“The port will be your best friend” I heard that line more times than I could count leading up to my port surgery last Friday.
Yeah? Well, none of my best friends have ever stabbed me in the neck with a fork.
Yesterday was one of the hardest days I have had since diagnosis. I cried so hard that at times I couldn’t breathe, and it was because of that damn port. It felt like I had a fork lodged in my neck and all I could think about was, how am I going to live like this for the next few months? I couldn’t. No one happened to mention how uncomfortable it is to have a port, much less how anxious it can make you feel.
Sure, I’ll be grateful that I have it as opposed to getting poked every chemo cycle for 8 hour treatments, but no one ever explained in detail what its really like post-surgery. Well, thats what I’m here for…
Friday morning, I arrive at my surgery center. I am ALL nerves. Immediately after checkin I am taken into a room, given a gown, and told to get “ready”. I disrobe, put on the gown, the uncomfortable yellow non-slip hospital socks and await what I had been dreading since the day I was told that I had to have chemo. Now, this will not be the first time I say this but I am terrified of needles, and I don’t care what anyone says, they are NOT the same as tattoos, which I happen to have a decent amount of. Two women walk through the door, do the standard checks (name, DOB, etc.) and it’s on to IV time. The younger of the two asks if its “ok” that she administer my IV… Umm, well isn’t that why you are here? I thought. Well, turns out she was a nursing student which is why she asked, my heart dropped. I FAINT, I snapped right when she asked. She promised that she would find the vein first and confirm with the supervising nurse before she put the needle in, well guess what, she STILL missed. My luck.
After that debacle I patiently waited for them to wheel me off to surgery all the while taking Snapchat selfies to lighten the mood. The doctor comes in, asks me if I know why I’m there, of course, the hospital has the best brunch spot in Austin, and then proceeds to tell me that they will be using anesthesia but I won’t be fully under.
You just told me that you will be making an incision in my jugular and making a pocket in my chest for that stupid port and I’m going to be awake for it all!!??
Yes. This is all true. But it’s almost as if they know not to tell you all of this until you are IV’d up and underwear-less so that you can’t run out and change your mind. Trust me, I thought about it.
Well, it was go time.
I get wheeled into the operating room, they cover my face with a curtain and then its off to la la land.
The doc was right at least, even though I freaked out about not being put under all-the-way, I really didn’t remember a thing. Once I was back and still incredibly sleepy I needed to do an echocardiogram. Now this wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that I had a REALLY bitchy nurse who kept scolding me for wiggling away in pain, I mean its not like I didn’t just have a foreign object placed in my artery or anything. Once the evil wench left, I was free to change and go. The whole process took about 7 hours including time for rest and monitoring.
Right after surgery, we picked up packets for Race for the Cure for our team as it was that Sunday. Right when we entered the mall, the smells from the food court made me nauseous. I ran to the restroom just in time to throw up, and all I could think about was the lady in the stall next to me. On one hand I felt relieved because in case I fell she could get help, or maybe she was just judging me thinking that I had one too many at the Cheesecake Factory, either way, I collected myself just enough to hang on to my husband while we grabbed the packets and left.
Please don’t do what I did. Go home and REST. I had no business going anywhere but home and fell asleep in the Chipotle he got me on the way. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
The next two days were somewhat a blur. We had planned to attend Race for the Cure a few weeks before I knew my port surgery date and I was convinced that I could do it just fine, which was why I wouldn’t back down surgery or no surgery. My husband had ordered us team shirts and I needed to be around people. The night before the race I had hardly slept, I was too concerned with getting my dogs all suited up for the next days event. After the race everyone came over to our house to cookout and relax, this meant that my amazing Margaritaville machine came out of hiding. Four margaritas later I was feeling brave enough to take my dressing off and face those soon to be scars. They weren’t that bad. But once the weekend haze finally wore off and I didn’t have anyone to distract me anymore, reality set in.
My port was IN.
I could barely move my neck in either direction and it felt like something was stuck in my throat. The tears just kept coming. How would I ever feel normal again?? No one in any of the “groups” had mentioned anything about how it felt after. Was it just me? Did everyone feel great after their port surgery and I was just being a crybaby? No.
The thing is so many of the people that you will come across in all of these support groups have already gone through it and its on to the next more painful/stressful thing so these kinds of things are forgotten or not as bad as what is to come. I wish I had really known what it felt like because maybe yesterdays freak out wouldn’t have been so bad because I would’ve known what to expect.
To wrap up. Yes, you will hear great things about your port and how glad you should be to have it for treatment but don’t think that it is all rainbows and sunshine. Things can be tough and it’s better to know about it so that you aren’t there thinking that your port is going to make your life a living hell. Today I am feeling much better about it, maybe it was all the tears and just needing to let it all out, maybe my muscles are finally adjusting, whatever it is just breathe. I promised honesty and that’s what you will get. It helps to also know the scary parts of all this so that you can know, it’s normal. Good luck!
– Wear front closure bra, button front shirt, and slip-on shoes to surgery (leave jewelry at home)
– Reclined/elevated sleeping alleviates post-surgery discomfort