Thursday, October 2, 2014

My Tiny Tumor Adventure Part 3: Port Placement and Other Procedures

The final installment in My Tiny Tumor Adventure and all the tests, procedures, and whatnot leading up to and following my first chemo treatment. Basically the chapter between the beginning of my adventure and my brief hospital visit.

Short version at end of post.

Click here to read My Tiny Tumor Adventure Part 1: A Diagnosis Story.

Click here to read My Tiny Tumor Adventure Part 2: A Cancer Staging Story.

Quick Recap

April 30: Diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.
May 1: Met with my amazing oncologist.
May 2: Diagnostic tests confirm my cancer is Stage IIA.

Monday, May 5

A much needed night of normalcy. My sister, Michelle and I attended an awesome Ingrid Michaelson concert in Oakland.

Tuesday, May 6

10 am: Port placement surgery at the Interventional Radiology department.

A port is basically a little device surgically implanted under one's skin. A connecting catheter is also tunneled under the skin, over the clavicle bone, and guided close to the heart through a vein. This allows chemo to be administered safely (direct exposure to chemo can cause tissue damage if, for example, the chemicals contacted the skin) and more efficiently (the heart pumps the chemo throughout the body, and the blood in the heart dilutes the chemicals). There are, of course, other options for administering chemo. The port seemed the best for me.


This procedure was done under conscious sedation. Normally this means a "twilight sleep" which means the surgical team can communicate with the patient during the procedure, yet supposedly when the patient wakes s/he forgets everything. 

Well, since I'm slightly crazy/curious, I asked if I could be more conscious than sedated because I wanted to remember the procedure. The nurse grated my request. 

The memories are hazy since I was still sedated via IV. Mostly, I rested and occasionally opened my eyes. When I saw all the blue drapery around me I mentioned the fort a friend and I made last Christmas (I think my speech was too slurred to make any sense). The surgical team probably thought I was nuts. They've probably had sillier patients. As for the gorier details, there isn't much to tell. They used a local anesthetic, which stung each time they injected it (five or six times), but I was so loopy the pain was diminished. I also remember a lot of pressure on the right side of my chest as they tucked the port under my skin. Once the procedure was complete, I glimpsed an x-ray projection of my torso with the port implanted. I also mentioned pirates (the surgical hairnet/cap was covering my eye—like an eyepatch—and I asked if someone could fix it for me because my wrists were secured because they don't want patients Kermit flailing during the procedure, as if I would do ever such a thing). The whole experience was kind of cool. Glad I asked!

Afternoon: Infusion Center called to schedule my first chemo. I really wanted to postpone this until after my sister, Christine's 21st birthday because months before I had promised we would get cocktails together. I did not want that moment taken from me. Unfortunately, there were scheduling conflicts, yet I stubbornly insisted on keeping my moment.

Five minutes later: Oncologist called to convince me to start chemo ASAP. Despite some tears, I listened to her advice and scheduled my first treatment for May 8th.

Wednesday, May 7

9 am: MORE BLOODWORK! Because my blood counts need to be checked at least 1-2 days before chemo. Sheesh. Just take it all.

Aaaaand because I’m crazy, afterwards I play at the park with my sisters and nephew.

Queen of the playground!

All right, I’m not that crazy. I spent most of the time sitting at a park table. And I didn’t play so much as saunter around and take silly photos.

Cuts and boo-boos.
Long cut on neck = lymph node biopsy
Small cut on neck = catheter placement
Medium cut on chest = port placement

Thursday, May 8

10 am: First chemo treatment. Mom goes with me.

After thinking about it, I want to give my first chemo treatment its own post, so I'll be brief.

The infusion went extremely well, much better than I expected. That is until later that evening when my body felt as if it had gone through a blender. 

Mom spent night with me.

Friday, May 9

Felt surprisingly well. No nausea thanks to anti-nausea meds. However, also minuscule appetite. Juice was my friend. My amazing mom cared for me all day. 

Afternoon: Attended a "Chemo Class” with my mom and two youngest sisters, Julie and Christine. Learned about all the fun side effects I could look forward to. $#^†. Gonna take it easy, one day at a time.

Source: UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Chemo Class slide show

Sunday, May 11

Celebrated Mother's Day with family.

Mouth burning begins. OMG!!! Like thousands of bees stinging the inside of my mouth!

Monday, May 12

Celebrated Christine's b-day despite feeling ill and lingering mouth burning because nothing was gonna stop me!!!

Tuesday, May 13

10 am: EchocardiogramAs I mentioned in Part 2, this test was required to establish a baseline for my heart's health because one of the chemo drugs I receive, Adriamycin can cause heart damage.

Mom accompanied me. One hour of ultrasound imaging and measurements of my heart. I was so exhausted, I was beyond caring that the male sonographer could see my very exposed chest. Wearing an open-front paper shirt/cover thingy proved pointless. Whatever. I closed my eyes and pleasantly recalled the time I visited Baden-Baden's Friedrichsbad (a nudist spa). 
(P.S. Don't worry. That link goes to the spa's totes appropriate (PG-ish) homepage. If you ever visit Baden-Baden, I highly recommend Friedrichsbad and the Caracalla Spawhich is more family-friendly (swimsuits required)).

2 pm: Biopsy post-op with ENT. Tiny’s scar was healing nicely. I thanked my ENT for his help during the diagnosis process.

Thursday, May 15

Follow up visit with oncologist to make sure things are going well. They are! (Relatively, speaking.)

Friday, May 16

8 am: Pulmonary function testAlso mentioned in Part 2, this test was required to establish a baseline for my lungs' health because the chemo drug, Bleomycin can cause lung damage.

Christine accompanied me. One hour of various exercises breathing into a tube, having measurements recorded by a computer, and feeling like an idiot the entire time. (At least I could wear my normal clothes.) I was terrible at following the instructions the technologist gave me. Inhale quickly, exhale slowly, vice versa, use your diaphragm, pretend you're blowing out a thousand candles, breathe in in in in in yourlungshavemorecapacitythanyouthinktheydoooooo, breathe out out out out out almost theeeeeeeeeere *gasp!* Great. Now let's do that five more times. 

The tech was a nice guy though. Fun to talk with. 

Weirdest aspect of the test: sitting inside a large, clear plastic box (to measure volume and lung capacity). The box was closed for only one exercise, but I had to stay inside it throughout the full hour of testing.


Saturday, May 17

Intense back pain.

Sunday, May 18

And that brings us up to speed on the first month* of my odd little adventure with lymphoma. Phew! It was quite the whirlwind of appointments, a medley of miracles, and a whole lot of emotional tire swinging. 

Super grateful to all of my doctors for their prompt care, as well as all the other health professionals for helping me arrange appointments and complete needed tests. 

*Seriously. Only three and a half weeks transpired from my first visit with my primary care physician ("Hey doc, what's this lump in my neck?") to my first chemo treatment ("So long, cancer!")

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  

May 6: Port-a-cath implanted to make chemotherapy easier and safer to administer
May 8: Had first chemo treatment
May 13: Echocardiogram
May 16: Pulmonary function test

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