February 5, 2019. Chinese New Year – The Year of the Pig. The Day of the Port.
Because I had to be at UCSF by 930a to get a blood draw, Steve and I decided to get a room closer to the City on Monday night, knowing if we didn’t we would be on icy roads at six in the morning fighting the commuter traffic on Tuesday. We stayed at a really nice Best Western in Novato and ate a wonderful meal at the Wildfox. Totally worth it. The room was spacious. The bed comfortable.
The next morning we were on the road by 815a, and the traffic was not horrible, thanks to the diamond lane. We were at UCSF by 915a, so got the blood work done. While we waited for the results, Steve grabbed a latte and I tried not to be too nervous about the port I was about to get implanted.
We checked in at 10a, and within a few minutes a sweet nurse named Marietta ushered us back to a room where Steve waited while I changed into hospital wear—one size fits all (men and women) pajama bottoms and an open-at-the-back top that hung past my knees. She also gave me two pairs of skid-proof hospital socks and a warm blanket that I wrapped around my shoulders. With my shaved head and hospital get-up, I looked a bit like a circus clown sans make-up.
I joined Steve and Marietta, and she began to explain to me a little about the procedure and what to expect. I would be sedated, but awake. I would be able to hear the surgeons talking. She said that my surgeon Dr. Lokken would tell me more about the procedure before they took me to the operating room. Within a few minutes Dr. Lokken arrived and talked to us about the port, how it would be inserted, where the incisions would be made, when I might feel a bit of discomfort during the procedure (lidocaine injections), and about how long it would take. He talked about possible, but unlikely risks, too. Dr. Lokken showed us a sample port with the line attached so we would know exactly what would be residing in my body during the course of my treatments. By the way, this is not just any old port. It is a Smart Port®—power-injectable port. They gave me a packet with an ID card to keep in my wallet, as well as a little one to put on my key chain, AND a silicone ID bracelet so any medical provider I might encounter would know that not only did I have a port, but it was smart.
Soon Marietta escorted me into a very spacious and brightly lit operating room. She led me over to the table, and I stepped up onto a stool and sat and then laid down on the bed. They put in the IV, and I was introduced to the anesthesiologist, Dr. Ng, who as it turned out, was very excited about the Chinese New Year. The Year of the Pig. Not the Year of the Golden Pig, when, he said, many Chinese couples try to get pregnant. Rather it was the year of the wooden pig or something less significant. It was a very upbeat operating room. That, in turn, made me feel at ease and relaxed, plus the sedatives were kicking in.
They created a small tent to block my view of the operation and had me keep my head turned to the right since the port was being implanted on the left side. The entire process went as smooth as silk and before I knew it, I was moved to a gurney and wheeled back to the room with Steve. Marietta gave me some juice and a cracker, which I sipped and nibbled on. Soon she had me sitting up and helped me to the locker room so I could change. She let Steve come with me to help me get dressed. We said our goodbye’s. It was 12:15p so we headed down to the cafeteria for a quick lunch and water before heading upstairs for my 1p chemo treatment.
Chemo through a port (if you want to see what my port implant looked like after the dressing came off on Wednesday, click on “a port”) is so much easier than the weekly IV process. Wow! My chemo nurse EJ, was a beautiful and kind-hearted young woman with a warm smile. Dr. Lokken had left a needle in the port, so all EJ had to do was start giving me the pre-meds and then finally the nasty stuff. We had a short visit with Nurse Evelyn and then Nurse Carolyn who is British. She was a wealth of information about ports. She was amazing. I wish I could remember everything she said, but of course I had chemo brain and Benadryl brain and I was recovering from the implant. I might ask her for a refresher when we go back on the 12th.
Wednesday, February 6. The day after chemo has typically been a hyper-busy day for me. I turn into the Energizer Bunny. But not this week. I slept on and off all day. And I slept a solid 8 hours last night. The port takes about two weeks to heal. So I’m not supposed to lift anything over 5 lbs. and keep my activity to a minimum. So far, no problem. The side effects of the poisons are increasing including fatigue, the tissue is bloody when I blow my nose, my intestines aren’t happy and, of course, my buzzed hair is getting thinner and thinner. My weight fluctuates from 89 to 92 lbs. But, I believe, my tumors are continuing to shrink in size. I’ll know more on the 12th, when I see Dr. Rugo again. It’s a wild ride, my friends. Just got to keep on, keeping on.
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow