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Last tie to Chemo . . .

It’s been an odd feeling having the port in my body. It was on the upper right side of my chest.  It was right under my skin.  I always knew it was there.  If I laid a certain way or bumped against something I felt it.  My body had a foreign object in it.  Once chemo was completed, I wanted it out immediately – that final day if possible.  Imagine my disappointment when Dr. Ruark told me she wanted me to wait at least three weeks to let my body heal from chemo.  Not happy but resigned, I was scheduled for December 21st for my port removal.

I got the call the day after I met with Dr. Meininger, Dr. Ruark had fallen and broken her elbow.  She would be out for 6 months.  Dr. Ruark was to remove my port in two weeks.  Come on, I want this thing out of me!  The office gives me the number of the radiology group as they were handling Dr. Ruark’s port surgeries while she recouperates.  I place a call and am told by the radiology department that the doctor who inserted the port is the person who is to remove it.  Well that’s not going to work.  I am not waiting 6 months!  I call back to Dr. Ruark’s office and explain what I was told by radiology.  Thankfully they call and set up my surgery for December 22nd.   Only one day later than the original date and before Christmas.  Woo Hoo!

I had no apprehension for this surgery.  I was given twilight sleep when it was inserted and was home and feeling fine later that day.  Easy peasy.  The day before any surgery the hospital always calls to confirm your time, where you need to be and what you need to do to prepare.  I get the phone call and swiftly go through the question portion (you know the one where you get asked the question you hate? – your weight!) and then wait to hear my instructions.  Which I really know by heart by now so I kind of tune out.  I tune in to hear her say I can have liquids like coffee in the morning.  Excuse me?  But I’m not to have anything after midnight due to the anesthesia.  She responds, you aren’t having anesthesia.  You are having a local.

Okay, remember how I said I wasn’t worried about the surgery.  Well I’ve just done a 180.  A local?!?   How many shots will it take to numb the area?  How deep will they have to go?   This procedure borders on barbaric to me.  Anxiety level at an all-time high, I have to wait two weeks for the surgery.  You would think that by now I would get over my aversion to needles.  I never really dreaded them before but between the number of times I’ve been poked along with the areas where I’ve been poked together and then add in the numbing medication which burns like a *itch.   Yep, I’m apprehensive.

The day comes and we’re off to surgery.  Surgery is set for 10:30 so we’re to be there at 8:30.  I’ve had several surgeries at this hospital but find I have to go to a different area for this surgery.  We arrive at the waiting room to find it packed.  There are only two seats left.  I give my name and wait.  Yep, just what my anxiety level needs.  We wait quite a bit when I’m finally taken back. Bob and I are led into a bay.  I get into a gown and wait once again.  I find out later that I’ve been squeezed in – hence the wait.  I’m told by the nurse that the doctor I have is very methodical.  He’s a perfectionist and takes his time.  A thorough doctor, it’s worth the wait.

I’m finally taken back.  The time has come – yikes!  I get up on the operating table. I’m prepared by a few nurses. I’m smeared with brown disinfectant.  Then the top half of my body is covered and taped, leaving a square opening where the port resides.  The nurses then step into a side room with a window looking into the surgical area and the doctor arrives.  Dr. Blankenship.  I can tell he’s a quiet man, seems a little on the shy side.  Well, he hasn’t met me and I tend to talk when I’m nervous.  He’s not going to know what hit him – lol!

What I’ve been dreading begins.  I’d like to tell you the apprehension was worse than the reality but then I’d be lying.  It hurt like hell.  Really hurt, the pain was excruciating. Usually after the first shot to numb, the following shots really don’t hurt.  Not the case here.  At one point I started singing a Christmas song and I have no idea where that came from but it was either that or scream.  He stopped and looked at me. I told him to keep going.  It took everything in me to hold still.  Finally, I begin to feel nothing.  I’m numbing up.  While the pain begins to subside, investigator Carey come out.   I start interrogating the quiet guy.

I’m finally numb and he begins. I begin with interrogation. He actually wanted to be a dentist first and went to dental school for a year before going to Wayne State to become a doctor.  He’s an interventional radiologist.  I ask him to explain what it is he does job entails. It sounds like a “Jack of Trades” type of job.  Performing surgeries like port insertion and removals is minor to what he does.  Placing of catheters for dialysis, dissolving blood clots, drainage, bilary intervention, in several types of cancer treatment.  I get Mr. Shy to talk the entire time.  Amazing.

As we’re talking, I can feel a tugging.  A lot of tugging actually.  It doesn’t hurt, my mind just doesn’t want to think about what he’s actually doing to me.  Port is removed, stitches in, his job is complete.  The nurse cleans me up as best she can and I’m wheeled back to the bay area.  We talked as we go, she’s a young mother with three children.  We talk about Christmas and what Santa will bring to them.  She’s just adorable.  It was a nice distraction from the horror I had just gone through.

We get to the Bay area and there’s no room for me.  All I have to do is dress. We finally decide to wheel me to the bathroom. Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Bob and I head in, and he helps me dress. We’re laughing because we’re trying not to touch anything.  It's like we're playing the lava game. Too many germs!  Clothes on with minimal touching, I get back in the wheel chair. I'm given my at-home care instructions and off to the valet. Once again he brings the truck. I swear he never brings something easy to get into!

I clamor into the truck and we head home.  Bob puts his hand on my arm and asks how I’m doing.  I can’t hold it in any longer.  I begin to cry, deep sobs. That was a rough one.  We go home, I get sit in the lazy boy and take a much needed nap.  I’m mentally exhausted.  Falling asleep I think about my day.  I did it, the worst is over, my port is out.  That port was my last tie to chemo.  No port, no chemo.  It wasn’t a great experience but it’s done.  A necessary evil to complete a long part of my journey.  And for that I am extremely grateful.


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