Anxiety · Breast Cancer · Cancer · Life


My journeys with the wound vacuum have been, at times, more than I could handle. To all of the lovelies who say I’ve been handling all of this cancer business with grace, I say you probably never saw me with my wound vac and you certainly never saw me on a bad day with it. Friday night into Saturday and even into now has been one of those times. A friend was here to witness some of it and I feel awful that she had to see me at my absolute worst in this entire process.

Friday night, about 24 hours after my most recent dressing change, I could feel that my dressing was very wet. This is a bad thing. When my dressing becomes wet, the healthy tissue around my wound becomes weak and sort of dissolves away. Wetness is most definitely the enemy in this whole process, and I knew it was an issue. I took a photo of the liquid because it was pooling under my clear tape and was a new and unusual color. I didn’t panic, though I did think about it. I texted the image and information to the nurse who’s been caring for me, pierced the tape, drained the liquid, and taped over the holes. In the morning I called my doctor to tell him what had happened and let him know it now looked good and he was fine to let me stay how I was. No problem.

By lunch time on Saturday it was back and it was worse. I had several moments of panic at this point. First of all, my nerves have been growing back all of a sudden, and the damn vacuum was starting to hurt. A lot. Now I could even feel the liquid squelching around in there, and I did not care for it. Even worse, I could smell it. Now, I can smell my wound all the time. That probably sounds disgusting to you, and you’re right because it’s super gross, but it’s not some sort of horrific smell. It’s a sort of yeasty smell and it’s from by body healing itself. Nevertheless it remains one of the top five things I hate about all of this.

Anyway, I called good ol’ doc again and this time he said that I may as well just take it off. What?! I wondered. How the hell do I manage this? He assured me I could take it off, have Husband place precisely cut pieces of gauze in the two open wounds, tape over the whole thing, and I’d just see him on Monday. Initially I was excited by this plan. We went right home, Husband did his doctoring well and without being too grossed out, and I was in my way again. I was able to rein in my panic and move on.

The funny thing about medical tape, though, is that it doesn’t like to be wet. As soon as the special tape I have gets too wet, it just starts to peel away. By Sunday morning I was leaking this delightful new fluid everywhere and I was beginning to be frustrated again. I knew I only had one day to wait, so Husband doctored me yet again and I was careful all day to be resting and not moving my arm. When Sunday night came around and my shirt was soaked through, it didn’t seem to have mattered how careful I’d been.

That’s when the real lack of grace came in.

I had an old fashioned meltdown, utterly convinced that this is my life now. I’ll just always have this open wound and every day my brain will be preoccupied with trying to take care of it. I won’t enjoy anything in life anymore because I’ll just be thinking about my armpit. Is it leaking? Does it smell? Can others smell it too? Is my shirt wet? Is it infected? Will my broken, blistered, and bleeding skin ever heal from all this damn tape? I was in pure panic mode.

After a while of course I calmed down. I listened to Husband snoring beside me and knew that he wouldn’t be sleeping if I was in danger of any kind. I realized that I’d be ok eventually. This will heal. It has come so far already. It was several inches deep and long, and now we’re measuring length in centimeters and calling the depth superficial. I know this. I breathe and relax.

And I remember that it may all happen again when they do the right side.

Here comes the panic.

One thought on “Again

  1. Often, you express the idea that it is bad for people to see you when you aren’t shiny and happy like a 1950s television mom. Let me tell you how backward this idea is. When we lie to people and say, “I’m fine”, we are indicating that we don’t trust them with our real feelings. To admit that we are sick, depressed, unhappy, angry, etc, allows people inside that barrier. It is a gift. That is what real friendship is. Real life (as you know) is messy, emotional, and sometimes very difficult. I would be so sad if you felt you needed to lie to me and pretend to be always happy and without problems.


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