Posts Tagged ‘chemotherapy port’

Celebrating Remission!

June 24, 2014

Good news indeed. I was in remission! And the next step to putting all this behind me
was about to happen after a follow up visit with Dr. David a month later on February 20.
“Let’s get that port out of ya”, he said and we made the appointment for the following Thursday, February 27. Back around the time of chemo session #3 or #4, I had discussed with Dr. David about my getting a survivor tattoo when this was all done. I wanted his thoughts on when he thought would be a good optimal time when I wouldn’t be at risk for infection and together we had decided on around March and here with a week left in February, that was pretty good timing. So, after we left his office that day with my port removal appointment all set up, we headed over to the tattoo parlor and the date for that was set for the day after the port came out.

I was told I’d have to fast for the port procedure and of course that was a bummer, but then I got a phone call from the hospital the day before and the woman on the other end of the line said that if I was going to be put under I’d have to fast, but since I elected to go with just a local anesthesia, like I had when it was installed, I was good to go. I could eat. Yay!

It was the same team as before and they all remembered me, especially the poor nurse who suffered my insane screams of pain six months prior. And they were all astounded by how cleanly the incision had healed, even the surgeon, who recognized my Atlas tattoo. They got me set up like before. This is an IV just before they laid me down and covered me with surgical paper over my head, tented on the opposite side for ventilation, slathered some green-blue antiseptic stuff all up and down my chest and neck and numbed me up.

port removal prep

All was the same except now I was actually, for lack of a better word, enjoying this experience. The nurse and I talked again how she knew the girl who lived in my house, whose father built it way back in 1954 and the surgeon told me he lives just across the river from me. It was a fun bonding moment that went no further than the operating room.

It seemed like an eternity to get the port out, I kept hearing chatter like, “No, cut from this side”, “I think I have to go at it from this angle” and the like. Oh great, a novice port remover person. And squeezing and pulling and pressure. “You still with us, Mr. Sigley?”.  Then it seemed an equally long passage of time when they were closing me up and for the amount of time he was working on stitching me up, I half expected to have an embroidery sampler on my chest.

They allowed me to take a picture or two of the port (which I showed you at the beginning of this series) but I wasn’t allowed to bring it home as I hoped I could because it had tissue on it and for sanitary reasons I had to leave it behind. Alas! There was a spirited debate over it, between all involved, though.

port

Now all that was left was to get taken back to the “recovery” room where my clothes were and to have the rather enjoyable turkey sandwich box lunch they had ready for me. I had intended on stopping for a pork roll and cheese sandwich on the way home, but they wouldn’t let me leave until they saw that I had eaten and by then I wasn’t hungry for pork roll and cheese. And one of my fellow chemo patients from Dr. David’s was just coming in to have her port removed and she pointed out that I was the one who always brought food in during chemo sessions.

At the tattoo parlor the next day, I had an interesting conversation with the girl who did my work. Turns out, she lived in my old neighborhood and is friends with the daughter of the people that moved into our house in 1985. And she knows the kids of the kids I grew up with. We talked about some of the neighbors that no longer live there and some that are and decided that in every neighborhood there is at least one “witch” and in this case, we had “witches” for different sections of our street. It was a fun afternoon.  Dinner, of course, was the obligatory stop at Outback Steakhouse close by, our tradition whenever we get new ink.

I had the weekend to recover from both assaults.

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I see the scar on my chest on a daily basis and I rub a finger across it. And of course, the green ribbon survivor tattoo on my forearm is out there for the world to see and at least once a day run my hand over it.

port scar survivor tattoo

These are my battle scars, reminders of how lucky I was and a smile comes across my face. These days that smile is not as hesitant as a few short months ago. They are reminders, also, that my case, by comparison to what some other people go through, was like a cake walk, but it was still my own hell, my own battle.

As I caress those two scars, never mind the emotional scars in my mind, it brings back the sounds of my first cries when I heard the words “you better get yourself an oncologist” over the phone, to the sounds and smells of the hospital. They remind me also of the feelings of sickness and pain and the thoughts of giving up and letting go. And there were the uncertain times such as not knowing whether the cancer was really being wiped out or whether I’d live to see another vegetable garden.

I am reminded also through my battle scars that I had a great support team; my family, my friends, my doctors and nurses. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for each and every one of them. And then there is Ariel. I don’t know what my experience would have been like without him by my side, and thankfully I don’t have to wonder about that. I told him one day while I was in the hospital that I wasn’t going to let him live out the rest of our lives without me. And here I am. And I don’t take that for granted.

I wear my battle scars proudly.  And, oh, how I also detest them.

 

Editorial Note:

This past weekend I had an eye exam and upon asking how my general health was, I discussed with my eye doctor that since my last visit with her, nearly a year to the day (and really about a month and a half afterward) I was diagnosed with lymphoma and was now in remission.

Out of curiosity, she asked if I’d ever had mononucleosis. I did, more than 25 years ago. She mentioned how she’d read there is a correlation between mono and lymphoma cases so, later, after my exam, I looked it up. Some articles say yes, some say not so much, but still… something to think about.

By the way, my eyesight also improved slightly, I didn’t need as strong an Rx as I’ve been having in the past.
I don’t recall if there was a spot on any questionnaire I filled out during all that about previous illnesses and if there were, mono was never on my mind and certainly I was never asked otherwise I would have said so. I definitely will bring this up with Dr. David next time and see what he has to say about it.

In the meantime, here are two of the articles I found on the link between momo and lymphoma.
Article 1 and Article 2.

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Ode To The Pin Cushion

April 1, 2014

We left the doctor’s and headed for home to pack some clothes and personal items in a bag to take to the hospital At once I couldn’t imagine why I needed to pack things and I was unsure if we’d packed enough. We got to the hospital, scared and stunned and answered questions at the admissions desk.

