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Getting a port on Friday

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

So I went for my second Adriamycin treatment for my breast cancer. I had talked to my oncologist early in the morning about a need for the port because the MRI guy had a hard time finding a good vein the week before.

The nurse warmed up both hands to find a vein and she got one on left hand, but did advise that since I have 31 treatments to go, I'd better get that port going. She took blood for the lab to start the process. I'm getting one on Friday. Have to get a covid test tomorrow and then I'll be set for Friday.

Now I'm scared of the procedure. How long does it take? I know it's silly I'm scared since I went through all kinds of biopsies for the breasts, and this is probably nothing, but do let me know it's not that bad, please.

cmb's picture
cmb
Posts: 615
Joined: Jan 2018

I didn't know what to expect from the port procedure, but it went very easily for me. I was actually awake during the procedure, but felt no pain or anxiety (must have been the pre-procedure drugs). It went pretty quickly – the nurse later said in recovery that she should have told my sister not to go too far as I had the "speedy" doctor. I would have like to watch on the big screen what he was doing, but he had me turn my head completely to the left side as ihe nserted the port on the right side.

Since I was having chemo the next day they left in a connection that was used by the oncology nurse. I couldn't get that gizmo wet, so I had to wash my hair in the sink and do a sponge bath before chemo rather than my usual shower. I don't remember it being particularly sore afterwards, but it did feel weird until I got used to it.

I was glad that I had the port as it gave me a lot more freedom during infusions.

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

Left or right? My cancer is on left breast. But I won't have an operation till next year. Although, now that I think about it, I will keep on having Herceptin for a whole year after the operation. So maybe they'll do it on the right side.

My next chemo is in two weeks, thank goodness. I'll probably have no hair to wash by Friday anyway. It's been falling off so fast I didn't even have time to think about it. It was shoulder length and I slacked a little in going to get a wig, so I had to go get it fast. Only because I want to keep this new cancer away from my mother in South America. FaceTime is bad sometimes. The woman at the wig place cut my dead ponytailed hair in no time.

I've seen infected port pictures and I guess I'm trying to find out that most procedures go fine!

Molly110
Posts: 183
Joined: Oct 2019

By far, most go really smoothly Primavera. The percentage of problems is very, very small. The procedure usually takes 20-30 minutes, I believe. Mine took an hour and 5 minutes although I don't know why.

Have they told you about sedation? Port insertion is often, but not always, done with something called "twilight sedation," which means that you are technically awake but not very aware. Whether they use twilight sedation or just something local to numb the site, you are not supposed to feel any pain, so tell them if you do, and they will take care of it. My procedure was supposed to be twilight sedation -- which is what they did for my D&C -- but despite my repeatedly telling the several nurses involved that the usual drugs used for mild sedation had no effect on me, no one did anything different, and I was completely alert for the whole 65 minutes. Because they expected me to be sedated, they'd told me nothing about the procedure, and since I was wide awake, it was horrible. I have never felt so powerless and ignored. Interventional Radiology, the department that does the ports in the hospital where I get my care, is completely separate from the cancer center, so my wonderful gyn/onc put something in the order about the sedation, but no one paid any attention to it. 

I am still angry about that. I'm telling this story for two reasons: (1) even with the sedation screw up, there was not even a second of pain, and (2) this is an example where I did not advocate for myself. I should have refused the procedure when the nurses were unable to find the doctor to change the meds, and when he arrived 5 minutes before the procedure, he blew off my concern and said it would be fine. I had tears of frustration and rage trickling out of my eyes throughout the entire procedure. The nurse kept patting my hand and telling me it would be okay, and only good manners kept me from screaming at her "it is *not* okay, and I told you all that this would happen!"

Likely you will not need to advocate for yourself around your port insertion, but if there is something you don't understand or need help with, just know that you can speak up. 

I hope you love your port as much as I loved mine. It will make everything so much easier for you. I had no pain after the procedure, either, as it healed, and the only inconvenience was not being able to take a bath, which is my big coping mechanism.

I kept my cancer a secret from my mother, too. I decided there was no point in making her walk the chemo path along with me, so I waited until after the last one was over and I was past the pale as a sheet stage of chemo anemia. 

Warm wishes,

Molly

Armywife's picture
Armywife
Posts: 452
Joined: Feb 2018

The port insertion was a very easy procedure for me as well.  Like cmb, I was awake and had my head turned to the side.  You will have a nurse, a tech and a doctor, and perhaps one or two more people in the room.  You may feel some pressure or tugging, but it won't hurt and the meds will keep you calm.  They won't want you to lift your arms over your head for a week or so, in order for the tubing to "set" in your large vein.  Don't worry - this will go ok!

Fridays Child
Posts: 202
Joined: Jul 2019

Mine was done by a surgeon about a week before my first chemo.  No problems.  Unlike Molly, I'm very susceptible to sedation.  I don't remember what they used, but I don't remember any of the procedure.  I'd like to have watched, too!  Mine is on the left, maybe because I'm right handed.  The chemo nurses commented that they could guess who put it in, apparently because he and his partner place them a little lower than some doctors.

Since I don't ordinarily wear button front shirts, I ordered one from Comfy Chemo that has zippers at the shoulders for ease of port access.  I was glad to have my hands free during infusions.  Although I'd love to get it out - maybe some day - it doesn't really bother me.

Good luck!

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

I went for my Covid test today and will have this port in tomorrow. I was only called with instructions not to eat after 12am tonight and to be there at 9:15am. They said it will be about 2 to 3 hours?! But I've been given wrong estimates by receptionists or appointment makers who are not really nurses, so I'm not sure it will be that long. Or maybe it's because of all this virus problem.

