Saturday, January 14, 2012

Port Removal Scheduled

My port removal procedure has been scheduled for January 27.  An implantable port is a thin, soft, plastic tube that is put into a vein in your chest or arm and has an opening (port) just under the skin. It allows medicines to be given into the vein or blood to be taken from the vein. The long, hallow tube is known as a catheter. The port is a disc about 2.5–4cm (1–1½ in) in diameter. The catheter is usually inserted (tunnelled) under the skin of your chest. The tip of the catheter lies in a large vein just above your heart and the other end connects with the port, which sits under the skin on your upper chest or arm. You'll be able to see and feel a small bump underneath your skin, but it won't show on the outside of your body.  My port was implanted during my mastectomy and used later to administer the chemotherapy drugs and to take blood tests. It means that you don't need to have needles put into the veins in your arms every time you have treatment.  The port is removed a few weeks after chemotherapy ends.

The following is from a blog by a surgeon who goes by the pen name of Orac:

It's easy for a surgeon to forget that the insertion and removal of a port represent two major milestones in the course of a patient's cancer treatment. The insertion of a port often represents, even more than the scars from surgery, a daily reminder of the patient's disease, and the insertion of that port represents a long-term alteration of the body necessitated by her disease. It's a constant reminder that life is not normal, a cold, metallic foreign body implanted in her body. Every time a woman feels that quarter-sized metal port under the skin, it's telling her that her life is not what it was; she is not the same as she was; she is not "normal." Even though the implanted port may not even be noticeable even if she wears a wide-necked shirt, other than the small scar left from its implantation, the patient knows its there. Sometimes this provokes complaints that one wouldn't have expected. I've had patients complain that they felt the port while trying to golf, to ride a bike, or even do yoga, and it bothered them. I've had patients who normally sleep on their stomachs complain that they can't do so anymore because they end up lying on the port.  Of course, putting in a port is not particularly difficult (well, most of the time, anyway, when port insertions go bad they can be among the most difficult and frustrating "little" cases there are, particularly because the surgeon gets to sweat under lead shielding as he wields the fluoroscope). However, it is still considerably more difficult than removing one. Removing a port involves making an incision in the skin; carrying it down to the port while avoiding the plastic catheter, which can be inadvertently cut, leaving the end to retract into the vein, where it's difficult to get out; dissecting it free from the capsule of scar that forms around it; and then closing the skin. It usually doesn't take me more than 15 minutes, even if I'm taking my time.  Indeed, removing a port is so easy that it's equally easy to forget what this means to the patient. It means an end to the chemotherapy. It means that the most intense, painful stage of treatment is over. It means reversal of at least one bodily alteration. it promises the hope of a return of what was taken away by the cancer.

I understand from reading BC blogs & community boards/forums online that I'll be left with a nice little battle scar after they remove my port.  But, my surgeon implanted my port to the right of my chest, so the scar shouldn't show in low neck tops.  The only time is will show is when I wear a strapless top!!!!  Hmmmm, don't think I've got any of those!  It will show in a bathing suit, but hey, if I'm lucky enough to be relaxing in a hot tub or sitting on the sand watching the surf come in, I won't give my scar a care!  After all, it is a Battle Scar of my victory over breast cancer!

I have to be at UTSW by 7:45 a.m.  One of my daughters is going to spend the night with me before and take me.  They asked that I have someone there to drive me home - just in case!  Yikes!  I dread this procedure but will hopefully have a positive report to make here after it is done!  Thinking positive!!!  I read this information on the internet:

When you no longer need the implantable port, it will be taken out. This is usually done by a specialist doctor who will use a local anaesthetic to numb the area. The doctor will make a small incision over the site of the port and remove it. The catheter will be pulled out of the vein. The wound is then stitched and covered with a small dressing. You may feel a bit sore and bruised after your port is removed. A mild painkiller will help with this.

This appointment is the day after my repeat consultation with the radiation oncologist.  Looks like I'm getting ready to heat up the highway with medical appointments the next couple of months.

The daily devotional for today in Streams in the Desert gives me peace over the coming months.  It included this poem:

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for my way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

Beautiful, isn't it?