A Mother and her Two Daughters

03 June 2010

More Happenings and Observations in the Chemo Room

 Have I told you about my port, or what is actually called a portacath?  Almost immediately after being diagnosed with cancer, my friend Melanie took me to UAMS so that I could have this portacath surgically placed beneath the skin in my upper chest, just below the collarbone.  Ports are used to take regular blood samples and to administer chemotherapy, sparing the hands and arms from frequent needle sticks. 

It works like this – the port is metal appliance that has a silicone bubble for needle insertion with an attached plastic tube/the catheter.  The catheter runs from the port and is surgically inserted into the superior vevena cava allowing the chemotherapy drug to spread throughout the body quickly and efficiently. 

Yesterday this testy little port decided not to work.  Not sure why but that’s the way it went down.  After almost 90 minutes of countless attempts and an injection of some kind of “human Drano” it still didn’t work.  The last effort involved almost standing me on my head – and that worked!!  I wondered what the other patients were thinking as I surely looked like a human pretzel.  The RN asked me if I was interested in having the port surgically re-inserted.  Nice offer, but are you kidding?  With only one more chemo treatment in my future (I hope), I’ll take the human pretzel routine any day over another surgical procedure.

As I said, I wondered what the others might be thinking about my 90-minute port ordeal until I returned to my upright position in the chemo chair to find a young man across from me sporting bright lime green hair.  Many cancer survivors have shared that when your hair returns after chemo treatment, you can likely count on it to have a different texture, maybe even curls, possibly a different color.  OH MY GOSH – but nobody told me the color could possibly be LIME GREEN!!!   After realizing that this young man had a wicked sense of humor, I couldn’t help myself – I had to ask him if this was the color of his new post-chemo hair.  He laughed and shared that he is a newly diagnosed cancer patient, has always wanted to have a wild hair color, and decided to go for it knowing it will be gone in only a few short weeks.  Thank goodness for me and everybody else with chemo baldness. 

My last observation – I spent some time with a beautiful strong woman in the Infusion waiting room, someone who I share many connections with.  Her two sisters were friends at Hendrix, and Melinda and I attend the same church, Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.  Melinda was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer almost one year previous to me, had the same chemo regime as me, the same oncologist and surgeon, and had her surgery in July 09.  But a few weeks before her breast surgery, she began to experience some real problems on the left side of her body, almost like paralysis.  Her sister, a physician, suggested that she have a brain MRI, which she did, only to discover that she now had brain cancer.  During the past year, this beautiful woman has had her breast surgery and three brain surgeries.  And there she sat in her wheelchair with a smile on her face, her heart full of laughter, and making plans for the two of us to have lunch together sometime soon.  What a tragic story you might think, and probably yes.  But to be with Melinda is to spend time with a woman with great optimism.  She’s amazing!  So, along with my new friend Ellen, Melinda will go down as another IBC role model for me.  She’s fighting the good fight and doing it with incredible spirit. 

Yesterday was a big day for me -- chemo #7.  Only one more scheduled for June 15th.  All of this is good!  Thank you to my family and friends for helping me keep my spirits high and together during the past 3+ months.  Your love and support has meant the world to me, and to my healing.  

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