Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tubes out, motivation in

I tested out my pain-scale reform today.  Before the nurse took my weight and blood pressure she asked, "And how's your pain today?"  Old Heather certainly would have said 3, new Heather said 6, and either value is largely due to the nerve pain that is so grossly exacerbated by movement and vibration.  Well, I think claiming my resting pain to be a 6 worked to my advantage because this prompted a lot of talk about how painful the tube removal would likely be.  This kind of talk, for me, is better than drugs because I subsequently implement my super pain-fighting techniques:  deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation.  Today, as always, my super powers nearly abolished the potential pain.  Tube removal felt hilarious (that's right, one better than funny) and only took a second.  The best part is that the absence of the tubes has indeed relieved 3/5ths of my pain.  Instantly.  They must have been putting pressure on things that weren't amenable to such pressure.

Let's further discuss this hilarious tube removal.  To the right is a schematic of my left shoulder (brown lines, plus brown circle for belly button.  I tried to draw my right breast as a reference point, but no dice.)  My rainbow incision is the orange line.  Previously I was only familiar with the part of the tubes that were external to my body:  2 skinny tubes, each about 2 feet long, each with a 100 milliliter plastic bulb on the end (thin purple lines in the schematic).  I never dreamed that there was significant tubing on the inside as well.  The internal tubing was about 18 inches long with a porous nature and a relatively broad, flattened shape.  The fat purple lines are where I suspect the inner drainage tubes were laying, information only inferred upon their removal.  The junction between the inner and outer tubes was stitched to my skin at my armpit; the removal of these stitches was only moderately uncomfortable.  Upon stitch removal and the count of three, the nurse simply yanked out the inner tubes.  I could feel them snake around and out of my body.  It was an utterly painless and rather sensational experience.  I daresay it tickled.    

Next, I get to do some physical therapy to get my arm moving again.  My chest, shoulder, and arm muscles are complaining loudly about their two weeks of being laid up, but I should regain nearly 100% of my range of motion in merely a week if I work at it.  I'll call today to schedule this.

The best part of getting the tubes out is of course the pain relief, but a close second is the return of my hopes and dreams.  That is, a person gets a little disheartened while going through such an ordeal, and now at last someone turned on the lights in this tunnel.  Ian and I were talking about all sorts of fun plans during our car ride, from painting the shed to shopping for a new skirt (for me, not for Ian).  I still have more nerve pain in my arm than I'd like, but my body will continue to heal and adapt, and perhaps one day it will no longer be painful.  Can't see the end of the tunnel, but at least the lights are on.  Ooh, maybe they're skylights.  Yes, definitely skylights in my tunnel.

When was my last poke tally?  Before surgery, no doubt.  I have had some bonus pokes recently to do some extra tests related to my heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (aka platelet disappearing magic) and a failed tumor marker test.  And I'll simply designate the mastectomy with a plus sign; it was neither a poke nor a negligible insult.  Not sure if I'm remembering all of them, but here's my best guess.  Oh, and speaking of pokes, the crocuses and daffodils are poking up in the yard!  How exciting!        

Poke tally:
port  28
right arm 10
tummy  6
left arm  6
left breast  1+
superior vena cava 1
T9 vertebral body 1


  1. Heather, I've just caught up since the mastectomy and wanted to tell you that I love you and you are, as always, amazing! These posts are hilarious and poignant and make me wish I could see you in person and give you a big hug (ok, well maybe not with the surgical bits, but I'd at least give you a hand massage or something.:) Keep being awesome.


  2. Yay for no more tubes! You're a champ getting through that and calling it 'hilarious' - not sure those are the words many of us would use.

    On a related note, I have to say that it makes me nervous to hear you call cancer related pain a 3 (or now, a 6) and childbirth an 8. Yikes! That post should have come with a disclaimer for pregnant reader! ;)


  3. AWESOME NEWS!!!!!!!!! You go girl!!!!

  4. ta-da! I'm grateful for the sunshine in your day, the skylight in your tunnel and the fun ride home.

    Ian's legs aren't too shabby. I suggest finding a 2 for 1 sale and getting matching skirts.

  5. I'm glad you had such a super awesome day!

  6. Hurray for skylights! I'm really glad that tube removal helped to lessen your pain. I am excited for your recovery!

  7. Bye bye tubes!!!!! Hooray. Super happy for the relief and high spirits that you're feeling. xo

  8. Three notes:
    1. After I initially pursued an art degree in college and then transitioned into biology, I can honestly state (with a modest amount of authority and confidence), that it is obvious that your strength profoundly lies in biology and not in medical illustraton!

    2. Make sure that your new skirt is at least as fabulous to twirl in as your black (or was it gray) one.

    3. Awesome news. Let the healing begin. I expect to see you in the fitness room doing reps soon.

  9. Ha ta! The trip to IC was a GOOD thing! You can skip the PT if you can get Ian to help you with some Arm Plyometric Exercises. Check out my FB post for an illustration for this fun exercise. (Why can't I imbed anything or make a link in my comment?) Oh well, you'll enjoy the FB post. Here's the instructions:


    How to perform the exercise

    Lie on the ground on your back with your arms outstretched upwards
    Assistant stands on the box holding the medicine ball at arm's length so the medicine ball is directly above the athlete's hands
    The assistant drops the medicine ball into the athlete's hands
    The athlete:
    catches the medicine ball
    allows the medicine ball to come towards their chest
    then extends their arms to propel the medicine ball back to the assistant's hands
    The athlete should try to anticipate the catch and return the medicine ball as quickly as they can keeping the catch time as short as possible

  10. Forgot to mention: You'll need a box and a medicine ball to complete the exercise above, and just for clarification:

    Assistant = Ian
    Athlete = Heather

  11. Skirts? Sounds to me like you're running low on tube-tops...

  12. "That is, a person gets a little disheartened while going through such an ordeal"...I don't care if you rate your pain at 1 bazillion. You are a champion. I can't wait to see your new skirt and painted shed.

  13. Hello Heather, I found your blog on a website called Right Health where they posted a tidbit of your blog just below a tidbit of mine...Ballotable Records of Cancer and Trail Dreams....Looks like we have a lot in common. I should be gettin my drain out soon (should have been yesterday, of course). I'm very glad that taking out the drains helped decrease your pain, because i was beginning to suspect that the drains were actually causing some of the pain i'm having. Take Care!
    PS i loved your diagaram!