Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Port is Gone!

One more step towards a return to a normal cancer-free life is behind me.  Yesterday I had my port removed - this was the device they put in my chest back in February that all my chemo & most of my blood transfusions went thru.  Basically a little button under the skin in my chest with wires into my heart & other big veins that delivered the drugs faster to my main circulatory system.  It was very painful to have it put in but once that wore off, the port was a useful tool for a chemo patient.  It always felt foreign, stuck up thru my skin & I could feel the wires in my veins which was a little weird.

I'm glad to have it gone.  The procedure to remove the port was done in the angiogram lab like the installation was.  Basically there is a small radiology procedure area at Vanderbilt.  You get a "cell" as I call it where they put you into a hospital gown, put you in a bed, start an IV, do the "Pre Op" stuff like asking a bazillion questions.  Then they come & get you for the procedure - when they do this, you have about 3 or 4 nurses & a doctor standing around the bedside discussing your procedure.  They asked me why I didn't need it anymore & I told them I was cancer free.  All of them started to clap - that was a really special moment & one I will remember for a long time. The women in the cell next to me and in the cell across from me were both having ports placed.  Listening to the nurses describe for them what they described for me just 6 short months ago made me so incredibly thankful to be where I am in this journey.  Also made me reflect again on all I have endured, and learned, this year.

Next they wheel you down the hallway to the room.  You "shimmy" from that bed onto the procedure table (just like I had to shimmy onto the operating table for both surgeries!).  The room is so darn cold, it feels like a freezer!  Once you're on the table, they take a fancy xray.  There are about 12 huge computer monitors in the room, plus a whole wall of different size cathethers.  Here is a picture of what the room looks like. 

The nurses are awesome as always.  They prep you for the procedure by cleaning the area & creating the sterile field, then they give you some Versed in the IV which makes you a little sleepy but not really "out of it".  I was awake for the whole procedure.  There was a fellow teaching a resident how to do a port removal so I heard the instructions step by step & knew what they were doing the whole time.  They numb the area with Lidocaine (they didn't use enough at first, ouch), then basically cut thru the same scar from when they put it in, thru all the scar tissue (fibrous tissue as they call it) that has grown around the device & out it comes.  They showed it to me when they took it out which was really cool!  They sew up the subcutaneous tissue then they glue the skin closed.  You shimmy back onto the wheely bed & off you go back to the cell in the procedure area.  This is the best part because they finally let you eat (nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours before the procedure & mine was at 1.30 pm!).  You lay there for about 35 minutes, then they let you get dressed, wheel you out to the waiting room & off you go.

Cori took me for the procedure & Kendall came as well.  It was nice to get wheeled out to two waiting people!!  It hurt some last night, hurts some today but nothing anywhere near as bad as when they put it in!!  We totally enjoyed Cori's all too short visit & I have pledged not to let 2 years go by before we see each other again!

Next week I have to go for the breast MRI to follow up from the 2 spots they were curious about in February.  I'm expecting an all clear from this exam, since my mammogram last week showed nothing at all.  Other than a few other little lingering things related to chemo side effects & a routine annual exam, that should be my last medical event until the end of November!  Cross your fingers.

No, my hair isn't growing in yet.  And my blood counts, which they checked yesterday, are still pretty wimpy.  My white count is better so that is good news.  My red count hadn't changed from last week (thus the fact that I'm still tired & walking from point A to point B is exhausting - I haven't been able to do my walks around the block this week for one reason or another).  My platelets were just barely good enough to do the procedure yesterday.  Whew.  Its only 2 weeks tomorrow since I got the last chemo treatment so this really isn't surprising...

Next week is an exciting week for me - hoping to move up to walking around the bigger block (which is .75 miles) at least 3 or 4 times.  Also I should finish up all my medical stuff.  And I"m starting back on my nutrition program on Wednesday. 

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