Port Removal Authority

Friday I got the port removed. It was a fairly simple process, but beforehand involved blood testing and much bureaucracy at Fancy Hospital. A very nice physician's assistant did the job. He was very young, also. When the port was put in, I was knocked out (twilight, I think they call it). This time I was wide awake and the area was numbed with shots of lidocaine. I looked away while we talked--about air conditioning, the great heat wave of 1995 (he was in college at the time), and I forgot what else. There was a tech in the room, who wheeled me in and out, and during the operation sat at a computer and drank take-out that appeared to be coffee.

I went alone. I got an MRI earlier in the week, and went alone, too. It becomes routine after a while.

While I was waiting for the port removal I started talking to three women also waiting. I would call them middle-aged, which means 10 years older that oneself. I guess they were early 60s. Two were there for their friend, who had just gotten a port installed, and was told by the chemo nurses that there was something odd about it. She'd come to get it checked out. I asked how long she was going to have chemo and she said, The rest of my life.

Oh. That kind of breast cancer. The kind that spread.

She'd been cancer-free for six years. She said it was a good six years, that she'd traveled to Europe and had other good vacations. When she was going through treatment the first time, she was living with her sister, who had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now her sister has cancer in her lungs and adrenal glands. The woman asked me if I had made any great life changes since my diagnosis and I said not really. I told her I'm a writer and am writing about the breast cancer, but that didn't seem like a great change. She said she's accepted that if that's what God wants for her, it's OK. She was at peace with dying. Though neither of us said the word. Her friends were trying to lighten things: Oh, you'll be fine, etc.

But it is a disease that can't be cured, can only be contained at this point.

This is a disease that makes us sisters. I taught at a writing conference over the weekend and a cheery woman came up and shook hands with me vigorously. Someone had pointed me out to her. She was treated for stage 3 breast cancer and is doing well. I couldn't tell if she was writing about it, too. She had a double mastectomy and had gotten smaller breasts, easier to jog, she said. Another woman there said she was meditating for me. Her sister had died of breast cancer, but hadn't been a fighter. I was afraid she was blaming the victim. I don't know what her sister did or didn't do. What would someone have to not do in order to be giving in to the cancer? Refusing treatment would be up there. I don't think her sister refused treatment. In Jerome Groopman's book on hope, he talks about an Orthodox woman who refuses chemo because she saw the breast cancer as God's punishment for adultery. A more senior doctor convinced her to take the treatment, but much time had passed.

L points out that I have a 16 percent chance of recurrence, which is almost the same chance that Anywoman has of getting breast cancer. Except recurrence for me could include "mets"--metastasized cancer. And that is far more serious than what Anyone might get, first time around.

Friday afternoon a doctor I'd never met called to report that the MRI results were fine, and that I didn't need to be tested again until next summer. Here's hoping. As Emily Dickinson said, "Hope is the thing with feathers." And Woody Allen, of course, said, "How wrong Emily Dickinson was! Hope is not 'the thing with feathers.' The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich." And I would add, The thing with feathers is the back of a woman I saw in line at the Jewel. Her boyfriend tattooed wings on her shoulder blades. She offered me his business card but I traffic only in tattoos that are temporary.


Anonymous said...

keep writing- if its about breast cancer, woody allen or the snow- your writing is truth, and truth is the feathers.

thank you.

sittinbull2 said...

I agree, please keep writing!!!
As if by fate your post was found. It's well after 1am, have to be at the hospital to have my port removed, at 7am (an hour away)and can't sleep. (After taking 2 tylenol pm's plus a muscle relaxer). While do some surfing, googled 'chemo port removal' & found you, some calm for my port.
Mine was put in place & used for treatment 1/3/08 & twice more, today included, it's pulling itself out & is infected at the incision site. Fear being getting into blood stream & you'll know what hitting the fan!
Sure hope the removal is as simple as it sounds, but I was told would be sedated, thankfully right now, sleep!
You have a wonderful attitude & will make it through this with flying colors, by way of your feathers, as wings of hope.

I feel more calm now, so guess going to get back in bed & dream of flying.

You go Bitch,


My cancer is left breast also, invasive ductal, node +, her2+, pr+/-?,er+. (Question to all: What's the deal, why is left the most common???) The Chemo is before surgery, not sure what we will do yet, mast. or lump., waiting to see chemo response. But will have all left side nodes removed & follow w/radiation. Then herception for a year.

Can't wait for it to become routine, seems like things just keep changing. Not sure what we'll do after port's out, today had to stop midway & use a regular IV line to finish. What was supposed to take 3 hours tops for treatment, ended up being over 6, long day.

Anonymous said...

You are an idiot for tattooing your head! The message is wrong too, just find something to do with your time that is valuable please.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the words. Spouse got port removed today, i sit in baylor hospital contemplating the journey and the unknown future. But then who us ever knows. She sleeps in front me and i pray to all the spirits to bring her health and peace

cherrydouglas1@yahoo.com said...

thanks for info my port is being removed after 2 1/2 years chemo; radiation; lymphnodes and a lumpectomy. God is good but
i was very apprehensive about the removal but am at ease but thats only for now. i think your words were for me to find comfort in and i did. i too shall continue to educate as many as possible through my personal experience also. I want to be out totally and just wake up & go home; its out patient surgery. good luck & God bless

generic viagra said...

wow I remember in my last job my ex boss fired a coworker just because she have cancer and well some years passed and I get the position of my ex boss and I hire her again because I really how hard it's life when you sick and you need help for almost everything which is not really funny.
Thanks for sharing, excellent post.

Anonymous said...

After a year, my spouse has recovered from chemo the cancer is gone. Needless to say, the port will be removed. This is a miracle from God. Just know that the inter spirit has the will to live then anything is possible. I hope these words has been encouraging to the reader.

Cancer Bitch said...

What is amazing is all the things that are done to the body in the name of Cure, and all the things that do work. The body takes all these insults (insertion of foreign objects, ingestion of poison)and then eventually goes on to do body-things just like before, for years and years.