Port placement

Egads, I have hardware!  Seriously!  This morning, a port was installed into my chest for ease of administration of the chemo.  This will mean that I won’t have to suffer vein hunts for every infusion and blood draw; but seriously, this thing freaks me out a little bit.

Before I went into this procedure, I tried to find some descriptions of what to expect.  Surprisingly, I found very little.  So, I’m going to do my best to describe the experience here.

No food nor drink after midnight.  But Zanax was allowed, so I took one of those, hoping that I would sleep reasonably well….  Surprisingly, I did.

So, this fast included skipping my morning caffeine.  Only just a couple of hours ago did I figure out why I’ve had a headache all afternoon – yup – that would be coffee withdrawl!

Preparation:  I had to take a shower with Hibiclens, once last night and once this morning.  This is to minimize the amount of microbes on my skin… hopefully minimizing in general the number of microbes in the OR.  Sadly, I’m a rashy person, and I got a rash on my belly.

A few minutes after 5am, Cheryl and I drove to the U, and we reported to the appropriate desk at 5:30a.  You check in, then you sit down… Then they call you up and put a bracelet on you and you sit down.  Then they call you back, and things begin rolling.  One thing that happens throughout is that different people ask you the same questions – over and over.  While one might think this would be annoying, it made me feel secure that the right things were happening to me.  I changed into the bare ware, which at first was rather annoying (it’s a ginormous paper robe/gown thing) until they hooked it up to a warm air vent, making me all toasty warm…  I wiped the area with a pre-op wipe…  That area would be my chest.  They put those air pump boot things onto my calves for the prevention of blood clots.  They gave me a warmed blanket when I was chilled…  Leah, one of the nurses, asked me, when I was alone, whether I was living in a safe environment… They hooked me up to a blood pressure and heart rate monitor… and they had to reset the lower limit for heart rate because my resting heart rate is in the 40s – this alarm with a flashing red light kept going off.  That was a little bit entertaining…

But onto the procedure type things – the stabbing (yes – there was a fruit smoothie after the morning’s events).

First, I had blood drawn for CA 125 (ovarian cancer thing, that’s not terribly reliable unless you end up with a really really high number… which I did not… but that doesn’t mean I know anything … I just know that I don’t have a really high number).  Then, a nurse did my hand IV.  I have GIANT FIRM veins, but they roll.  Right side – fail.  Left side – fine.   I felt well cared for at every step, even when Grant missed my vein on the right.

DZ showed up in sport jacket and tie – all dressed up just for me, I asked?  He looked quite dapper.  I don’t remember what he looked like in the OR – I’m pretty sure he was wearing blue….

Happy drug administered after I signed consent.  I started feeling much more calm.  Cheryl was with me through nearly the entire pre-op stage.  She held my hand …  and she was just generaly wonderful.  I’m so lucky to have such a loving sweetie in my life.

Leon wheeled me out of the pre-op pod (lot’s of Lee-based names today) and to the OR.  When I got there, I was asked to slide over to the other table… I was generally feeling cooperative.  Then, new happy drug…..

And groggily awake in the recovery.  Now, I did not have a general…  I had monitored anesthesia care (MAC) – that combines intravenous sedation with local anesthetic – that means much less down time due to anesthesia….  Holy smokes – I don’t remember a darn thing.  I wonder – did I say weird stuff?  Did I have any conversations?  Leah had told me they would be talking to me throughout the procedure, so I’m curious about what I said… But I forgot to ask.

Oh am I grateful, though.  I was honestly quite weirded out by the idea of an installation of hardware in my body.  Ok – cancer has me more weirded out, but this is like a metal and plastic bit of hardware that I’ll probably have until the bilateral mastectomy.  And, the thing protrudes quite a lot!  DZ says that’s because I’m “skinny” – ha ha… In the bike racing world, I am NOT skinny at all!

A few surprises.  I was beyond parched when I woke up.  I downed like 5 cups of water …  and my throat hurt.  One of the anesthetics is gaseous, and it apparently irritates…  And Cheryl was RIGHT THERE when I woke up – I was happy to hear her voice.

A bit later, I went to the bathroom, and I had a look at my chest.  I have a tiny nick up by my collar bone and a 4 cm incision right above my left breast.  There is the port right there by that incision, and then a catheter that runs from the port into my big fat vein.  That catheter is sutured into place.  The port feels big to me – it is like a bump under the skin – size of about a quarter but perhaps a centimeter thick.  Everything has been painted with Dermabond (thank goodness – I’ve got a bunch of little rashes from the lead adhesives and the steristrips from the biopsies).  LOVE the Dermabond.

When it’s time to leave, Cheryl goes to get the car, and I get dressed. Cheryl pulled the car right up to the front of the building, and Leon wheeled me right to the car door.  Then, we went to the Seward Coop, where I had a delicious fruit smoothie.  Actually, I had three stabbings that I was awake for, so I’m in the hole for two more delicious smoothies… So, even if I don’t get stabbed tomorrow, I’ll be having a smoothie (or two).

After we got home, I did start to feel sore.  And, it feels kind of pully when I turn my head or shift my shoulder around.  I don’t care for that feeling, but it’s not painful… Sore, but not painful, if that makes any sense.  Anyway, I decided to go ahead and take a vicodin, forgetting that this drug keeps me awake.  I really really really wanted to take a nap…and I was super sleepy… but I just laid there very sleepily awake.  I don’t know anyone else who cannot sleep on vicodin.  I seriously cannot be the only one!  I talked to DZ later in the day, and he said I could do the alternating tylenol / ibuprofen as needed.  When I busted my arm a couple of years ago, I felt like that was pretty effective.  As I type this, I’m doing well.  I feel sore.. and that pully feeling when I move around in just the wrong ways, but I feel just fine.  DZ says that the pully feeling will last around a week….

Earlier in the evening, we went for a walk…  had Tre’s friend over for some dinner…  And then a giant fight with the child over the fact that it was time to end his day and start bedtime routine.  He’s screaming his head off …  And he has a small blister on his ankle…  And he’s generally just throwing a ginormous fit.  Ah yes – the normal stuff….

To summarize. The morning was rather a blur…  The afternoon was quiet – even got some work done.  I felt good moving around… This evening was practically “normal”…


For my pelvic MRI within the next few days, I guess I won’t have a regular IV – I’ll be able to use this thing…  They clean the skin over the port, spray on a numbing spray, and stick ya…  And that’s that.  I really am hoping to stay on schedule for chemo next Wednesday.


About rleepenn

I'm a mom and a chemistry professor, and I love to ride bikes! On July 29th, 2011, I received the news that I have breast cancer. This is my blog....
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One Response to Port placement

  1. Lynne says:

    Glad you’re posting so much. I was a little bummed for a while because I couldn’t see any updates and thought you might just be doing only the one post. For some reason it kept going to that first post, even when I went to the main blog.

    Anyway, I am learning so much from you. The photo is great. I’ve encountered some of these terms and procedures in the claims I handle, but they usually aren’t pivotal to the claim itself, so I don’t get to “see” stuff like what a port looks like. So interesting, although you SO deserve those smoothies! Don’t they make coffee ones or something?? I mean, combine your fixes; caffeine and smoothies, heheh.

    Don’t want to pry (fortunately it’s easy to “walk away” from a blog question), but do you mean that the pelvic MRI result could change your stage? Or would that change only the treatment if there are some findings? I hope it is completely negative and will not impact your eligibility for the study.

    Anyway, thanks again for posting in such an open manner. It’s not something any of us could really understand without the level of detail. Let’s hear it for professors 😉

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