During my first chemotherapy session, I didn’t have a port installed yet, which required the medication be administered intravenously in my arm. A port is a much more efficient method, and doesn’t cause the problem of diminished vein quality over repetitive, long term use. So, what exactly is this so called port ?
In simple terms, a chemo port is a device that gets implanted just below the skin, and connects to a blood vessel near the heart.
Because of it’s size, one advantage to having the port is that it’s much easier to insert the IV connection for chemotherapy. Another advantage is that there is no diffusion of the medication as it makes it’s way through the veins in your arm on the path to your heart. (see diagram to the right)
The port process begins with the selection of the specialist who will do the installation. This is typically done by a blood circulatory expert. My oncologyst’s normal referral partner wasn’t part of my insurance group, so he recommended one from the list of approved candidates.
The procedure itself is outpatient surgery taking less than two hours. It involves a small incision in the upper chest area. In my case, the right side, although I’m not sure if it makes any difference.
During the surgery, I was well medicated floating in and out of consciousness. There was nothing painful or uncomfortable during the procedure. I was in recovery for a short time after surgery, and then allowed to go home.
Over the next couple of days, I noticed a bit of itchiness around the incision, but no real discomfort or pain. It does feel weird to the touch though. The skin over the port has no feeling, and the port itself protrudes enough that it is visible under a light shirt.
All in all, the whole process wasn’t much of a disruption to my normal day to day life, and will surely make things much easier during my chemo sessions.
There is however, a situation that I would like to share with you about my experience with the specialist who performed this procedure. The reason I bring this up, is that I’ve mentioned many times how much confidence I have in everyone I’ve dealt with since the beginning of this journey. All involved have been responsive, courteous, and professional…. until this person.
My wife contacted his office two weeks before my first chemo session to get scheduled for the port install. They were to call back later with a date for the procedure. After nearly a week, there was no return call. My wife then had to call them several times over the next week to get them to respond with a date and preliminary office visit. I had a bit of a bad feeling about this.
“Is this guy capable of doing my surgery, because I’m not feeling good about this situation.”
The day of the procedure, I was prepped for surgery, and when it was time to start (7am), the doctor hadn’t arrived yet. One of the nurses said he had just called, and said he’d be there in 10 minutes. After 30 minutes passed, I became uncomfortable enough with the whole situation, that I asked the nurse point blank: “Is this guy capable of doing my surgery, because I’m not feeling good about this situation.” She assured me that he was a good surgeon, just a bit disorganized. Abut an hour later, he finally showed up.
If I had it to do over again, I would have tried to find another surgeon at the first sign of doubt. In the end my port works fine, and I don’t have any issues with it so far.
Since the day of the surgery, I have never heard from that doctor. I would have expected at least a follow-up to see that it was healing properly, but nothing. When it comes time to remove the port, I’ll certainly employ the services of a more professional specialist.
Please feel free to comment here, or send me an e-mail if you have any questions or want to share your story. I’d like to invite you to continue to follow along as I document the details of my journey.
Thanks for visiting, and be sure to share this with someone who may benefit from it.