Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chemo Port in a Storm

I should apologize now. This is going to be a more informative blog post than a funny one. On very few occasions I get inspired to be educational. Maybe it's just the screwdrivers I had at happy hour with good friends, but today I'm in one of those moods. I won't take it personal if you stop reading now.

Chemotheraphy shouldn't be given through a regular IV in your arm. It's usually given through a central line or in most patients' cases a "port". I took one dose of chemo through my arm because of timing of when I could get in to get a port surgically inserted versus when I could get in to get chemo. Let me tell you, chemo is a poison and as such, it burns your veins all the way up. I took 4/5th of the chemotherapy through an IV in my left wrist and for weeks I could trace the vein all the way up my arm.

In simple terms, a port is inserted under the skin in the chest as well as a tube that leads pretty close to your heart. That way when the chemo goes in, it goes through a big vein and gets rapid circulation through your body because it instantly gets pumped through the heart. See the diagram that I stole from another site that I think is a pretty good representation. The port itself is about as round as a quarter, and when I was 98 pounds stuck out from my body about half an inch. (I no longer have that problem at current weight....thankfully? ) They can be removed if you no longer have a need for one. Oncologist recommend keeping them up to 3 years after chemo is finished. I waited 6 months to have mine removed.

I had a powerport brand last time. This time I have a different brand, but it works the same way. Ports are nice because unlike IV's in you arm, it's almost a guarantee that the nurse is going to be able to hit it. It hurts less to access, and you can get a lot more fluid through the port than you could through an IV in your arm. It's safer and a less painful way to administer chemo drugs.

Not to ignore the annoying parts of ports. First and foremost, my fiancee thinks they're 'gross' and doesn't want to talk about all the icky details of how they function. No joke, he cringed at the details I mentioned above. Granted, it is a little weird and does annoy me when I wear something strapless.

I'll always have a scar too. I've learned from experience the longer you leave the steri-strips on (see picture below) the less of a scar you'll have. Easier said than done. The steri-strips are so itchy. It's an itchy scab, with glue, then tape over top. And now I'm suppose to not pick at it?! Did I mention that I'm allergic to almost all kinds of tape? yeah I am. That pink area to the right of the tape is from the strip that already fell off.

It's been almost 1.5 weeks with these tape pieces on and I'm super proud that I haven't pulled them off yet. Gold star for me today.  My plan is to take super hot showers and hopefully they'll fall off quickly.

Unrelated to chemo ports or how great my hair looks in this picture: I found out today that I'll have to do a few treatments through my oncologist and see how that affects the cancer before I can be considered for NIH Clinical Trials. The NIH trial I wanted to get into is for when nothing else is working. So the plan for now is 4 to 6 months of chemotherapy and then see if it works. Fingers crossed :)


  1. Patti, best wishes that you'll soon become 100% healthy and drop "otherwise." Your courage and educational attitude is amazing. Please know that I hope you'll share many more birthdays with me, and have a long and wonderful life with Eric. Be strong kicking cancer's butt.

  2. I really like this diagram. I found that very interesting. Does that port get internet too?

    So 4-6 mo of chemo - is that once a week? month? Hopefully low dosage?