Buh-Bye Chemo Port

Isn’t it time to bid that chemo port buh-bye?

It’s just over two years since ending the chemo regimen from the liver cancer metastasis. Today I am alive and thriving!

 

It wasn’t all easy, those two years. It’s amazing because one would think that finishing chemo would mean life can go back to normal, a healthy and productive life, free of disease, medications, doctor appointments, worry and fear, just like that. Well, on the surface I have those things now, more or less. I do see the doctor less, I am in better shape than I’ve been in years, there is a more predictable schedule and fewer emergencies than while treatments were ongoing.

Still, because of the “cancer club membership” I now have, I am married to the medical system. I’m dependent on doctors, on healthcare, and on insurance. Of course I am getting older… so there’s that, too, but before cancer I was an easy patient and pretty smug about it. I liked that I could see my doctor once per year or less! I liked the bod being solid and reliable. Now if I go more than two months without seeing a doctor, I feel insecure and usually have saved up a million concerns to discuss overwhelming the appointment.

That’s life in the fast lane! But I’ll take it. Gratefully.

 

As for having more time to myself:

Yeah, I have that too, but jeez, something happened since cancer: a rather extensive daily routine of taking care of myself! I credit graduation from cancer for starting some really good habits, like:

  • Spending 10 minutes on my teeth every night because my gums have receded so much, I’m just trying to keep my teeth! I have dental cleanings quarterly.
  • I exercise twice a day, and I like that, but I also feel obligated to stay strong to combat bone loss from the radiation and chemo. Incidentally, the osteoporosis diagnosis a year and a half ago (thinning bones) has been downgraded to osteopenia (less critical), I believe from a combination of supplements and exercise. Thank goodness my bones are rebuilding themselves as I was told they may not.
  • I have supplements to take at various times of the day.
  • I make a daily concoction of juices to cleanse my liver of all the supplements residues.
  • Clean my glasses, which recently became necessary.
  • I cook all meals and they are nutrition that Matt and I need specifically.
  • Then paying, scanning, and filing the medical bills for financial fitness as well.

That makes a full day just spent on myself!

 

Longer term:

There are maintenance blood tests, colonoscopies, and scans (oh my!). The results have been mostly routine, but each, more than ever, are followed by a period of nervous introspection. A nagging fear that the test will not come out normal, and I will have to start over again; breaking the news of a whole new diagnosis to my family and community, interviewing doctors, filling out health questionnaires, filling my schedule with doctors, therapies, new uncertainties, waiting for never-ending test results, and worrying about insurance eligibility! My imagination takes over and goes to the worst places. This never happened before my second occurrence of cancer, but darn it if the second occurrence has really changed my view of mortality.

i-have-this-nagging-feeling_LRG

Fighting cancer ages people. Not only the bone deterioration, receding gums, spiraling hormones, it also makes you look older. I think I’ve aged visibly and maybe look 14 years older than I did 3-4 years ago, which puts me in the same era as my husband! While I generally applaud age and the success of achieving a “ripe old age”, I’m mixed about it happening rapidly and unnaturally from medical treatments. Ok, so the new lines in my face are battle scars. They are for the naturally aging people, too, but I’m not used to seeing them on my face when 3-4 years ago I looked much younger. Also, age is a state of mind. True, and I feel older in the sense that I am wiser, I have more boundaries than I used to, and maybe a little more cynical. But the things that I love, I love so much more, have so much more sincere gratitude for kind acts, friendships, noticing the colors and relationships in the world around me.

Although emergencies haven’t entirely stopped, they are fewer and less consequential. I had a surprise root canal a few days ago. That was a first, and there will be more firsts, but at least I know that whatever it is, it will be an easy fix! I believe that given time my anxiety will decrease, I won’t even remember this worrisome era.

 

Finally, yesterday I had my chemo port removed!

It was a rather short, uneventful procedure in-office, rather than in the hospital. I could have chosen the hospital where they would put me under, but it really is a simple procedure in the clinic, cheaper, takes a fraction of the time, and I didn’t have to trouble anyone to drive me.

Power.Port.patient.shoulderPower.Port.diagram

Some people keep their port in long after the disease is gone. I guess ports can stay in indefinitely, and people may go four years, five years, nine years before taking them out. I never intended to keep it in for two years, but I just never had time to get it removed, and one more surgical procedure was just unappealing. My blood cancer level did jump a bit, and for a month I played it really conservative with diet, supplements and rest. That did the trick, because the levels fell again on their own.

I’ve got this. It’s time. I am ready to be free of the port. I no longer need to harbor the symbol that connects me to the disease I beat twice. Onward!

 

Buh-buy chemo port!

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