port surgery, chemo port

Hard to port

I had a port inserted today so that I can receive chemotherapy (and have blood drawn) through the port instead of through a vein in my hand or arm. The left side of my chest is a little sore now, and I can’t really turn my head to the left. I have to turn my body.

When I was doing my third year at the University of Sussex, I got such a major crick in my neck that I walked around for at least a day with my head tilted to the side. One of my professors wanted to know why I was holding my head that way. I felt that way today, talking to a friend who stopped by to drop off baked ziti and salad and bread. (I think it’s about time for a second serving.)

It was a comedy of errors this morning at the Department of Interventional Radiology. When I was in the pre/post room, being attended to by three different nurses, a handsome young man with bed head approached me. I asked if he was the surgeon, and he replied, “I’m one of them.” (UCH is a teaching hospital, after all.) He said they were going to put the port on the right side.

"two by two, hands of blue", port surgery, chemo port, breast cancer

“The same side as the tumor?” I asked. “Shouldn’t it be on the other side?” I knew there was a good reason for my question, though I was far too sleepy to think of it. He said they would discuss it in the OR, explained the procedure, and left.

Once in the OR, I was hooked up to various machines. There was a bank of 8 monitors, 6 of which had my name on them. I found that life-affirming, or at least ego-affirming.

The man with the goatee set up a tray for the surgery and then had to redo it because he hadn’t realized I was allergic to latex. (I’m not sure I really am allergic to latex, for that matter. After one dive trip, I got a rash that lasted for a few days. I attributed it to wearing my latex dive suit for 4 days straight, but who knows? It could have been anything.)

The next step was to help me get my right arm out of the gown so he could clean my shoulder. By this time, I had asked two or three people whether the port should be on the left side. He explained to me that it’s easier to put the port on the right because the vein into which the tube is inserted makes a little jog on the left side.

Then he swabbed my shoulder with an icy substance that left a blue residue and proceeded to cover me artistically with blue drapes. (Does anyone else think “Two by two, hands of blue” from Firefly/Serenity when they see those new hospital gloves? Creepy. Can’t get it out of my head.)

Just as I was almost tented in, a woman whose name/rank/serial number I never caught snuck under the drapes and informed me that, yes, the port should be on the left. If they put it on the right side, it would make post-surgery radiation more difficult. This was the “Time Out” that I had been told would happen, so they could make sure they got everything right.

Right arm back in the gown. Left shoulder out. Icy wash again. I hoped I didn’t flash the man with the goatee, but I didn’t really care either. Tenting on the other side, and all I could think was, “Are they going to recycle all that plastic? Reuse it?”

I asked the man with the goatee if he was doing all right. I thought he was frustrated because he had to keep redoing all his prep work. I hope it didn’t come across as snotty, because I didn’t really mean it that way. It might have been his fault that he didn’t catch my so-called allergy, but it certainly wasn’t his problem that the doctors hadn’t “done rounds” and didn’t know where my port should go. Especially since I had brought it up with one of them almost an hour before I went to the OR.

The last thing I remembered before surgery was the (fourth) nurse telling me she was giving me sedatives now. When I woke up, someone on the other side of the blue drape was tugging at my chest. I think it was one of the surgeons finishing the sutures.

For the rest of the day, all I did was get crabby with Todd about all the traffic on Colfax (which he controls because he has his own galaxy) and lie around and, finally, eat a real meal. Now I’m having blueberries for dessert.

How appropriate.

Photos courtesy of Todd Bradley and his iPhone.