doxycycline" and "drains"

And the first thing that popped up was a study titled,

"Successful doxycycline treatment of lymphatic fistulas: report of five cases and review of the literature"

which essentially described the injection of doxycycline to help stop the fluid output in folks who have drains (click here for the study).

So I'll know more after tomorrow morning about whether this is going to help slow my fluid output and most importantly WHEN I'LL BE ABLE TO GET MY LAST DRAIN OUT!!!

Because this sucker is annoying. I'm not in pain, per se, but I am not comfortable in my body right now. I am downright UNCOMFORTABLE sometimes--generally sore, generally feeling pinched and pulled (especially when I'm doing my physical therapy exercises), and generally feeling tired -- I'll have bursts of energy, but then I'll feel the energy draining from me.

And most of all, having this drain in me reminds me that I am not myself--that I am still very fresh from the surgery (which was 3 weeks ago) and that I am really not "normal."

Which I suppose begs the obvious question of what "normal" means...and the fact that most of us are not "normal" that, in fact, being "normal" is in itself an "abnormal" state.

But lets face it, most of us (most of you) are able-bodied people most of the times who do not have extraneous things hanging from your body, with fresh scars and with your hair growing back in.

I was reminded of this quite vividly the day before my Mom was leaving to go back to CA. We decided to go to the mall to see Secretariat (which was one of those "inspirational-heartwarming-sports-films") and afterwards we walked around the mall, a bit, and we stopped into Ann Taylor Loft. Now those who know me well know I *heart* Ann Taylor. So we made a bee-line for the sales rack, and I couldn't help myself--I found a skirt and a dress (yes, A DRESS) and decided to try them on.

Now, in the back of my head, I was wondering, "Is this a good idea?" but as I was wondering this, a sales associate came over and asked if she could start a room for me, and the next thing I knew, I handed over the dress and skirt and went searching for a blouse to pair with the skirt, so that I could get an idea of what it would look like. Then I headed to the dressing room, where I was directed to a dressing room that had my dress (but oddly enough not my skirt). I started to undress, beginning with my wig, and then my sweatshirt, top, and finally my jeans, which had my drain pinned to it. Because of the drain and the sutures from my surgery I have to wear a bra.

[Aside: It seems rather ironic to me that in the time since I've had my bi-lateral mastectomy, a surgery to remove my breasts, I have been living in a bra 24/7--that in fact this is the longest period I have ever gone in my entire life wearing a bra non-stop]

Anyway, I figure out that I can tuck the drain into my bra (since it would be nearly impossible for me to try to dress while holding the drain in my right hand, leaving only my left hand free) and then I turn and look at myself in the full length mirror--me in just my underwear and bra.

What I am confronted with nearly has me in tears. In the space of a minute I have transformed from looking like any other "normal" female shopper--a woman with a full set of hair and clothes--into this unrecognizable person--this figure with hair newly forming on my head in a black fuzz, a drain coming out of my right side ending in a bulb that is tucked into a bra that is flat, but where you can see part of my dressing tucked in to protect my sutures--and where the scars from my port and the lymph node removal on my left are visible. I am, in other words, utterly unrecognizable to myself--I am clearly not me, or at least not the me that I last remember being confronted with in a dressing room situation.

And of course at this moment the sales associate knocks on my door letting me know that someone had walked off with my skirt but they found it and she was leaving it to hang outside my door. And what I realize is that while normally, since I am not a shy person about my body or about my near nakedness, would have just opened the door and grabbed the skirt from her, this new me calmly thanked her and then waited. I paused to hear if there were other voices--or if the sales associate was hanging up clothes--and I wondered whether I should put on my wig or get dressed before trying to open the door to retrieve the skirt. Finally, I took a deep breath, cracked the door open, peeped out and then quickly darted out my arm and took hold of the skirt and then quickly shut the door.

I ended up buying both the skirt and the dress, although I did ask if I could return the dress at a later date, since I want to see what it looks like when I don't have to wear a bra and when I don't have my drain in. Both seem to be flattering to me right now, but I realize that when it comes to dresses and blouses and shirts, things are just not going to fit me the right way and may not flatter my new reality as a chestless woman.

The last thing I'll leave you with is my hair. Because right now, every time I look at myself in the mirror, what I hear is the chant from that commercial for Chia Pets, except in my head what I hear is:

"Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Head!"

[I think you can see why I feel like a Chia head right now]

More later this week after I meet with Dr. Amos and figure out WHEN this damn drain is coming out!

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