I feel like alien with my chemo port

Only two weeks after my mastectomy I was back in the operating room. This time a small, relatively easy, procedure after which I was able to go home the same day.

My surgical oncologist installed a chemo port. A chemo port is a small device that is implanted right underneath the skin. The silicone tube is then attached to the jugular vein. Having a port allows the administration of the chemo drugs directly into the vein.

The advantage of a chemo port is that you do not have to deal with needle sticks. Given they had removed 12 lymph nodes, it was not possible to use my right arm to draw blood or take my blood pressure. Finding a vein in my left arm is an extremely difficult task and would often require multiple attempts. Having a port that would eliminate this process was a no-brainer.

The port is installed right underneath your skin and you can see and feel it. It felt like I was somewhat of an alien with a growth. Every time I hear the word “port” I was waiting for someone to say “beam me up, Scotty”, so I could be teleported somewhere.

The port has three points, which connect to a special needle the nurses use to open the port. They will insert the needle into the port, flush it and then hook you up to the IV. The port will be flushed with saline solution. I really did not enjoy this. You can feel in your throat and nose. I would bring a strong peppermint to have in my mouth during the procedure to ensure I wouldn’t taste it.

The connection to the port did not bother me more than the regular drawing of blood, but for some, I heard, it is much more painful. There is a numbing cream, your doctor can prescribe. You can apply the cream a few hours before your infusion to numb the area.

After the chemo is complete, the port will be flushed again with saline solution and Heparin. Heparin is an anticoagulant and used to decrease or prevent blood clotting. I was also very sensitive to this. Once I had a nurse who emptied the vial of Heparin with quite some force and speed that it caused me throw up. Ever since, I asked the nurse to go slow when doing this to avoid another mess.

Besides for the use of chemo, they often used my port to draw blood for testing. Something I preferred over having to be stuck by a needle multiple times or to avoid the finger stick. I got a finger stick once and never again. My finger was sore for a week.

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