Tag Archive | port

2014 in Review

2014 was a pretty big year for me. Not quite as big as 2013, but quite a bit still happened in my cancer journey. Therefore, I think it’s worth a look back on the year to see what changes occurred.

I started the year recovering from my mastectomy and going through radiation. While radiation wasn’t as hard as chemo, I really didn’t appreciate breaking out in hives at the end of the treatment.

Hives from the radiation treatment

Hives from the radiation treatment

With hindsight being 20/20, I’m wishing now that I didn’t decide to try reconstruction after my mastectomy. It was a pretty close decision, and now it’s looking like I went through all the pain of expansion and living with the expander (never did get anything close to comfortable with it) without the benefit of an implant at the end. It’s not a big deal living without a right breast. When I’m just going to be home, I don’t even wear a bra much.

I did finish up all my active treatments – radiation and Herceptin were the treatments in the beginning of the year. Now I access the port only to flush it.

No more of this!

No more of this!

My hair is still changing as it comes in. It’s much curlier now than it was at the beginning of the year. I think I’m going to keep it short for a while, especially now that I can go four months or so in between hair cuts. Getting a hair cut every two months gets expensive, even at the cheap place I go!

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the end of the year - so curly!

My hair at the end of the year – so curly!

Things to look forward to this year: not as many doctor’s appointments, since I’m not in active treatment. I’ll have another MuGA scan and a mammogram, but I’m not sure what else in terms of tests. I’m down to every six months with Dr. Engel, and I something similar for the oncologist.

My big goal is to get my port out. I’ve finally gotten used to it and hardly ever notice it anymore (it only took about 15 months), but I still will be happier with it out. If nothing else, it will open up my bathing suit and mastectomy bra options.

Let’s see what the year brings, shall we?



Getting Back To Life

Things have been quiet around here lately, which is just the way I like it. I did have a doctor’s appointment last week. It was a little odd because my oncologist I’ve been seeing at the cancer center left to work somewhere else. For this particular appointment, I just met with a physician’s assistant. She made sure I was feeling fine, but didn’t even do a breast exam – she figured I had enough people poking and prodding in that area lately so I didn’t need another.

The big news is I’m getting ready to play hockey again. I’m giving myself eight weeks to heal from the surgery, and then I’m heading back on the ice. I will make one concession to the cancer. Since I still have my port in place, I’ve gotten a protective shirt to wear over the port.

My new shirt with a pocket for the protective piece.

My new shirt with a pocket for the protective piece.

It’s designed to protect your shoulder from the recoil of a shotgun, but it should protect my port from a random shot that my shoulder pads somehow fail to protect me from. The protective piece hardens with air contact, so it comes in an air-tight package with lots of warning labels.

The protective piece hardens with air contact, so it comes in an air-tight package with lots of warning labels

When you open the package, the protective piece is soft, and it hardens over a ten minute period. I put it in the pocket and kept pushing it over the port and my chest so it fit smoothly.

Before hardening - soft and flat

Before hardening – soft and flat

After hardening, hard and curved

After hardening, hard and curved

We’ll see how it works for hockey. I have quality shoulder pads, so I’m not too worried, but a shattered port would be a bad thing. I’m hoping I get a chance to get on the ice a few times before my first game, to get my legs under me. It’s been a while since I played hockey. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten it all!



Port Is De-Accessed

Alternately titled: I can give hugs without fear again.

My last dose of antibiotics was Wednesday, which meant I didn’t need my port accessed anymore. Yes – I could get that itchy thing off my shoulder. Bonus, no more danglies hanging off my front. I can wear a bra again, which makes it a little easier to be decent out in public. If I wear a bra, I actually look mostly even again. As soon as my drain access point closes up, I can even take a shower. Such things I have to look forward to.

The Visiting Nurse tried to convince me I had to leave the bandage over my port on for 24 hours. No, not so much. I’ll leave it on for a couple of hours, to make sure the incision site closes. I need to be able to itch that location, and another bandage doesn’t help me scratch.

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.

This entry was posted on July 23, 2013, in surgery and tagged .