At the hospital, I thought it would be impossible to learn to "strip" the drains and empty the bulbs. This is what the contraptions are, as far as I can tell: Two thin plastic tubes are attached to the incisions and at the end of them are soft round plastic containers that remind me of perfume bottles. They're the size and shape of a larger-than-chicken egg, only flatter. Blood flows from the wound through the tubes into the bulbs, and twice a day I'm supposed to pull off the little stopper of each bulb and pour the contents into a jar marked off by centimeters, measure the liquid, then write the amount. You bring the log of the liquid to the doctor on Tuesday, who decides whether it's time to remove the tube-and-bulb system. Allegedly the blood will stop and then straw-colored liquid replaces it. I think that's lymphatic fluid. The "stripping" consists of pinching the tube near the top with the fingers of one hand and then pulling on the tube with the other, to bring down the blood through the tube and make sure any clots in the tubes are eliminated. Like I said, I didn't believe the nurse when she said I would be doing this at home, but I've done it a couple of times and it's not so bad. It's odd that the blood is so--red--and bloody. This, I suppose, is so much better than having the blood soak the bandages. The only problem is that the bulbs are bulky and show under my clothes. Right now I'm wearing the mastectomy camisole (see earlier post) that comes with two little inside pockets. L is very "I told you so" about the camisole, which I objected to because of its name and plainness. You put the bulbs in the inside pockets but still they are lumpy underneath my clothes. To keep them from pulling at the wounds, they're attached to a hook in a lanyard with the Cancer Society's URL and phone number conveniently imprinted on it. I'm wearing a nice black robe my mother brought me from home. She bought and brought me a black warm-up suit--a knit material with pants that tie with a string, and a top that's like a shirtwaist, all buttons. She also bought me a thin-material robe that zips up and has Asian people printed all over it. For a long time I didn't like wearing clothes with people on them, but I don't mind any more. I don't know why I changed my mind about this. She also bought me a lightweight light aqua robe that zips down the front. She has been very comforting except today when snow panic set in. She had never seen so much snow in her entire life. Snow like this in Houston would bring the city to a halt for a couple of days. It's nothing for us, here, but she kept watching it fall from her hotel room windows, and said everyone out in it was 45 years younger than she was and bent over from the wind. She was afraid to go outside. She has osteoporosis and of course doesn't want to fall and break her hip. (We have a friend whose son died suddenly, and when the grandmother came for the funeral, she fell and broke her hip. I didn't tell this to my mother.) We got my mother to take a cab at 3. For some reason she wanted to wait till then. She called L when the cab arrived here and he escorted her inside. Now she is on the phone negotiating a rate for a few more days at her hotel downtown. She has a reservation for a hotel closer to here, but she's afraid it won't be warm enough and there's no indoor coffee shop or restaurant.
I haven't taken a shower yet. I'm planning to do that later today, and will unwrap the Ace bandage wrapped around my chest. And I'll see the incision. I'm surprised and pleased that there's still some of the curve left on the top of my left breast. Because of the bandage I'm pretty flat on both sides, which makes it easier to get used to things. The odd thing is I can't feel my nipple on the left. I mean I pat my injured breast and everything's numb. I touch the middle and there's no part of me that says, I'm the nipple. It seems that the nipple must be in there somewhere but it's just skin now. The nipple was removed because it might become "necrotic," which is creepy to contemplate. The surgeon said the incision won't be flat, there will be rolls of skin, because she saved skin for the later reconstruction. There's an enterprise I've found on-line that sells t-shirts that say "Under Reconstruction" on the front. Yikes. There's also a woman who paints with her breasts and donates the profits to breast cancer research. That seems insulting. Her line of t-shirts and stationery is called Breast Buddies, and consists of different pairs of colored blobs decorated to make cherries and bumblebees. I can't imagine anyone buying these except Hooters customers. I'm sure if I looked, I'd find guys who paint with their penises. It's bad enough that cats paint.
L is working from home, on the phone with his colleagues. His union is planning a big rally tomorrow featuring Barack Obama. It was going to be in a union hall, and thank goodness they rented big hotel ballrooms for it instead. I saw him speak once when he was still state senator and running for the U.S. Senate. I sat at a round table in front at a dinner, right next to the speakers' table. Obama was very natural, informal, speaking without notes. My mother said if he ran now for president, he would win, which is true. Too bad we're not like Europe, where you can change the government if everyone loses confidence. But I wouldn't want it to be like Italy, where they change heads of state like as often as they change their clothes. Someone said the other night that proof that we're not living under a dictatorship is that the trains don't run on time.