port surgery, chemo 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.

Leave A Comment

  1. Suzi Plooster January 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    Looks like you are keeping your spirits high. Way to go.

  2. Bev Lichterman January 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    I love your sense of humor, Beth. And your style of writing. Hope you enjoyed the blueberries!

  3. barbara nenno January 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    But Beth, you look so beautiful while you are sedated–how do you do that? Hope all continues smoothly. (Funny cousin thing…I’m allergic to latex, which was discovered years ago when I had latex stitches in my face after a cyst removal. That mess required a lot of injections and I still have some scarring. (Don’t you love the way people share their medical stories when you are having a treatment? Especially the ones who try to one-up you with bigger scars or more stitches or ruder doctors or nurses, etc.) At least I’m not doing that!

  4. Rebecca January 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    This is a beautiful post, and I admire your calmness, Beth! I would be not so calm! If you are around this weekend, I’d love to stop by and see your new place!

  5. Beth Partin January 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Barbara, though I’d rather not be sedated at all. Not too many people have shared their doctor stories yet…so I’m not tired of it.

    Rebecca, I’ll be around on Sunday. Don’t know about Saturday. If I feel good, we’ll be going down to Colorado Springs for some roller derby.

  6. Todd Bradley January 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    By the way, Beth didn’t mention it, but I took those photos.

    As far as looking calm goes, she was so calm she kept falling asleep. But I think it was due to lots of good drugs, not any sort of inner peace.

  7. Kevin Meehan January 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Compared to my doctor stories from 1998 (heart valve replacement surgery) you got off easy in this round–and good for that. My team had to put a tube in me via an artery accessed where right thigh meets torso…. It lead to vomit and s**t over everything, both ends protesting… The eventual outcome was good but unlike you there was no grace under pressure… There’s your doctor story!

  8. Beth Partin January 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Kevin, I’m sorry you had such a bad time of it. I didn’t know a cardiac catheter could cause such reactions; glad you made it through OK.

  9. Melanie Stafford January 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Beth, I always imagined you were an incredible writer, but now I know it for sure! Connie told me about your recent turn of events, and I’ll try to visit you with her one of these times. Please know that all of us “old” PEs who have benefitted from your brilliance over the years are pulling for you. Your calmness has always been an inspiration to me, even when you weren’t sedated!

    Nice pictures, Todd.

  10. Beth Partin January 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Melanie.

  11. […] read other articles about cancer and treatment that I wrote years ago and posted on this blog. They show me how far I have come. If you […]

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