As I alluded to in my previous post (Planning the Battle), I recently had a port implanted in preparation for my upcoming chemotherapy infusions. Now the anesthesia and pain killers have worn off, I figure it would be a good time to share my experience with you.
If you are like me, I had no clue what a port was, my pre-cancer definitions consisted of 1. A sweet dessert wine or 2. A place you park a boat. The type of port we are talking about here, is a small device a surgeon implants under your skin, usually in the chest, which allows nurses more comfortable access to infuse medications or draw blood without having to start an IV every time.
They called me a few days before the surgery to let me know I could not have any food after midnight and no liquids 2 hours before the surgery. Then they caught me off guard by telling me that I should not shave my own chest, a nurse would do it at the hospital. Strange, but I could handle that, it was a nice change of pace from my colonoscopy prep.
I arrived at the hospital with my driver (thanks Dad!) two hours before the procedure to do paperwork and receive my spa treatment. After signing my life away, it was time for my shave. The nurse busted out a 3M branded medical shaver with a sterilized blade, which no doubt cost me $700. It became immediately apparent the 3M engineers did not design this thing to shave a bear as the nurse proceeded to drag this instrument of torture across my chest. After a few swipes, the nurse stopped and said, “oh my,” as she grabbed a towel in an attempt to contain the furpocalypse. Needless to say, the pre-OP nurse was doing the best she could without calling maintenance for a hedge trimmer. After several more minutes of hacking away, my chest was sufficiently hairless, and the towel looked like a bear cub had curled up for a nap. Once the majority of the hair was cleaned up, the nurse busted out the secret weapon, 3M sticky gloves. Yep, the same 3M engineers designed plastic gloves coated in the same stuff they use on lint rollers and Post-It Notes! Armed with her sticky mitts, the nurse proceeded to clean up the stray hairs, then spa time was over.
I then received an IV they would use to sedate me during the surgery. After that, the nurse brought in a show-and-tell book, so I could see the device they would be implanted into my silky smooth chest. It was nice to see what they were going to be installing. Finally, after meeting with the anesthesiologist and surgeon for all their pre-checks, it was game time.
Unlike the colonoscopy, which took place in a procedure room, this surgery took place in the operating room, where they had all the equipment they needed. After I got situated on the table, they used the same type of anesthesia they gave me during the colonoscopy, and I was off to sleepy land.
When I was asleep, the surgeon numbed an area in my neck and used a needle to locate a large central vein running to my heart. Then he used ultrasound to carefully identify and thread a catheter into that vein where it will stay until I’m declared cancer free. After that, the surgeon numbed up my chest and made a second incision and opened up a pocket for the port device. A tool was then used for fishing the catheter from the neck down to the port device. Then they locked everything into place and tested it out to make sure it all worked. Once it worked, they tucked the port into the pocket, tested it once more and then glued me shut.
***End of Squeamish Stuff***
Then it was time to wake me up. Once I came to, the nurse wheeled me back for an x-ray to check that everything was positioned correctly, which it was. Then it was time to eat a few cookies before I was discharged.
I got home and took it easy for the rest of the day, I wasn’t in much pain at all, however, right around bedtime, the local numbing medication started to wear off my chest and neck got a bit sore. After taking a Vicodin, I was able to sleep just fine. The next morning there was quite a bit of bruising where the port had been implanted in my chest, and there was a bit of pain, but ibuprofen was enough to help that.
About halfway through the day, I was getting concerned about the “pulling” sensations I was having in my neck. Luckily the hospital gave me a follow-up call, and it turns out it was actually due to the glue the surgeon used to close the neck incision, the skin was bunched up a bit, which caused a pulling feeling. I was thinking I could feel the catheter moving around in my neck… whoopsies.
As I’m writing this is has been five days since my “Power Port” (yep, really, that’s its name) was implanted and things are feeling mostly back to normal. Except for the itching… You know how skin itches when it is healing up from a bruise? Yeah, I have that post-bruise itch, but it is nothing compared to the itching created by the feverishly growing bear fur trying to make up for 20 years of lost growth.
Ben, you are an amazing writer! I sincerely think there’s a book in here somewhere! My prayers for you and your family continue, and will until You beat this thing. 🐻
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Thanks Julie! I’ve always enjoyed writing, I just never took the extra step. Sometimes life has a funny way of nudging you in the right direction. I appreciate your prayers and support.
Very similar experience to mine and I have the same marks on my chest and neck. That “PowerPort” (my guess is Marvel already has the film rights for that character) is a pretty cool piece of tech. Honestly, it will make your journey a bit easier than having to get poked in the arm every single time.
I love your posts and your humor is so nice to hear. You already know that this whole thing really sucks and being able to smile and laugh is SO important, especially when you just want to curl into a ball and cry. Attitude is everything, seriously. This is tough, but merely a bump in the road on a very long path. Then you will get back on that same path with a whole new perspective and a whole bunch of really funny blog posts.
Let us know if you need anything at all – we are ten minutes from the university hospital and I work from home so can zip down there anytime you need anything.
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Thanks for the encouragement and kind offer Chris! It’s all going to become all too real with the first round of chemo. But your positive attitude is a great inspiration for me.
I just wish you didn’t have to speak from experience.