After my port-a-cath was placed, the nurse told me I was free to shower the next day so long as I felt steady enough and could keep my dressings dry. A trick we tell patients leaving our Neuro unit after a surgery is to use Glad Press N Seal wrap; it will connect to the dressing well enough to keep it dry and with a little piece of bandage tape, the dressing will be pristine after a shower. It is not something any of us have had the opportunity to put into practice; we’ve just heard from someone somewhere that it works. I wanted a shower badly enough today that I was willing to give anything a try.
Glad Press N Seal in hand, Milo and I embarked on one of the most ridiculously entertaining showers ever.
(For those of you that might find knowing about a shower a little TMI, stop reading now!)
The port-a-cath was placed low enough on my right breast that when I’m not wearing a bra my D-cups pull on the incision. This, as you can imagine, was not comfortable and required me to wear a bra pretty much 24-7 for the first few days. Showering in a bra was not really feasible, at least in my mind. Some creative thinking was required: how was I going to hold up my right breast and shower? Better yet, how could I wash my hair or my body with the limited range of motion I had in my right arm anyway?
Easy, use my husband.
I stripped down, taped the Glad Press N Seal over the wounds to my neck and chest and clutched my right breast light a football protectively against my chest. Milo and I climbed into the shower together and I held my breast as steady as possible as he washed my hair, complete with music from Looney Tunes (Buggs massaging Elmer’s scalp as seen here). As he scrubbed, he mumbled about having long hair once and not recalling exactly how to wash it as he flipped it around and hoped it wouldn’t knot. I hoped so too; I didn’t really want to know what it would feel like to have someone brush my hair in a harsh manner to remove knots when I could barely go over speed bumps in a car without whimpering in pain.
When it came time to wash my face, Milo looked at me expectantly. I could tell the thought of getting near my eyes with my special skin scrubbing face wash was not really appealing. The conversation went something like this:
“But I have to wash my face or else I’ll break out.”
“So wash it.”
“I can’t exactly hold my breast and wash my face with one hand, it doesn’t work.”
“Why? Can’t one hand reach the whole face?”
He had a point but still, it seemed awkward. I thought of a compromise. “All right, I’ll wash my face if you hold my breast.”
Seriously, I can’t make these things up. Milo allowed himself to be a stand in bra while I washed my face and then he helped me finish bathing. When we stepped out of the shower and I was wrapped in a towel, he removed the Glad wrap and cleaned the area between the bandages with a clean washcloth. Unfortunately, this is where I broke down and cried. As funny as the image of my six-foot-two husband standing in the shower gently cupping my breast so I could wash up will always be, it was also seriously degrading to not be able to shower on my own. I couldn’t even attempt it since my right arm wouldn’t lift above shoulder level. Cancer was stripping me of even the simplest things and I was falling apart because of it. I didn’t want to need help rising from the couch, or showering, or driving. I wanted to be as independent as I had been before. While I knew deep down that the situation was temporary and the wound would eventually heal enough for me to do things on my own again, in that moment I felt shattered. I couldn’t wait for us to beat cancer so this would be over.