A woman standing showing her chemo port

Port of Entry Closed

Once my treatment plan was in place, the first step was a port-a-cath. My oncologist casually mentioned that the port procedure was scheduled. I was overwhelmed by my recent diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma and the pending chemotherapy treatment so I didn’t think much about it. It sounded simple enough.

A harder procedure than expected

I was partially sedated during the procedure. I was out during my biopsy and woke up after the procedure. This one was different. I was numb, but I could feel the port being put in. They sliced open my chest and inserted this foreign object. After the procedure when the pain crept in, the site was terribly sore.

For days I couldn’t sleep on the port side. I couldn’t imagine a needle going in the tender skin. The stitches began to heal, but the tissue and skin remained sore and bruised. It was installed a few weeks before my treatments were set to begin. I had time to heal. The date came for my labs before chemo would start. I slathered on the lidocaine cream and prepared to test my port.

Putting my port to use

A nurse suggested using press n seal wrap over the lidocaine cream while the port site became numb. This trick worked quite well. The lab technician peeled off the plastic wrap and sanitized the site before inserting the needle. I could feel it go in, but more of a pinch. The blood return was good and the samples were taken. The following week I was cleared for my first chemotherapy treatment.

I heard stories about fatigue, lost hair, bone pain, and nausea. I didn’t know how my body would react. I sat in the infusion chair and my port was accessed. Once hooked up to the medicine, I didn’t really feel much of the port. I did feel a wave of nausea come over me and some back pain as the treatment coursed through me.

After that first treatment, my port was bruised and tender once again. I got pretty sick the first time. For my next treatments the anti-nausea medicines were adjusted which made things more bearable. I made it through each treatment one at a time. Each time it took a few more days to recover, but again I would return for more treatment. My neutrophils got low and my body became weak. Still the chemo kept coming and I tolerated it. I did experience all of those stories I heard for myself, but it was worth it. Over time it killed my cancer.

Saying goodbye to my port

No words could be sweeter than “complete remission”. While the installation of the port was more than I bargained for, I was ready for the removal. The port was a way to receive my medicine for which I was grateful, but removing it was meaningful. The procedure for removal was less invasive than implantation. This time the soreness was a good sign. A sign that I am well.

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