After a Right Mastectomy

These days of pain are simple. Care for the body; care for the pain. Dress and keep the incision clean. Apply triple antibiotic to the areas that seep. Eat lots of protein, fresh vegetables, and zinc. Drink water to encourage elimination. The left arm will learn to take over for the right. Wash dishes, then sleep. Empty the two surgical drains under the arm, record each drainís output. Donít get grossed out. Take pain pills on time. Watch for infection; check your temperature three times a day. Answer the myriad calls from family and friends.

I canít bend and stretch to get things in or out of the fridge. I can only reach things in the front of the cupboard and only on the bottom shelf. I can start the washer, but canít bend or stretch to get clothes out or into the dryer. If Jonathan stacks wood on the left side of the hearth, I can load the wood stove. Try not to tear out more stitches. (Did I mention there is no heat? The furnace quit the day I came home from the hospital.) Sometimes I can pick things off the floor, other times I canít. (Why donít they tell you, you will have shoulder problems after breast surgery?)

Everything that touches the long incisions must be clean. Change nightgowns each night. Let others change the sheets once a week. Use clean towels daily. Keep nails clean and short. Do not empty the cat box. Solicit help from everyone who visits. Ask friends to inspect stitches that you canít see. Take showers to soak off dressings. Donít let shower water fall directly on the wounds. (You wonít know if it is too hot; there are no nerves left on that side.) Shower daily. Let steamy hot water hit your back, rinse your soapy hair, push suds over the stitches to clean them and let the soap trail over the deep black necrotic tissue that lies over the missing nipple, and down off the long slope of the belly.

Nudibranch, Indonesia, copyright 2005 Mary Pearson

Copyright 2012, Laura L. Snyder

Laura L. Snyder writes in hard bound journals from rainy Seattle. Find her latest in Windfall, Labletter, The Raven Chronicles, and in the anthologies Poets of the American West and Classified: Prose Poems. Her chapbook, Winged, came out this spring from Flutter Press.

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