Cancer. What was going to happen? What were Dr. Thomas and Dr. David talking about with their exchange of blah, blah, blah’s a little while ago back in the examination room? Cancer?

I think I kind of went into “adventure” mode a little bit because when we got to my assigned room, I began exploring, checking out the amenities, where the electrical outlets were so I could plug in my phone, what the bathroom was like, that sort of thing. Where was the nurse? She was supposed to meet us?

When she finally did come, she moved me to another room, closer to the nurses station. Oh, shit!

I settled in and nurses began to arrive, introducing themselves and someone came in getting a profile on me, asking me questions, some general and some private and at one point she asked Ariel to step out of the room for a moment so I could answer honestly whether or not I was a victim of domestic abuse.

It’s all a blur, that first day in my hospital room, but different doctors all came in throughout the day to introduce themselves and explain the different things that were going on and what they were going to be doing to me. So much information to process.

I was in a private room and Ariel stayed with me during the entire time, leaving only twice to go home and check on the mail and to shower, for which he got reprimanded for not using the shower in my bathroom.

One of the procedures that was going to be performed was the installation of a ureteric stent between my failing kidney and bladder to try to help relieve the water retention I was experiencing (I gained 20 pounds of water weight) and the grotesquely advanced swelling of my privates and my body from the waist down to my feet. The urologist said his first priority was to use an internal stent, which would be inserted through my penis, or if the stent did not work, a bag to collect the urine would be attached to my side until the condition cleared. I was ready for anything. My focus was to get better. Do what you have to, Doc! To be honest, I was relieved he was able to get it done using the first method.

stent  stent 2 This is what it looked like and how it was inserted. I was surprised because I had no idea what it was and that it was a big as it was. When it came out, back in December (the 18th) I got to see it. It was approximately 9 or 10 inches long. I had imagined it would be made of metal a was small thing because  I really had no idea how far apart the kidneys are from the bladder.  No wonder I failed biology in Junior High.

From Tuesday the 6 th on, it was a busy, busy time. The stent was inserted, I had a doppler scan on my legs to make sure I was getting enough oxygen flow through my system and to check for possible blood clots, I had the biopsy which showed for certain it was the Type B Lymphoma and had a bone marrow biopsy.

Quick funny story about the stent. Of course I had already been informed of the two possible ways it could go and I answered yet another battery of questions such as “do you know why you are in the hospital?”, “what is your name?”, I guess to make sure I was still of sound mind. Well, as Dr. Stent (we’ll call him) was finishing up my prep to get himself ready to do the deed, I said to him, “Let’s blow this clambake!” He turned and said, “What? I’m a Jew. What do I know from clams?”. We all laughed and we still reference that line from time to time.

I joked also with the nephrologist. He checked in with me pretty much daily keeping track of how my kidney was functioning, which they monitored with blood tests and urine output. At one point, taking from an old joke, I said, “When this is all over, will I be able to do the Mambo?” He was too quick for me and asked me, “Could you do it before?” So he henceforth became know as Dr. Mambo, for real, because we could never remember his name.

And I also had my chemo port installed and that was a bit of a fiasco. For all the different procedures I’d had done, I was wheeled around on a gurney, propped up as comfortably as they could get me and the tests were done with similar consideration because of my back. Imagine what a tree branch might feel like in your hand as you are about to snap it. That’s what I was feeling.

In order to do put the port in, in spite of my protests and quite audible cries of pain, they had to lay me flat. They tried to put a wedge pillow under my knees to help alleviate some of the pain. They instructed me that I really shouldn’t squirm because the table I was on was not much wider than I am. My head was turned to one side and covered with surgical paper, creating a tent so I had air to breathe. There was an opening to my left that faced a wall and a clock. That was a mistake because after they had me all set up and prepped I had nothing to do but watch the clock. And cry. And scream. And watch the minutes turn into an hour while we all waited for the surgeon to finish up with another patient. I begged the nurse who came around to where the opening was to try to keep me calm with conversation to please let me up. Please let me up. Please LET ME SIT UP! It was almost like a scene from The Excorcist and I was Linda Blair, minus the pea soup.

The actual surgery was a breeze by comparison. Because I have that Atlas tattoo right in the optimal spot for insertion, they had to decide how much lower they could go without cutting into the tattoo itself. Not that they didn’t want to mar poor Atlas, but the area was contaminated with the ink and they wanted a cleaner spot. They said if they could not work something as close as possible, they’d then have to go in through my nipple. That kind of made me wince, even over the fiery discomfort I was already going through.

get-attachment[1]  This picture is actually from the removal, which happened this past February. It looked the same, basically, with no visible lump where the port was and with that film of Dermabond across the incision, which is meant to come off in its own time. No pulling.

Bless that nurse’s heart, she tried the best she could to keep me calm and through conversation we discovered she was friends with the daughter of the guy who actually built my house back in 1954. She even said his name and it matched the imprint in cement of the front walk.

Back in my room, Dr. David dropped by to take a bone marrow biopsy which entailed my having to lay on my stomach while he twisted some auger-like thing into my hip bone and pulled out a sample of bone marrow. He showed it to me. It looked like a bloody and grainy inchworm.

bone marrow I’m assuming this is more or less what was happening back there while I was laying face down.

I was all set now for my first chemo treatment on Friday, the 9 th, so it was business as usual back in my room; trying to find something worth watching on the TV, playing Candy Crush on my phone, having the barrage of visitors; the food people with my meals, the clergyman, the newspaper guy and like clockwork, the nurses were in and out like they had been all week all hours of the day and night, taking blood, giving me pills, making sure I was eating and drinking and peeing and pooping. And by now I was totally theirs, my future was in their hands