I’ve got the power

I had a “power port” portacath device fitted this morning. It’s a small port that sits in your upper chest with wiring into your veins and can be used for delivering chemo and taking bloods. It’s an alternative to the PICC lines that are more usually fitted for chemo. Advantages are that (once healed), it is completely sealed, so there is no issue in getting it wet. It also only has to be flushed once a month, so it can mean fewer hospital trips. It’s also going to be less intrusive to my life as there are no bits hanging out or special coverings to wear. The downside is it’s a bit more fiddly to fit as, in effect, it needs a small operation in a unit equipped with X-ray etc. it will also need another small procedure to take it out, when I reach that point.

It’s something I particularly wanted as I hope to be able to swim / do Aqua classes and run during chemo. The water activities wouldn’t have been possible with a PICC, and I think I would have been worrying about sweat causing problems with a PICC during the latter. I was delighted that the oncology team readily agreed, as they acknowledge that staying active has benefits during chemo. I would really fear for my mental health if I was restricted from doing these things during treatment. Of course I may not be well enough, but that’s a different situation.

The procedure itself involved around 6 hours in hospital. I checked in at 8:30 this morning. Although the procedure was being done under local anaesthetic without sedation, it was a case of nil by mouth in case something went wrong. Checking in involved the usual blood pressure, pulse, temperature, breathing rate questions, plus a finger prick blood test to show how quickly my blood clotted. This was onto a strip in a machine, similar to a glucose test. The surgeon came round to answer final questions and get me to sign consent forms, and I got him to draw inside the line of my sports bra so we could be sure the port wouldn’t be rubbed by it when I am running. Then I waited to be called into the procedure room. I was taken for the procedure at around 10am. I walked into the room and laid on the bed. The staff were inside preparing. 

My left shoulder and chest were swabbed with a cleaning product that has left Donald Trump orange dye stains on me. Then I was asked to lie with my head to one side and was covered in drapes and screened so I couldn’t see what was going on. I was wired up to a heart monitor and blood pressure machine and then given quite a lot of local anaesthetic into my chest and neck. 

The procedure itself took around 45 minutes. There was a certain amount of pulling around and pressure, but it wasn’t really any worse than going to the dentist. Once back on the ward, I had to stay for 3 hours to complete the various stages of recovery. The port will be accessed with a special needle, so they have left one in place for my first chemo session, which is tomorrow, as I will still be too sore to have a needle freshly inserted. It will leave me with two scars, a very small one on my neck, and a larger one just above the port, where they made the cut to fit the actual device. 

Maybe I am slightly strange, but I found the process interesting. The surgeon kept me informed about what he was going to do before each step, which helped me know what to expect. There were a couple of occasions when I needed to be very still, or take a deep breath and hold it, but I could mostly keep chatting to the surgeon and the person monitoring my vital signs. 

If anyone is considering asking for one of these rather than a PICC line, I would say there’s nothing to worry about in terms of having it fitted. And I certainly expect it to aid my quality of life for the next 6 months. Onwards to chemo tomorrow. 

Anonymous
  • I had a discussion about this today with my oncologist. I’m glad that the port will give you a better quality of life and allow you to swim and keep active. Super important! Im still unsure which one to choose. 

    I start chemo at some point next week date tbc because I need a full body PET scan first. They said I need EC (4 sessions) every 2 weeks and then paclitaxel (4 sessions) every 2 weeks. 16 weeks of treatment all in all plus radiotherapy after that. Getting my head around it all ready to give it my best shot! I hope your first session goes as well as can be tomorrow. x

  • Got much the same except my EC is 3-weekly and I have weekly Paclitaxel for 12 weeks. Will blog on how it goes. The area around the port is a bit sore now the local anaesthetic has worn off but I am confident it was the right choice for me.