This month marks another milestone in my life post-cancer: My mediport is coming out, and if all goes as planned, this will be the least stressful surgery I’ve had in the last year and a half.
My first surgery, shortly after diagnosis, was to implant a type of port that makes it easier for nurses to draw blood and deliver chemotherapy treatments. The procedure was quick and easy, but I woke up to such a startling sight — long rubbery tubes that hung out of my chest and made me feel like a cyborg. There’s no forgetting you’re a cancer patient when you have a foreign object tugging at your skin 24/7, or when your people are from the islands and you can’t go in the water.
That thing required maintenance several times a week to prevent infection and keep it in working order, including its own set of expensive medical supplies and a weekly home visit from a nurse. The first time I tried to clean it myself I squirted half a syringe of heparin on my bedroom ceiling and had to dial up an on-call nurse to walk me through the process over the phone. I thought I was going to have to enroll in nursing school to get through it all, but eventually it became second nature just like learning to type or tie your shoes.
Early on my mom had asked about a more discreet, low-maintenance alternative, like the one my grandmother had for her chemo treatments, but for some reason the experts insisted this dystopian contraption was better, and I didn’t know enough at the time to argue otherwise.
My next surgery was BIG — the scary one I’d waited seven months for — to remove my tumor and replace my whole knee and much of my femur and tibia with a prosthetic implant. It was a significant turning point for me because I fell asleep on a table one morning with cancer and woke up that night in remission. By this time I had switched hospitals and learned that there was a solution to some of the frustrations I’d faced with my previous treatment plan.
On the same day, at the suggestion of my new doctors, I had that external line removed and replaced with a port under the skin on the opposite side of my chest. Even just the thought of being able to submerge my body in water again improved my quality of life exponentially.
As a policy, my doctors wait until after a patient has completed chemo and has received at least three months of clear scans before removing a port. It’s an arbitrary time frame, but they don’t want to have to keep putting a patient under the knife and inflicting undue trauma. Having surpassed that three-month goal, I’m excited for my next chapter of healing and grateful for the chance God gave me to reclaim my time.
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