Drain Dollies - the clever new invention helping women after mastectomy surgery

Charley Wood

Charley Wood - Credit: Archant

Charley Wood, of Hale in Cheshire, endured a double mastectomy at the age of 26 but within weeks had created the Drain Dollie, to help other women avoid the humiliation that she endured.

Charley’s double mastectomy was a proactive choice on her part, following the news that she carries the BRCA gene in her DNA, the gene that is responsible for triggering breast and ovarian cancer in female carriers. Charley has lost too many female relatives to ovarian cancer and decided that the risk to her own future health was too high to risk and took the brave step of having both breasts removed to avoid breast cancer .

‘I’ve already entered the high risk age for breast cancer caused by the BRCA gene,’ she says, ‘so I took the decision to have them both removed and have implants instead. My sister had already done this, so I knew what to expect.’

The procedure is lengthy and the after-surgery healing period includes the necessity for a drain to be set into the breasts to remove build-up of fluids. The drain is an unwieldly, ugly and frankly unpleasant piece of medical equipment that proved too much of a humiliation for Charley’s sister, who refused to leave her home for the two weeks they were in place.

‘You’re expected to wheel them round in a trolley, or put them in a carrier bag!’ says Charley. ‘There’s no support or help offered by the NHS and after what is a major surgery – and one that really impacts on women’s sense of feminity and self, it’s no easy thing.’

In response to her frustration Charley has created, and is now marketing, a solution: pretty cotton bags into which the drain fits perfectly and that can be carried by the woman with ease, both disguising the drain and making it possible to get out and about during the recovery period. She calls them Drain Dollies.

‘It’s just something to make life easier for women who have been through a very traumatic time, and really don’t need any extra unnecessary hassle. They only cost £5 and 10% of this goes to Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention.

‘The response has been amazing already. The physiotherapists at South Manchester University Hospital are very interested in them. Anybody who has had a major surgery could require a mobile drain, so they can be used for patients beyond breast surgery patients and it helps people get mobile, which is really important.’

Charley has documented her story in her blog – www.theyarenottwinstheyaresisters.wordpress.com– and has been overwhelmed at the international response she has received.

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‘I needed an outlet for my thoughts and feelings,’ she say. ‘I would express it all on there. Every day I wake up and there are messages from women all over the world, telling me of their experiences. I had 50,000 views in the first week!’

Charley is an inspirational young woman and makes it clear that for her the journey isn’t over.

‘Ovarian cancer is the frightening one,’ she says. ‘This has killed my …. It has no symptoms till it’s too late. I will have my ovaries removed by my 38th birthday, sooner if I have children earlier.’

And I have no doubt will find a way to turn this experience into a positive one for many women too.


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