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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6 Comments

  1. Martin Penbrook

     /  February 26, 2018

    Michelle,
    I didn’t pick THIS entry to reply to for a reason, …in fact, I’ve read all of them tonight. I have seen your wonderful art. read yr.sharp, witty FB comments, I think I am as fan . You are so centered, so focussed on being happy, NOW and you are still creating, even when you have been ill. I am going thru an incurable illness, and my “old self” is what I have lost. But you gave me some hope this evening.
    Your sense of family is enviable. I want to just sit and talk to you over EVERY dessert item at Papa Haydins. You are remarkeable. It’s the heart, it shines. It shines in your words and your art.. Uh oh, a,stalker? No, no,no just a gay man, @ your age who also been ill, (for years), but nowhere near as brave as you. I truly believe isolation worsens ALL things and you seem to have the MOST WONDERFUL support system. I have lost people via my illness. I still have my pets though.
    Your positivity is going to get you past all of this cancer BS. You still see beauty and you share it. How lucky for those who know you.

    I should stop here, I’m gushing. But we still have 20 more desserts to get thru! To me, you are the cool girl in. H.S. that everyone wants to be friends with. But I don’t want this to be a fan letter.
    Ideally I will try to write again and present myself a little better, (saner?☺) in another effort.
    Just stay well, happy and brave. You really are brave. If you’re not, then you are inherently, an
    excellent, white liar. ☺ That’s a twisted compliment BTW. Man, it must be great to just chat with you.
    I just wanted to say “thank you”. I dont think I have ever “not met” a lovlier, real person as yourself.
    To your health , (& mine too). I will say hello again. You just “shine”. And you are healthy and will be healthy, until you are a 90+ year grumpy lady. I mean that, so take it as truth. I would never lie about such things. I hope this site notifies you of “fan mail” such as mine. You deserve to hear it. And you can tell hubby that I am no threat,…the most trouble we’d get up to is binge watching some NETFLIX Series….I haven’t seen “The Crown” yet? Peace and health to you. In bundles, of course. I am so glad that I tripped upon your blog. If nothing else, it kicked me with the realization that i have keep going and fight the isolation that came with my illness. There ARE people out there like you. Even as I am learning that I have to start over, and maybe only people like yourself get to keep and make healthy friendships, I must TRY I surely must. You are one inspiring soul. Thank you Michelle xo

    Reply
    • cancer4me

       /  March 10, 2018

      Wow! How do I get a hold of you Martin? I have not checked my site in a long time! I’m so happy you came across it and found it something thought-provoking. I don’t know if you will see this reply, but if you do, you can email me at michelledennis@yahoo.com. You are quite a writer yourself, with all the soul and character you described in my writings. Do you write? Do you keep a blog or update people on Facebook? I was encouraged to write when first diagnosed, by a woman who knew my writing. She said I should write in order to keep myself distracted 🙂 It was a good thing, and I have met some wonderful people through the blog who are on their own journeys. I like connecting with people. Would love to meet you. Hope to hear from you again and learn more about you Martin!

      Reply
  2. Nice post.

    Reply
  3. Wonderful and positive message for all! You never sees to amaze me with your strength and you gift for capturing all the beauty in this world with your brilliant photos!

    Reply
  4. Pat Gotch

     /  May 12, 2017

    Keep up the good work, Michelle!

    Reply

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