Port Authority

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I am not an expert nor an authority on chemo ports – I just thought it was a clever title.  I do, however, have some very personal experience with having a port myself.  It signaled the official start of my treatment for Stage 2 breast cancer in 2011.  The way my medical team described it to me, it seemed like an easy enough “minor” procedure.  “Oh, they’ll just place a little port underneath your skin to make it easier to get your meds”, they told me. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, I thought. I asked if they did it there in my Oncologist office and they told me no, they would send me to a doctor who was very good at placing ports. Fine, no biggie. When the day came, I set off to the hospital with my Mom.  I wasn’t nervous, because I really didn’t know what was in store. To avoid freaking myself out, I made a point of not going online to google my diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment, so I was blissfully unaware.  Turns out, I was in for a surprise.  The first surprise was when they brought me into the surgical area and had me disrobe and put on a gown.  For some reason, I thought they would just bring me to an exam room and magically put in whatever this port thingy was. Then, they told me they were going to start a big, scary IV to calm me down, but not put me to sleep.  Up until that point, I had been calm.  Now, I was starting to get the picture- this was serious stuff.  They didn’t allow my Mom in the area with me, so I was left by myself wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.  I was getting scared.  They eventually came and wheeled me back into a large, freezing cold, operating room.  There were monitors everywhere and people in scrubs looking very serious.  They were scurrying around, setting up equipment and putting a curtain in front of my face, so I wouldn’t be able to see the preparations or procedure.  I remember shaking from a combination of the temperature in the room and my realization that something big was happening.  I was officially a cancer patient.

The doctor introduced himself to me.  I remember he had beautiful blue eyes.  I remember nothing else about him now, not even his name.  I remember being horrified that I was awake and could hear them all talking about what they were doing to me. I could feel them putting in the port and adjusting the tubing in my chest and neck.  The local anesthesia took away the pain, but not the sensation of what they were doing.  I prayed it would be over quickly.  I wanted to cry, but was too stunned by the whole thing.  Afterwards, back in the recovery area, they told me I shouldn’t feel too much pain and wouldn’t even know it was there.  In reality, it was one of the most painful things I’ve experienced.  It actually took a few weeks for it to stop feeling like I’d been sliced by Freddie Krueger.  Even now, a few years after having my port removed, I sometimes feel a dull ache where it used to be.

Fortunately, after my traumatic initial experience with the port, I actually grew to love it.  It was so convenient to get all my meds through and to get blood drawn from.  I got used to seeing the weird lump under my skin and the tubing that connected to my carotid artery.  Some days I wish I still had my port, especially when I have to get blood drawn – no easy task when it comes to my stubborn veins.  But, my port is a not so distant memory now.  I’m reminded of it every time I look in the mirror and see the scar it left behind.  I like to think of that scar as a badge of honor, something that signifies the battle I fought  – and, thank God, the battle I was able to win.

* For more information on chemotherapy ports, you can visit  http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/chemotherapy/catheters-and-ports-cancer-treatment

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