Pinky Pie

Song O’ Drain O’

Posted on: August 28, 2009


There was just one moment in this breast cancer journey – so far – that I felt, “I can’t do this.” (And I am saying so far.)

It was when this wonderful breast health nurse at Franciscan Skemp, where I had my surgery and continuing care, told me I would have two drains attached to my abdomen after surgery for up to two weeks or so. These drains would have to be emptied several times a day. Yuck. I would then log the fluids levels so she would know when they could be taken out.

My spirits just sank at that moment and she was being so nice and positive. But I really dreaded the drains and when I decided to do the daily double – double mastectomy – I ended up with four drains, not two.

The drains turned out to be no big deal, even when I was talking to my neighbor across the alley and one popped out below my shirt. If it had a sound to it, it would have been a clang.

I laughed. This neighbor had breast cancer a couple years ago and her husband had had a drain after prostate cancer surgery. “I’m glad we are such close neighbors and we can share,” I said.

Drains are these funny little bulbs hanging from my sides with long tubes. And they really are less of a bother than I imagined.

When I took a shower, the drains were pinned to a pair of old nylons. I know women want to get back into dress up clothes after they have mastectomies, but that was not the use for nylons that I expected. But it really worked. Oh, and as I previously mentioned, I was a big fan of Westerns growing up. One day in the shower, I imagined they were my six shooters on my sides and the nylons were my holsters. (I promise no more shower details.)

Like anything else, I got used to the drains, although my body shape temporarily looked a bit weird. I had nothing on top and the drains at my abdomen made me look a tad pregnant (at age 56).

There is a reason that I had no interest in nursing or medicine.  I’ve never been a big fan of body fluids or functions. And drains off my insides clearly fall in that category.

I may be a weenie when it comes to body fluids but I am very grateful to the wonderful professionals I’ve met who do this work and took such good care of me.

Yes, having drains was draining, so to speak, until I came up with a song about the drains, well lots of songs. I’m always doing this. My mom used to sing around the house all the time. She knew many, many songs, or at least a half dozen lines of each one. I, in turn, know two or three lines of every song she knew. I constantly substitute words for whatever is happening, singing a bit to myself.

Once I found a song for drains, I felt I could handle them. The Drain in Spain Falls Mainly on the….” didn’t work too well.

I felt better when I started singing, “Drain drops are falling my head …” Why that would work and the other wouldn’t makes no sense. And who wants this gunk on my head anyway?

Since then I’ve added “Oh, draino, draino, draino,” sung to the tune of the Hanukkah song, “Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.” And then there’s “Drain drops on roses…” to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”

Today, I was thrilled when Lisa took out my last drain. As I was leaving I naturally had a song in my heart.

What was it? “Drain free” to the tune of “Born Free.”

My apologies to songwriters everywhere for what I have done to their tunes. And, just for the record, the image at the top of this post does not represent the kind of medical drain I had.

Have a suggestion for a cultural icon about whom or which I should include in my blog? Email me or let me know and I’ll add it to my list of ideas for what I’m calling the Susan T. Hessel Cancer Challenge. I’m challenging myself to find a way to work these suggestions into my breast cancer blog.


3 Responses to "Song O’ Drain O’"

Sue, your blog has brought tears to my eyes not only with laughter but with your incredible fortitude. I don’t know why but when I think of you, I see the statue of liberty. (Is that supposed to be in capitals)? Anyway, she may stand for liberty but you stand for fortitude. Are you still accepting meals or do you need any help with laundry and housekeeping chores? I can wash a mean floor, fold clothes, however, not so good at the fried chicken. If there is anything I can do let me know.

I can see clearly now the “drain” is gone……It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day.

oh, hullo dere Pinky Pie…vel there is a subtle connection between laughter and release, the same as crying and release…there is laughter that keeps pain at bay when you need to do that, and there is crying that lets in all of the pain, loss and fear without any punch line or irony…and they are flip sides of the same coin…and they nourish each other…

so, when you feel funny, have at it…and when you feel overwhelmed with grief, let it have you, at least for a while…because when you express it, it moves through you, an emotional catharsis and a cleansing of the whole organism…although I have not gone through what you’re going through now, I think you can map this dialectic onto any suffering…


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