I am right-handed, but I guess I'm worrying too much about an operation in March next year and maybe radiation on that side and also that I have to continue Herceptin for a year after the operation. That's the only reason I thought they might spare my left side from so much.

Fridays Child, thank you for that Comfy Chemo name. I've been worried about what to wear.

Molly, if they told me not to eat anything, maybe it's because I'm getting sedation.

All I know is I'm seeing a vascular surgeon, so I hope I'm in good hands.

Thank you for all the answers! I know I'll feel better tomorrow when it's all over. I need this port. I would never want to watch (lol). I don't even want to watch when they inject me with anything.

Fridays Child
Posts: 202
Joined: Jul 2019

Hope everything went smoothly!  And although I'm right handed, I don't think it would have made much difference if I had it on the right. 

As for the lidocaine cream, they gave me that in the beginning and I used it regularly.  Then one day I was being evaluated for a clinical trial and had to be there for scans at 8.  Lab work wasn't until about 1.  No problem using the un-numbed port so I haven't bothered with the cream since then.  That'll be up to you and your comfort level.

els19
Posts: 90
Joined: Jun 2014

I had my port put in on Tuesday last week and they used it for chemo last Thursday. They always sedate but it's usually Twilight sleep. My first port I was under just like a colonoscopy. But last week I was awake the entire time, just very relaxed. It made it nicer because I got to leave soon after it was over. I think they said two or three hours because it takes time for all the paperwork, meaning they asked me a zillion questions and inputted it in the computer. Then they have to get you all prepped and ready. The actual procedure only lasted twenty minutes or so. You'll be happy you got the port. You can also ask your doctor for lidocaine cream to use before chemo. It numbs the area and you feel nothing when they access the port. I couldn't use it last week on my new port but it only hurt for a brief second. It was so much nicer than the IV for my first chemo. Good Luck!

Tamlen's picture
Tamlen
Posts: 294
Joined: Jan 2018

Primavera, my port surgery was super easy. I chatted the whole time with the guy putting it in and other than an occasional tug, there was nothing worth noticing. The nurses and I joked a lot and it was just easy. I had only a local anasthetic at the port insertion spot and no sedation. I hope yours goes well too!

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

A nurse just called me to tell me that I'm scheduled for 10:15am but that I need to be there at 8:45am and that I need to have an EKG before it and all kinds of other stuff that need to be inputted into the computer...again, but that the actual procedure doesn't take long. I think she said something about x-ray afterwards to make sure it's in the right place. I will get sedation so she said I have to stay there for a little while before leaving.

NoTimeForCancer's picture
NoTimeForCancer
Posts: 2855
Joined: Mar 2013

Good thoughts your way, Primavera

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

I got a port. It took all morning and afternoon! I had to go get an ekg, then was prepared for surgery. Didn't see anything or felt anything because I was completely sedated.

It reminded me of when I had the D&C. It took from 8:45am to 2:45pm and then they wouldn't release me until they my ride was there and they could wheel me down. I felt like it was a big deal for a small thing. Surgeon did it on the right side because cancer is on left breast, she said. I was so hungry by the time I woke up.

Molly110
Posts: 183
Joined: Oct 2019

Hooray! How great that it's over and was a snap. I had to come early also, both for the D&C and the port insertion, and then had to be released to a friend both times since I was supposed to be sedated also.

With the D&C, they used a different drug for the twilight sedation because my wonderful gyn/onc told the anesthesiologist, and he not only came to give me the sedation, he walked next to the gurney when they wheeled me out of the room to go to the operating room. He said he wanted to be sure I was out before I got to the operating room. I love my doctor for listening to me, and I loved the anesthesilogist for listening to my doctor and me. I was out if it within seconds of leaving the room. Same thing for the hysterectomy. It was only in Interventional Radiology that they didn't listen. 

I hope the wonderful gyn/oncs, nurse practitioners, chemo nurses, techs. and others who listen to patients know what a difference they make in our lives and our expeience of cancer care.

Warm best wishes,

Molly

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

Molly, I remember all the operating rooms! I saw it yesterday, too. I was put into one of those operating beds and I remember my arms being strapped, etc. by three nurses. Same thing for the D&C, I got to see everything in that room. And for the hysterectomy, I remember looking at that "robot" with all the hands coming down, covered in plastic, colored blue and white; I had looked it down online and this time in person it looked so huge.

So I guess they give me the sedation when I'm already in the operating room at this hospital. A year ago, I had never been to the hospital, now I feel like I'm there too often, lol.

Molly110
Posts: 183
Joined: Oct 2019

You are a remarkable woman, Primavera. I would not have been able to cope with that. It sounds like you are not anxious or frightened by being awake, but if you ever are, you can ask them to give you something before you leave your room. I wonder if it's possible that they gave you something and you, like me, were not affected by the standard drug?

Whatever the case, I really admire your bravery.

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 220
Joined: Mar 2019

I think they put me out completely once I'm in the operating room. They only give me pre-meds before they wheel me down? Maybe that's the standard for them. I just get to see the beginning of preparations, then I wake up hours later. A year ago, before the D&C for the uterine cancer I had not never taken any medication, no cold medicine, no headache pills, no vitamins, so they had a blank slate when it came to find out if I was allergic to anything. I had only gone to the dentist. Now, at least I know I can be sedated and I won't have a bad reaction.

I'm not remarkable, though. I don't want to look and see what they're doing! I turn my head the other way when they inject me with anything. Chicken. Embarassed

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