OMG I took a shower!

Most people probably don’t understand how freaking MONUMENTAL it is that I, Rachel Joy Horn, at approximately 11:40 am on Wednesday, March 21st, took a SHOWER. (This day is also awesome because it’s my best friend Danielle’s 22nd birthday…happy birthday Danielle! Now back to the shower.)

After I got my hair washed last Friday at a salon, I posted a Facebook status about how happy I was. My cousin Robbie responded with: “Next great feeling is a shower!” Boy was she right!

This is me after the shower! Note the drains attached to the shoelace around the neck.

There are two camps on showering with drains in: shower, and don’t shower. I don’t think one particular group is right; it is really a decision that needs to be made with the individual in mind. I’ve done a lot of Internet research on the topic, but I wanted to get specific approval from my medical team before I did it. I emailed my plastic surgeon’s office about it, and received approval along with some tips for showering safely:

  • Make sure the drain sites are covered with plastic completely.
  • Safety pin the drains to a shoelace and wear the shoelace around your neck so you can use your hands freely.
  • Keep the water on relatively low pressure.

With that approval, I was off! My drain sites are already protected with a plastic adhesive dressing, but Mom helped me to wrap that part of my torso in plastic wrap. This was a fail. When I got into the shower, the plastic wrap filled with water in all the loose crevices, essentially weighing everything down. I ended up taking the plastic wrap off halfway through because I was afraid water would pool up around my drain sites.

I had no trouble lifting my arms to wash my hair, which was a relief.

After the shower we decided it would be the safest idea to change the dressings around my drain sites. They seemed fine–there was no water around them–but we wanted to be sure anyway.

I feel soooooooo much better now that I’ve finally showered. Seriously awesome.

I do have to stress though that I’m glad I talked to my plastic surgeon’s office. Any potential infections in drain sites can be lethal. Getting the approval and advice for how to shower safely took away anxiety about it. If you’re in doubt about whether you can or should shower after your mastectomy, ask your doctor!


Dear Jackson-Pratt drains,

I hate you.

It’s been one week exactly since my surgery, and I can say with complete confidence right now that I hate these stupid drains.

But hey–if that’s the biggest complaint I have, maybe things aren’t so bad.

What bugs about these drains is that they’re just so…limiting. For those who aren’t familiar with the nuanced terms of mastectomy, Jackson-Pratt drains are used to remove excess fluid buildup from the surgical site. On each side of my chest, about halfway in between my armpits and my hips, I have a plastic tube sewn into me. The tube attaches at the bottom to a plastic bulb that uses suction to “swallow” liquid. This is the drain.

JP drain diagram from
This is not exactly where mine are located, but it’s a decent illustration.

Every twelve hours, I empty each drain and measure how much fluid is expelled. Once I am below 30 ccs of fluid per 24 hour period, I will be able to have the drains removed. Right now I’m at about 80 ccs per 24 hour period…so I’ve got a while to go . =(

I thought that emptying the drains would be a tedious, disgusting task. The fluid is pretty gnarly: it’s a translucent red/orange and I can see when blood clots pass through. But no, emptying them is really easy and I don’t get grossed out.

They are just annoying to live with! You can’t hide them. I have two mastectomy bras, soft bras that use hook-and-eyes to snap closed in front. Each bra has areas for attachable drain pockets, little white pockets with velcro where I put the drains. At home I usually walk around wearing just the mastectomy bra and drain pockets, or I wear a zip-up or button-up jacket with pockets and stick the drains in the pockets.

It’s going out that’s difficult. Yesterday I decided I wanted to go for a walk–but what do I wear? Do I wear a jacket and just deal with the fact that fellow walkers and bikers will think I’m some kind of mutant with bloody tubes running out of my body? Do I stuff the mastectomy bra and drains into a zip-up jacket and risk looking like a pregnant teenager? Do I wear an oversized flannel shirt and look like a hobo who hasn’t showered in a week? (Oh wait…that last part about showering is true.)

Yesterday, before my walk. I opted for the mutant alien look. P.S. look at how flat-chested I am LOL boobs.

That’s another downside. I can’t shower with these things in. Water is not supposed to get near the drain site to avoid infection. MEH. I’ve had my hair washed and I’ve been using nifty little pre-soaped disposable wash clothes to keep clean. (FYI, the Horn residence is pretty much its own pharmacy. Between me, my mom, my dad, and my diabetic dog, we’ve got every drug, gauze pad and bandage, and medical instrument you could ever need.)

I’m also scared I am going to pull them out in my sleep. For some reason, the drain on the right is different than the one on the left: the tube is not attached to the bulb with anything other than pressure from the suctioning. On the left, there is a nifty little device that keeps the two attached. Already once the tube on the right has become disconnected from its bulb. Nothing big happened–I realized it immediately and put it back together. But I’m scared that it’ll come out in my sleep and leak all over my nice clean sheets.

Leaving you with that nice image and my fears, I am going to attempt to go back to sleep. In a few hours I’ll post a really informative, well-rounded “One week out” post and we can all forget about my hatred for drains.