I used to think those little plastic bits at the end of shoelaces were the cleverest invention. Who’d think such a small thing would be so effective? And yet we’d miss them if they weren’t there. What did we do before them?!
I have a new hero item. The port. Specifically, mine.
Well, that’s what I called it when I first saw it. It doesn’t look like much until I was told I’d have one inserted into my chest. A foreign metal thing in my chest?! Well, it was either that or deal with the stress of collapsing veins every time I had chemo. Been there. No thanks. I’ll take Sputnik. Once the procedure is done, the port can last around 10 years – good news for the seriously weak / frail – before being removed.
How it works
The “landing module” has a metal base and a silicone dome. A needle is inserted into the dome (you have to take a deep breath to provide pressure for this) and stops when it hits the metal base. The fluid then goes into the dome, through a silicone tube and straight to the heart where it can be dispatched to its destination.
There is zero discomfort. Zero. I was given a special numbing cream for the skin over the port so I don’t even feel the needle penetrating; just a weird pressure. Unlike when I was in hospital hooked up to a drip which was mechanically monitored for air bubbles, there’s no concern over those with a port. It’s like drive-through for chemo! Just plug in and let it run.
Another bonus – if the fluid is cold (which it often is from storage), I don’t feel it whereas with a drip, it can be uncomfortable and even painful as surface blood vessels constrict in the cold.
The final bonus: there’s always a bag of saline injected with chemo which I swear skips every organ and goes straight to the bladder so pushing the drip stand along and doing the necessary doesn’t mean ensuring you don’t accidentally pull out a needle (ouch!) at the same time.
Hail modern medicine!
For those with a curious fascination for and appreciation of modern medicine, here’s how the procedure went. Otherwise feel free to skip this part if you might be inclined to vomit onto your screen.
The “landing module” is set just below the skin’s surface in the chest. Higher up by the collar bone, an incision is made to expose the jugular vein. A hair-thin wire is traced (with the radiologist watching the x-ray screen) inside the jugular into the heart. Back at the collar bone end of the wire, a narrow flexible silicone tube is then threaded over the wire and pushed down into the heart. The wire is then extracted altogether leaving just the silicone tubing behind. The tubing that’s outside the collar bone area, is then fed under the skin and plugged into the landing module. Et voilá! Two neat tiny incisions and I was good to go.
You know, if these things didn’t sell themselves, I’d sign up for the job (and anyone who knows me, knows I regard sales as a sticky treacle covered in bees)!