A chemo port on the skin with a question mark

Have You Considered Getting a Fake Vein for Chemo?

Yesterday during my treatment I met a lady who was worried about getting “stuck” so that she could get her chemotherapy. The time before when she was there, they didn’t get a successful IV inserted until they had attempted six times. I overheard her tell a chemo nurse that she was planning to get a port soon, but was not looking forward to it at all.

I had to speak up after the stick was done - first attempt! - and she was alone again. Five years ago I was sitting where she was - toying with the idea of getting a port, but not at all sure I wanted to take that step. Today, I am an evangelist for them.

Initial thoughts about ports

When I was first diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, I knew nothing. I blindly went along with everything my doctor recommended, never questioning anything. For unknown reasons, he did not suggest I consider a port... so I didn’t.

It isn’t that I didn’t realize I had been diagnosed with a very serious disease, but your mind can help you play games with yourself. I would watch others in the large chemo room getting their treatments through a port and think, “Wow. I’m glad I am not so sick that I need one of those things.”

The lady I conversed with yesterday said something similar. She said she had been putting off getting a port for quite some time. Psychologically, she just isn’t ready to admit that she needs one, she said.

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Pros and cons of a chemotherapy port

I’m not sure what kind of chemo she is getting, but all that happened by my thinking I didn’t need a port is ruined veins. Now, when I need an IV, it is very difficult for nurses to find a useable vein.

I told my new friend that I had a love-hate relationship with my port for a couple of years. I wanted it hidden. Like a bald head, it sort of screams “cancer” to me. It looks odd there in your chest. The blissfully uninformed public must wonder what it is.

On the other hand, the port makes blood draws and infusions a piece of cake! One stick and done every time! Plus, if you are really sensitive and need it, there is a Lidocaine deadening cream you can rub on your skin prior to getting your port accessed so that you don’t feel anything at all when it is pricked.

What is a port?

Some people might be wondering what a port even is. There was certainly a time when I didn’t know!

A port is like an artificial vein that is implanted just under your skin. Running from the port to a large vein near your heart is a small plastic tube (catheter). The drugs we need to combat our cancer can’t harm the plastic catheter like they can our actual veins.1

The author, Donna, shares a picture of the port in her chestMy port is on my right side, positioned in such a way that bra straps don’t bother it (but seatbelts can). It shows when I wear certain V-necked or lower-cut shirts and blouses. That really bothered me for a while. Now, I still prefer for it to be hidden, but I’m no longer fanatical about it.

My port is triangular, but I understand that some are oval or circular. Your doctor will know what kind to prescribe for you. I’m no expert (or any kind of medical personnel), but I recommend that you consider a power port of some kind. The reason is that power ports can be used during imaging scans, such as CT and PET scans, when you need to get injected contrasts. Without a power port, you will still need to get an IV for those.

Adjusting to life with a port

It was a psychological adjustment to admit that (1) yes, I have cancer and (2) yes, treatments are going to go on for a long time to come and (3) yes, I need a vehicle by which to receive those treatments that will save the veins in my arms. I waited too long. My veins are horrible now. But, with the port that is usually a non-issue. One simple prick and I’m set to go for my blood draw and immunotherapy infusion.

If you don’t have a port, I suggest that you at least consider talking to your oncologist about getting one. I really think you will be glad you did.

Do you have a port, or are you considering getting one?

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