Back in October I blogged about the needle port implanted in my chest, called a “port-o-cath” (I notice the post has since disappeared so I’ll re-paste it below) describing it as one of the evilest necessary evils of my cancer treatment. As time goes on, it has become even more evident that it truly is necessary: The veins in my arm are already damaged and weakened by the needles I’ve repeatedly been given, and without the port-o-cath as an access point, I wouldn’t be able to go on receiving Herceptin intravenously every three weeks.
Necessary as it is though, I maintain that it is a vile and grotesque thing to behold. And it is so very visible an implant, sticking out under the skin as it does, that it’s hard to avoid beholding it.
Yet I have somehow grown kind of used to it. I’ve even developed the habit of idly rubbing the artificial vein under the skin on my collarbone, where it loops over on its way to my jugular vein. That’s a pretty disgusting habit I know, but so is biting your nails when you think about it.
Anyway, the other day someone who was waiting to have her own port-o-cath implanted asked me about mine and as I showed it to her and explained how it worked, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to others to see it. So, be forewarned, there are graphic images of the port-o-cath below…
Necessary Evil: The Port-o-cath, Part I (originally posted in October)
There is a thing called a “port-o-cath” that is truly one of the evilest necessary evils of my cancer treatment.
My port-o-cath is about the size of a stack of nickels – say 5 of them – implanted under the skin on my chest. Attached to it (also under the skin) is an artificial vein which is threaded up and into my jugular vein — and if you are not cringing yet, you are of those steel-stomached types who might consider a career in medicine or meat-packing.
The purpose of this thing is to act as an access point for the many needles that my medical team is required to stick me with for IV chemo and Herceptin treatments. Because I had lymph nodes removed on my left side, I’m now at risk of getting lyphedema, so my left arm is forevermore off-limits to needles, blood pressure cuffs and hopefully any kind of injury or impact. As many injections as possible go directly into the lump on my chest & not my right arm, and I know this is a good thing, preventing me from ending up with bruised and damaged veins.
But while I am grateful that I’m not covered in track marks (bald junkie not being the hottest look of the season) I haven’t yet made peace with this needle port thing.
A foreign object that pushes up under the skin of my chest like a broken rib or a seriously misplaced coat button is just not something I can get used to, but there it is, and there it will stay for many months. However, one day it will go, and when it does it will be another small victory – another reclamation of the relatively ravaged & disputed territory I call My Body.