Egg harvest & my port

4 minute read.

I can’t believe February is almost over.  It’s been another blur of a month in cancerland!  I have a little backlog of posts I’ll be sharing in chronological order.

Our GoFundMe campaign raised more money than we ever expected – enough to pay for the egg freezing and storage, one round of IVF after my treatments are done, and funds left over for acupuncture or other treatments to get me through chemo.  

Relief and gratitude floods my whole body and heart from the knowledge that these financial worries have been removed.  Thank you so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The words “Thank you” and a golden heart on a pink background

At the beginning of 2019, I did my egg harvest. The surgery and recovery were painless and easy.  I was relieved to close that chapter of my life. Three daily hormone injections and daily trips across the bridge to San Francisco for a blood draw and vaginal ultrasound = not fun.  My body produced 21 eggs! 19 mature and 2 immature, which they freeze anyway, in case future technologies are able to use immature eggs. 19 little eggs in a frozen vault in San Francisco waiting for some day in the future, after treatment is over.

For some reason I thought I would be right back to normal after the surgery, but no dice – it takes 2 weeks for your ovaries to shrink back down, so I was still under orders not to do anything strenuous.  

I am realizing how active and energetic I am (was? used to be?) and how hard it is to get used to a new way of being in my body.

A week after the egg retrieval surgery, I got my port-a-catheter put in.  

A port-a-catheter, or “port” for short, is a medical device designed for injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into the larger veins nearer your heart.  The smaller, more delicate veins in the arms can be damaged by the chemo drugs, causing them to collapse or leak chemo drugs into surrounding arm tissue, which is dangerous and painful.  So, a port is a real game-changer: less pain, fewer side effects, less damaging to veins.

My port has a small tube (a catheter) that goes directly into my jugular vein.  The tube runs over my clavicle to a little plastic bubble that sits on my chest, under the skin.  Nurses can inject an IV needle straight into the plastic bubble – no poking around looking for arm veins.  

Many people love their ports – some even keep them in for years after they finish chemo.  They can also be used for blood draws, and some can be used for injecting dyes used during the imaging scans that look for signs of cancer once treatment is over.  After reading about them on blogs and forums, and after 2 weeks of getting daily blood draws from the same poor little arm vein, I could definitely see their value.  The surgeon made surgery and recovery sound like no big deal. Just a 30 minute procedure, an hour and a half in the recovery room, then you’re good to go!

Intead, the surgery was harder than expected.  I woke up from surgery in a lot of pain, and my neck swelled up much larger than normal so they kept me for monitoring until the late afternoon.

So here I am with my port: an incision on my throat covered in blue surgical glue, a visible catheter sticking up out of my neck, and a plastic bubble under the skin on my chest.  

I am really trying to make friends with my port but so far, it’s a fake-it-till-I-make-it situation. In the meantime, my port is ugly, painful, and a pain in the ass. Sometimes I don’t notice it.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable – pulling, tugging, tender, achey. And sometimes it’s excruciatingly, sharply painful.

To my great disappointment, the pain comes after exercise.  Brian and I went on a hike a week after the port placement. I was so happy!  Outside, moving, breathing fresh air! But after an hour or so – stabbing pains from my port.  I crumbled into tears, and we had to rush back to the car for pain meds.

My partner and I, wearing beanies and raincoats, smiling in front of a waterfall. The rocks are covered with soft green moss.
So happy before the pain. Image description in alt-text.

Later, the surgeon told me that my pectoral muscle may be rubbing against the underside of the port.  Eventually my body will encapsulate it in scar tissue which will hopefully lessen the friction and pain.  

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