Thursday, May 22, 2014

What the heck is a port? My video, bad veins, and suiting up for poison

Click here to view my "Port" video!
I had no idea what a port was until I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012. A few months later and in preparation of countless infusion appointments, chemo, and two stem cell transplants, I got my trusty port. When I got a call from my doctor's office to schedule the port, I had no idea what it was and almost declined the appointment. When I realized that I was going to have a "thing" put in my chest and that I would be getting poked there, I almost had a heart attack. It was not a happy moment, I can assure you. But that port has been a godsend, no joke. Anyway, we filmed me getting accessed. Here is yours truly.

As far back as I can remember, I hated getting poked. Finding veins in my body is a really awful experience. One time, and this was awkward, I was heading into surgery to repair my broken ankle. I went back to my home town, Bishop, to get the surgery done over Christmas vacation when I was living in Washington, DC. My very good friend, Mandy, had just finished up schooling and we was drawing my blood. (Side note: Mandy is one year younger than I am and was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer that had spread to her lung and hip just one month after I was diagnosed. She is fighting hard and so far so good) She had to poke me six times before she found a vein. I wanted to punch her in the face but I felt so bad for both of us. I think it traumatized her because she stopped working in the lab just six months after her career began.

So when I was diagnosed with myeloma and all of a sudden, I started getting poked many, many times per week, it was pretty awful for me. And then I got my port. The first few times that my nurses accessed my port, I thought I was going to pass out. Anxiety was in the stratosphere. But quickly I realized that it was nothing! The nurse was simply poking through a very thin layer of skin. No fishing for a vein anymore. I don't even flinch when I get poked. It truly is "no big deal." Is it pretty? Of course not. But it's not that horrifically ugly either.

But what I loved best about filming this little segment is helping others understand myeloma and navigate their treatment. It's amazing that at the age of 44 my entire life and focus in life changed radically in an instant. I have a whole new purpose in life. A whole new reason to get out of bed. I want to make a difference. I want to help others. I want to live, find treatments and cures. I want to help other cancer warriors remain strong and help them kick evil cancer in the arse. Living a more purpose filled life is one of the blessings that have come about from my cancer diagnosis.

What I'm still not used to is seeing my nurses get suited up to give me my chemo injection. They get all covered up to put something into my veins. The meds will poison them and yet it's going into me. Weird. Unnerving. Necessary. Poison and kill cancer cells. But it's so weird. Before getting sick, I didn't like taking aspirin. It's quite the switch in mentality.