Tuesday, October 19, 2010


So, "Chemo: The Sequel" has officially begun.  But first, I had to get my port "placed."

This took place on a Wednesday morning a couple weeks ago.  My friend Bernadette came with me (since Mom and Dad were in Europe at the time).  We arrived at the Interventional Radiology department (sounds fancy, doesn't it?) right on time.  Only thing was, there was not a soul in the department when we got there.  Seriously, we could have tried surfing on the gurneys and no one would know!  I looked around for a bell to ring or something, but then I remembered that it's not a hotel.

After a few minutes a nurse came in and assigned us to one of the "rooms" (more like a bay).  After waiting there for a few minutes another nurse came by and asked me a few questions and had me change into a hospital gown.  She was bright and funny and before I got changed she closed the shades in my room so that "all of New York City" couldn't watch me change (because then my boob flash count would have seriously increased!).  She then gave me an IV, because even though the point of this procedure was so that I would no longer need IVs, I still needed one last IV so I could get the antibiotics and sedation.

Next, the Physician's Assistant  (PA) came by and explained the procedure.  She said first the area would be thoroughly cleaned three times - they are very vigilant about infection control.  Then, they would give me the sedation drugs before they started the actual procedure.  These drugs wouldn't put me out completely, but would relax me so that I didn't feel anything.  Also there was a chance I might not remember the procedure afterwards.

Before they placed the port they would temporarily have the catheter travel down to my vena cava, the large vein in the center of the chest.  She said as it went down, sometimes it diverted into the heart, and if it did this it might "tickle the heart" which would cause me to have an irregular heartbeat for a bit.  She said if they saw it go near the heart she might tell me to take a deep breath and that sometimes gets it back on track to where it has to go.

Once this was done the port would be placed.  There would be a small incision in the left part of my chest and the port itself would be placed just below the incision.  The catheter would lead up to a large vein in my neck.  When I was done I would have a bandage on the incision and another on my neck where they would make a tiny incision to get to the vein in my neck.

So after this was all explained to me, I was wheeled into the procedure room.  Unlike my big-time surgeries, I didn't walk in and climb up on the table myself - I was wheeled in and then had to scootch over to the table.  I noticed large monitors over the table, which would show the doctors what was happening during the procedure since this whole thing was CT-guided.

They had me turn my head to the right and placed a drape over me - including my face - so I really couldn't see anything during the whole procedure except for the wall.  After they washed the area three times as promised, the sedation drugs kicked in and the procedure started. 

Now, the night before my procedure I had watched the Britney Spears episode of Glee.  If you haven't seen it, in the episode several of the kids have to go to the dentist and while they're under anasthesia they have dreams that they are in Britney videos.  I'd had Britney songs in my head all morning (I've got to admit her songs are catchy), so of course as the drugs kicked in I was wondering if I would have a Britney fantasy too.  Sadly, it was not to be.  But they did play music and they even asked me if I had a preference as to what station they played, but I let them pick the station.  I think I remember some Rolling Stones and maybe some Springsteen, but the details are fuzzy.

I was awake for the whole procedure, and I remember it, but I didn't feel anything except pressure.  At one point, they did ask me to take a deep breath, so I wonder if the catheter was about to "tickle my heart"!

The whole thing took about an hour.  As it was finishing up I started to shiver - all of a sudden I was FREEZING.  This happened the whole ride back to my "room" (really not a long ride) and my teeth were chattering when I got back.  The nurse said that the drugs can cause this, and luckily it didn't last long.  When I got back I was perfectly lucid and "normal" - I think a little to Bernie's disappointment, since she was probably hoping I would say some funny things!

After the procedure they monitored me for a bit and during this time the nurse noticed that my upper back was very red - like I had a rash.  I didn't feel any pain or itchiness - in fact, I would never have known that it was red if she hadn't noticed it.  The nurse, PA and doctor all took a look and thought I might be having some kind of allergic reaction.  So they gave me some hydroxysine, had me wait a little while longer, and then when they saw the redness start to go down, they sent me home.