I’m on a first-name basis with the woman at the hospital registration desk. She instantly greeted me by name and pulled up my file when I walked in the door yesterday.
It was a busy Tuesday – one heart test and the installation of the mediport.
The MUGA scan was fairly easy. A quick blood draw, a 20 minute wait while a radioactive tracer was mixed with my blood, then I was ushered into the testing room. The blood was injected back into me (now with radioactivity!) and the radiologist placed three heart monitors on my chest.
Then I slid into the machine. It was kind of like an MRI, but MUCH more open and there wasn’t any noise. I could see the monitor showing what was happening in my chest. (The camera uses gamma rays to watch the radioactive tracer move through the heart and get pumped through the body.)
You know when you lie on the grass on a cool summer night and just look up at the stars? And how, if you’re somewhere without much “light noise,” you can see thousands of stars above you? That’s what it looked like on the screen. My body, full of stars.
The whole test lasted about 25 minutes. It was so easy and comfortable, I almost fell asleep, looking at my “stars.” The MUGA is important because a few of the chemo drugs could affect the heart muscle so the docs need to make sure my heart is strong going into chemo AND to get a baseline so my heart can be monitored at different points during my chemo regimen.
I had a few hours before the port installation, so I went home and worked on my syllabi (two done, one to go!). Then back to the hospital.
I had to be there about two hours before my procedure was scheduled. It was a long wait, but I was prepared with one of the books that’s been on my nightstand for way too long. (Gone Girl, reading the book before I see the movie. Really liking the book. Yes, my “for fun” reading is WAY behind the rest of the free world.)
More blood drawn, urine sample to prove I’m not pregnant, an IV of saline and antibiotics started.
Two hours later, I was wheeled to the operating room. This room was a little different from other ORs I’ve been in. This one was designed to use X-rays as part of the surgery to “see” where the port catheter would be placed into a vein in my chest.
More chest monitors, blood pressure cuff and oxygen thing on my finger. Lots of cleaning of the skin and prep of the area (left side, near my collarbone). Then everything turned blue as a drape was placed over my face and right side of my body.
My skin was numbed with a local anesthesia. The nurse pushed a tiny bit of general anesthesia through my IV, and she asked if I wanted more. I declined. I talked to the surgeon and nurses through the whole procedure. I couldn’t feel the incisions (two were made) but could tell when the catheter was winding its way from my collarbone to the middle of my chest. I could feel the doc use a tool to make a “pocket” between my skin and muscle to hold the actual port. I could feel the in and out of the needle as they stitched everything back up.
At this point, the surgeon said he was taking his time to make sure the stitches would heal with minimal scaring. “Doctor,” I said, “I’m having my right boob cut off in a few months. I really don’t think a couple of little scars on the left side will matter much.” (He laughed uncomfortably, but still took his time.)
Because I had so little general anesthesia, I was released less than an hour later.
There’s some soreness where the port is placed, but it’s completely manageable with Tylenol. One of the two bandages came off this morning, and everything looks fine. (I covered it with a band-aid – Lalaloopsy, of course – to keep the area as clean as possible.) I just want to be super careful over the next few days because ports placed on the left side can “move” from their original location. The procedure was easy but I’d like to not go through it again until it’s time to remove the port from my body (which won’t be until “everything” is over).
It’s just weird to think I have a triangle-shaped plastic “thing” in my chest now. But it’s also nice to know that needle sticks and IVs are done since everything (except the radioactive MUGA tracer) can be accessed/pushed through the port.
Tomorrow’s supposed to be the MRI. At this point, I’m not sure I want to lay on my stomach for that long with the newly installed port. I may reschedule. This doesn’t not break my heart.
Everything is really, really real now that the gateway for the chemo drugs is in place. I’ll feel better when I get the first round finished on Friday. (Breathe…)