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Preparing for Chemo: Port Placement

The Port

If a patient will be receiving chemo drugs intravenously for an extended amount of time, a port will most likely be placed to save the arm veins. The port is placed on the right or left side of the chest. Mine was made of plastic and was called a dual port so that I could be hooked up to two lines at a time if needed (it was needed for my inpatient chemo stay). A small tube goes from the port to a large vein.

The placement of the port is an outpatient procedure. You are sedated slightly and a shot of lidocaine is injected into the incision area.

I did not feel much pain during my first port placement (oh yes, I had more than one! Just wait for it!). I only felt the sharp pain of localized numbing needle and then some tugging in the area.

My first port placement was done immediately before going straight into inpatient chemo for five days. Thinking back, it was a lot to handle just a week after a solid diagnosis and I didn’t have a whole lot of time to process all the things happening to me.

Accessibility Before each chemo treatment I would have to get my blood taken and my port “accessed.” This means it is flushed and hooked up to lV lines which involves a fair amount of poking. This was often the most stressful part of my day. Before getting accessed I had to remember to apply a lidocaine cream over my port area that would supposedly decrease the amount of pain experienced when getting poked. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. If my port was being difficult that day, the poor nurse had to stick me multiple times. And then once we thought it was working, it would be hard to get a good blood return. If one side of my port wasn’t working, they’d switch to the other side and poke me there (remember, dual port). But for inpatient chemo, I needed both sides accessed. I eventually adopted the phrase “do it, afraid” to repeat over and over when I was sitting in the chair. Once I was “accessed” they’d dress it and it would remain covered for treatment.

Lab Results After getting accessed and blood drawn, I’d have an hour and a half or so to wait around for lab results to see if my body was in good enough condition to proceed with chemo.

This was such a weird limbo/feeling. I wanted my bloodwork to be good to continue with chemo. But I also didn’t want to do chemo. I often spent the night before chemo crying in a ball on the hotel bed.

Nelson and I would meet with my doctor and one of the nurses on my sarcoma team for the results around noon. They would make the decision on whether or not my numbers were good for that round of chemo or not.

If I was headed to inpatient chemo, I would then go check in at their hospital next door and wait for an open chemo bed. If I was going to outpatient, I would check in on the chemo floor and await my turn for a chair.

The Second Port

My port functioned relatively well through my first inpatient chemo treatment. For five days it was hooked and unhooked and flushed.

But when I went in for my outpatient chemo it wasn’t working as well as it should. I only needed one line and one side was working well enough so we went with that for that day.

The next week I received a call that I was just one of a few dozen patients who had received a faulty port from the manufacturer. The odds! The odds of having a rare cancer on an organ that is rare for the cancer to appear on, and let’s add that on top of the odds of getting a faulty port!

I was pretty sure I could’ve won the lottery 6 times over.

So for my third cycle, my second inpatient chemo treatment, I had to have my first port removed and a new one placed – same procedure – needle pain, cut open again, port removed, new and bigger port placed – more painful. That night, as I was receiving chemo in the hospital, I vomited and cried.

In Summary: Sigh. But It's Useful. 

You'll develop a relationship with your port. Some patients absolutely love it. I have found that those who love it had to go several rounds of chemo without it, which no doubt could be rough on your veins!

I did not have that experience so I loathed my port. I hated the weird bump it made on my chest. I hated having to be careful and mindful of it. You may see there are special port "pillows" for seatbelts or special sweaters and shirts with zippers in the port area for chemo days.

And there was a possibility that an infection could develop, so that also was a worry on my mind throughout treatment. As if cancer patients need more worries!


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Anyone who has been touched by cancer should know that they are not alone and that there are others who have experienced similar challenges.

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