Monday, June 6, 2011

I've been "De-Ported"!

On April 22, 2011 I had what I hope will be the final step of my cancer treatment. (I guess I'm trying not to count taking Tamoxifan for 5 years) I went to Rexburg and had my Porta-Catheter taken out of my chest! I have wanted it out so badly. It has always been a little sore and annoying. Laying on my left shoulder seemed to scrunch on it and make it feel bruised. Once I finished my Herceptin IV's in March, I tried to get an appointment as soon as possible to get it out. I originally tried to see about just getting it taken out here at home in Dillon. Then I found out that because the surgeon here does it in the hospital, not in his office, it would cost around $3,000. (And, I found out, the last Porta-Cath removal he did was in 2008. Hmmmmm!) Dr. Hansen in Rexburg, who is the surgeon that put it in, does so many of these things, he just does it as an office procedure, for about $500. OK - so, on the road again! I have heard of a few people who choose to keep their ports in. I asked Dr. Dickson's nurse "WHY?" She said for some it's superstition - they feel that if they take it out, their cancer will come back, and they'll have to have it put back in. Kind of like "if I wash my car, it will rain, so I'm not going to wash my car this weekend cause we have a picinic planned?"

I will admit the port is pretty handy if you're going to have other surgeries come up. When I had my reconstruction surgery, they just used my port, and I didn't have to get poked 6 times trying to put in an IV, like they did when I had the mastectomy. Problem is, if the Port isn't being used regularly, I found out that you have to go get it "flushed" every month. To flush it, they have to shove that short, fat, curtain-hook looking needle into the port. Shoving that little bugger in is what helped keep it feeling sore and bruised. No thanks! I'm not a superstitious person! Take it out! I will say, that for me, the Port was really a blessing during Chemo. It would have been a nightmare for me to have them poking and digging around trying to find a vein every 3 weeks for a year. Plus the Chemo kind of fries veins, making it so they can't keep using the same spot. I would have ended up with them poking me in the feet, head, who knows where? With the Port - 1 poke. So whoever invented the Port, I say "thank you" - but it's time for that baby to come out!

Having the Port taken out was scary, though. I was a teeny bit freaked about the idea of being awake when it was done. When I had the port put in, it was at the hospital, and they pretty much put me to sleep. They explained to me that they use ultra-sound to guide the tube down into a big vein. To take the port out, Dr. Hansen just uses a local anesthetic, does an incision, and pulls it out! I told him that I was pretty scared after having the recent biopsy on the same side of my chest, where the local anesthetic didn't work. So, to be sure, he used 2 needles worth of anesthesia to make sure the area was good and numb. Then he took his little scalpel in hand and said "are you ready?" Ooooh man, not really! Then he started cutting. Thankfully, it wasn't painful, but it was still creepy. I could feel the pressure of the scalpel cutting on my chest. It took him about 3 passes with the scalpel to get down to the port. Then he started pushing and squeezing, with a little extra cutting, trying to get the port to pop out, almost like he was trying to pop a giant zit! It was around that point that the whole room started to turn white. The nurse said "whoa, all of the color just drained out of your face". I laid there and tried to take deep breaths so I wouldn't pass out. I was sure I was gonna go! (Yeah, I'm a wimp!) The doctor said "Don't worry, if you pass out, we'll keep right on working". I kept breathing, and kept concentrating on "Don't pass out - Don't pass out!" After a few minutes, the color came back into the room, and I knew I had pulled it off. What a yucky feeling though! Dr. Hansen kept on plugging. It took him a little effort to get the stupid thing to come out. He commented about the capsule that had built up around the Port. Yep, my system seems really good at building big capsules around foreign objects in my body. When I had my expander taken out during reconstruction surgery, Dr. Agarwal told me I had a capsule the thickness of an orange peel built up around my expander. I think the capsule is what added to the difficulty of getting the port out. Once he finally got it out, then came the icky feeling of getting sewn up. Dr. Hansen used clear, dissolving sutures. The pulling and tugging of that weird curved needle felt strange. We did have a nice conversation though, while he was sewing me up, about Conrad going to medical school, and D.O. vs. M.D. programs. I was so totally relieved when it was finally done!

Here's what the incision looks like a few days later. With the stitching method he used, you can't even see the stitches. They asked me if I wanted to take home my Port. Huh? Well, OK! I guess they send people home with their gall stones in a little jar. The Port is made of metal - titanium or stainless steel - with a self-sealing silicone rubber bubble, where they stick the needle, and lastly the plastic tube that goes into the vein. I read up on these on Wikipedia. It's kind of cool, cause it shows an X-ray image of an implanted Porta-Cath. The tube gets fed through a vein, til it terminates in the "superior vena cava" vein just upstream from the right atrium of the heart. Weird, huh? Kind of an amazing little gadget!

After the surgery, they bandaged me up, let me sit for a few more minutes, then sent me on my way! It was a quick trip. Rich had a church responsibility at home that evening. So we basically drove to Rexburg, went to the doctor's office, had the surgery, got back in the car & drove home! Crazy fast trip. But it's done, over with, and the Port is gone! Oh Happy Day!

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! I chose the adventure of having them poke around for veins, although I now pretty much have none left (they told me if I had to do herceptin I definitely would have had to get a port). Yay for getting it out! Every little milestone to put behind you is the best!