Cancer Lesson #34: Any Port in a Storm

Cancer Lesson #34: Any port in a storm

If you’d told me, oh maybe three years ago, that I’d someday rave about having a “drum-shaped device of plastic, stainless steel, or titanium with a silicone septum” (description from American Cancer Society Website surgically placed under the skin of my upper arm. I wouldn’t have believed you. I would probably have nodded politely and scuttled away.

But cancer changes things.

If you’ve read Cancer Lesson #13, you know good veins are invaluable for treating cancer. Alas, I have none. And, since my surgery included a lymph node dissection, only my left arm can be used for that sort of thing now, which meant my choices were limited.

This goes a long way toward explaining my enthusiasm for any method of dodging the poking and prodding that I came to associate with visits to my oncologist.

A port sounded great. Hell, I’d have taken a whole port city if it meant avoiding some of the jabs of a chemo regimen.


Cancer Lesson #33: There’s a Reason You’re Called a Patient.

Cancer Lesson #33: There’s a good reason you’re called a patient.

Cancer, like all serious illnesses, involves a lot of waiting. Every step forward is predicated on the previous step, which means you don’t know what step two will be until step one is complete. Between steps, all you can do is wait. Doctors can sometimes give an educated guess about what might be next, but even they can’t be sure. The only way to know what comes next is to wait to see what comes next.

I found it ironic that an experience which emphasizes the brevity of life should require that so much of it be used up in waiting. It’s like an enforced education in patience.

I’m not good at waiting. In fact, I’m sure my chart probably reads, “Im-patient Number — is a fifty-two year old female whose malignant neoplasm was removed on 27 April 2011….”

But, as with the sleeping arrangements mentioned in the last lesson, I didn’t have a choice. It didn’t matter that my mind thought I should be on to the next step; every time I skipped a pain pill, or tried to stretch my arm or sleep on my right side, or even walk faster than the average tortoise, my body shouted back – and I do mean shouted – that I wasn’t yet recovered.

I needed to get better at being sick, to learn to be patient with my body as it healed. And I reminded myself that, for some people, these types of limitations aren’t temporary.

That thought helped put things into perspective.

Still, when I blogged about it at the time, I wrote, “Learning to be patient is great, but I wish I could learn just a little faster. Like yesterday.”

Cancer Lesson #32: Sleeping Arrangements

Cancer Lesson #33: Sleeping Arrangements

After coming from the hospital, I slept downstairs on our recliner for a week, maybe two. At least, it seemed like weeks to me. The Engineer claims it was only a few nights. I was on drugs at the time, so I guess we’ll take his word for it.

After moving upstairs to a bed, I still had to sleep sitting upright. My daughter loaned me her “read-in-bed” cushion. This item is more accurately called a “husband pillow,” but I just couldn’t bring myself to say my daughter loaned me her husband for my bed.

Eventually I mastered the art of slowly, and ever so carefully, turning onto my left side, thereby doubling my possible sleeping positions.  Unfortunately, I figured this out just before I had my port inserted in my left arm on June 17 (about seven weeks after my surgery).

Back to square one.

The Engineer asked, “How can you sleep in one position like that?”

I couldn’t believe he thought I had a choice.