Port surgery

Based on the size of my tumor, I would be getting chemotherapy before surgery on my breast. However, that didn’t mean I wasn’t getting surgery. It would just be an addition instead of a subtraction. Dr. Engel strongly recommended that I get a port, which would make chemo a much better process. So, outpatient surgery was scheduled for the morning of July 3rd.

The surgery was actually quite quick. Apparently, it can be variable in length, depending on how easy it is to find the subclavian vein and whether or not they hit the lung on the way in. My husband went out for breakfast after they wheeled me in for surgery, and the doctor was looking for him by the time he got back from breakfast.

I felt pretty good after the surgery. I didn’t really want to use my left arm, but it only felt like I’d taken a hard hit in hockey. However, the pain meds they’d used in surgery wore off about 2pm, and now the arm felt like someone was twisting a knife just under my collarbone. Time for the pain meds. They made me sleepy, though, so I only used them the first two days. After that, the pain was at an annoying level, instead of being unbearable.

While the fierce pain from the surgery was gone in a few days, it still hurt for days (and really, weeks) afterward. The pain just changed, from an unwillingness to move my left arm to a pain across my chest, to pain in the skin all around the left side of my chest. It was the skin pain that has been most difficult to deal with. Sometimes, I could feel the port stretching the skin on my chest. Other times, anything touching the skin has been unbearable. Luckily, it’s been quite warm lately, so I’ve been able to get away with sleeveless shirts to minimize the skin irritation.

The location of the port is such that my bra straps don’t touch it (good thing, or I wouldn’t be able to wear a bra), but the seatbelt does when I drive. It gets quite painful at times to have the seatbelt stretch right across the surface of the port. Lately, it’s the skin near my underarm that’s been most sensitive. At two and a half weeks out from the surgery, it’s getting to the point were I don’t notice it all the time, just some of the time. It is impressive, though, since I can see the three bumps that let the nurses line up the needle through the surface of my skin. It even shows up on some of my tighter T-shirts.

I had the port accessed once (for a CT scan) and the nurses said I had good blood return. That was just a trial run, though. Wednesday it’s showtime and I start chemo.