Monday, January 31, 2011

Any Port in a Storm

Today was chemotherapy port placement day.  While I'm not usually squeamish about any kind of medical procedure (with the exception of everything that happens at the dentist), I have to admit I was a little nervous about this one.  Reading things like this Wikipedia entry that explain the procedure very simply, but that also mention devices being implanted under my skin with a tube running into the jugular vein and then directly towards the heart, well...yikes.

Turns out the implantation was no big deal.  So far, my experience with every nurse, imaging tech, and aide in oncology and surgery at Mass General has been great.  Maybe these people are just nicer because they know they're dealing with patients who are fighting for their lives, but whatever the reason, I've yet to feel like anyone taking care of me was anything other than professional, competent, and really caring.  I even got a hug from one of the older nurses as I was leaving the OR today (well, as much as a hug as you can give someone who's strapped down to a table and who's kind of loopy, but still).  The radiologist who put the port in was straightforward, respectful and encouraging.  Once again, thanks to some lovely sedatives, I felt absolutely no pain.  I had an IV with some antibiotics, got snugly tucked in to a table with lots of sterile drapes and warm blankets, and then had some really weird half-dreams while I was under sedation (yet was also somehow conscious enough to understand what the doctor was saying as he explained what he was doing and when - not sure how that works, or if I imagined the whole thing).  I was a little loopy and seasick from the sedatives on the drive home.  Now, about 8 hours later, the port site and the right side of my neck are a little sore, but there's no sharp pain.  It's about the way you feel if you have a bad bruise, or have pulled a muscle lifting something the wrong way.  I had visions of sharp pain from bleeding incisions - not at all.  If you're about to get one of these things, fear not.  You may be achy, but for me the worst feeling right now is the itchy adhesive that's holding down these dressings.  I can live with that.

So now I'm all set for the real treatment to start.  I'll go in for a radiation simulation tomorrow (a test run with imaging but no actual "zapping," as my kids are calling it), then  a chemotherapy teaching session during which I'll learn how to maintain the port and manage my portable chemo pump, and then on Wednesday morning, the fun begins.  Bloodwork at 8:30, first chemo at 9, first radiation at 9:45.  I'm ready to start scaring this tumor AWAY.  If everything else goes as smoothly as the port placement did, this will all be a breeze.  :)

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