Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Ever since I first got my port in early February, I’ve referred to it as an alien invader. It was this weird walnut-sized lump just under my skin on the upper left side of my chest that was a port to draw blood out of or pump poison into my artery. It always felt tight under my skin and would often peak out from whatever shirt I might be wearing. It wanted to be noticed because it was smart. A smart port. An alien.
I’m told that some people get used to their ports and have them in place for many years. I can’t imagine. The port was one thing I know that I could never get used to. Oddly enough, I’m grateful I had it, but it was a love-hate relationship. I loved that the oncology nurses didn’t have to poke around to find a good vein for my infusions, and that it was so easy to draw blood from. I hated everything else about it. For me, there never was a truly comfortable sleeping position, and I was always putting my hand over it to protect it when one of my cats was trying to snuggle up to my chest, or if someone gave me too firm of a hug. It was just creepy.
Yesterday I finally had it removed. My nurse was once again Marietta. The same nurse who sweetly guided me through the implanting of the device. She didn’t recognize me at first. Probably because I was bald and 10 pounds lighter then the last time I saw her. But after a brief exchange, she did remember. It was good to see her again. It’s always comforting to see a familiar face when you are a tiny bit terrified.
After I changed into the giant hospital gowns—one opening to the back and one opening to the front, super giant one-size-fits-all hospital pants, and a pair of slip-proof hospital socks; I was in uniform for whatever came next. After a short while, young Dr. Winkler came into the room I was waiting in and explained that I would be given a local (lidocaine) and would be awake for the operation which would take about 30 minutes. He told me that when someone receives a port, over time the body creates a shell around it. In fact, they would actually break through that shell to remove the port and pull the line that went to my artery. A port encased in a shell? It really is a creepy alien. I told Dr. Winkler that I called it my alien, and he had to laugh.
Soon Marietta escorted me into the operating room, and had me lie on the table. Another nurse, Heather, prepped my port area for the doctor, put a wrap on my bald head, and finally created a tent over my head to block my view of the actual procedure. That being said, I could hear everything. And the doctor (who ended up not being Dr. Winkler) and I carried on a conversation much of the time. He told me he would be injecting the site with lidocaine. I told him I loved lidocaine and to load me up. He said, “Great!”
After I was properly numb, he made his incision and then there was some shell cracking, and port prodding, and line pulling. The good doctor told me if he had it to do all over again, he would have been a bartender. Hmmmmm. Anyway, four stitches later I was declared port-free! I was so happy! I am so happy! The alien has left the house. My house. My body. Gawd, how great is that?
One day, one step closer to normal. Nothing a head of hair and an ice cold beer can’t fix.
It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had. —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross