This guest blog is from the fab Charlotte, the founder of Drain Dollies.
I was tested for the BRCA1 gene
At 17 I lost my mum to ovarian cancer, she was only 51, when I was a small child, I lost my grandma to the same disease. At the age of 25 I decided to be tested for the BRCA1 gene and shortly after informed I carried it. This left me with a huge risk of both breast and ovarian cancer, having watched my mum slip away from me at such a young age, I had to take this seriously.
At the age of 26 I decided I would have a double mastectomy; I really wanted that risk eliminated and I was very matter of fact about it. Having met my surgeon, he filled me with confidence and explained I would not be able to breast feed children, numbness and obviously all the risks involved with such big surgery. Numerous people told me I was too young to be having the surgery, but in my mind, I wouldn’t gain anything by waiting a few years other than a ton of anxiety.
I ended up having implants replacing my breast tissue, over the muscle with strattice to secure them. The surgery went very well, and I had lots of help around me including friends who shaved my legs and help me put my knickers on! Following my surgery, I had two drains coming out of either breast, a bit like a catheter with a bag of blood/fluid attached, these were with me for two weeks however this varies with each patient. The results from my surgery were fantastic which I do not doubt made the journey significantly easier to manage, to which I am eternally grateful to my surgeon Mr Murphy for.
I felt self-conscious wandering around with two bags of blood, on top of this they were a pain in the arse, how are you supposed to go for a wee whilst guarding with your life two drains stitched into your body you daren’t catch or tug. From this moment Drain Dollies were born, with the help of my friend’s mum Corinne who is a hugely talented sewer we came up with a plan.
We took ourselves to the fabric wholesaler, drains in tow whilst I scanned the isles for beautiful fabrics that I knew would suit the task in hand perfectly. Once I had perfected the technique, we began sewing. I still had my drains so each bag I made I could trial on myself. I decided because the bags were useful and cheered me up, I wanted to make these available for everyone going through this. Before forming Drain Dollies I wrote a blog about my journey, the story was picked up by the media and it helped lots of women feel they were not alone. As a result of this I have spoken at charity events in front of hundreds of people, been interviewed on the news, and even appeared on the Lorraine show with Dr Hilary.
As well as making the bags I got a website and logo designed, the name Drain Dollies just came to me whilst snoozing. I decided I wanted to give something back, so a 10% donation from each sale goes to “Prevent Breast Cancer” this charity is based at the hospital I had my surgery and they do some fantastic research.
Drain Dollies has evolved
Over the years Drain Dollie’s have evolved with a gorgeous range of fabrics from plain to snazzy, an adjustable strap to suit all heights and a fluid balance chart for ladies to document their drainage. I supply numerous retailers and hospitals across the UK and much further afield. As I got back to my day job running my Podiatry business, I was unable to keep up the sewing so found an amazing company to make the bags for me. Drain Dollie’s are recommended by surgeons and breast care nurses all over which brings me great joy. I often receive messages from ladies thanking me for giving them dignity during their recovery, some bring a tear to my eye. As well as being practical they offer so much more, lots of women have commented how comfortable it makes them feel around their small children, seeing their mummy carry around bags of blood could be quite frightening for a little one.
Not only has forming Drain Dollies given me great pleasure, I have met some amazing people, made friends, learnt a lot about myself and lastly the cut-throat nature of business. There was always going to come a time when a big organisation reproduced my bag and passed it off as their own without a hint of acknowledgment. But you know what, I don’t just sell a bag, I offer a shoulder to cry on, advice, chats at 2am when someone can’t sleep and most importantly personal experience. As I pack every order from my home, I think of my mum and hope she’s watching and proud of what I have achieved so far.
Check out www.draindollies.com to order some bags and read some helpful advice about undergoing a mastectomy.