Port-a-Cath Insertion Surgery
Yesterday was my port-a-cath insertion surgery, and what feels like the beginning of a very long and difficult physical and emotional season.
The ride to the hospital was rough. I imagine it's how people feel on their way to check themselves into prison. When we got into the car the song "Rescue" by Lauren Daigle was playing. One day I'll go back and read the lyrics more closely and listen to that song and know that it was a well-timed message to me. But at that moment, I couldn't hear it. I tried to listen for a minute and just couldn't take it, so I turned the radio off.
We arrived at the hospital a few minutes earlier than we needed to be there, wearing our homemade COVID masks (thank you Christy Bain) as requested by the hospital.
I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience walking in there. I was totally self-absorbed and was glad there weren't a ton of people everywhere...because even the few in the lobby made me angry. Not because they did anything wrong -- no one did, and in fact we ran into a friend we haven't seen in a long time, who we think very highly of. I just was angry and felt alone and scared and not wanting to start this process. Maybe having my face covered with a mask was good. Then my expression couldn't be seen by everyone else and I didn't have to politely smile.
Once I was registered, we went into the pre-op room, where I had to strip down (including all of my jewelry, which for me makes me feel really "naked" more than anything...isn't that weird?) and put on a paper gown, hair net and grippy socks. Whoa. This is REAL surgery.
We weren't sure whether Ben would be allowed back with me, and I'm so glad he was. We sat in the pre-op room for about 3 hours waiting for the OR to be available, getting my IV, drawing blood, answering questions (3 different people asked me if I'd had a hysterectomy??), but mostly we were just waiting.
I received several nice texts from friends wishing me well and saying they were thinking about me, but I couldn't read or respond to them genuinely at that moment, because I was still just scared and angry, so mostly I put my phone away and didn't look at it. Eventually we changed the channel on the TV from HGTV (which I swear is what EVERY doctor's office, hair salon, dentists, etc. ALWAYS has playing -- why???) and found a King of Queens marathon. That's a show Ben and I love, and it was the perfect comic relief while we waited.
Finally, at about 11:30, the anesthesiologist came in and they started to get me ready to go to the OR. Ben left at that point and would meet me back in recovery after the surgery. When the anesthesiologist came in, I pretended he was Jason McKeown (my friend Tiffany's husband) -- even though he was FAR too short to be Jason -- and in a weird way, that made me feel better. He showed me a saringe and asked me if I wanted something to help me relax. My answer "Yes, give me whatever you've got."
The ride on the gurney into the OR was a very eery and scary feeling. I felt like I was in a scene from a television show. When we wheeled into the OR, I saw my surgeon, her nurse and the anesthesiologist & his nurse, lots of equipment and lights. I remember my doctor putting a few blankets over me (it was cold in that room) and then the anesthesiologist giving me a breathing mask. That's the last thing I remember.
They said I might sleep through the whole thing, or I might be in and out of consciousness throughout the surgery. Thankfully I don't remember a thing. The next thing I knew, he was waking me up and wheeling me back to the post-op area. I remember asking:
- What time is is? (12:50pm)
- Did everything go ok? (yes)
- Do I still have the IV? (yes)
They asked me if I remembered anything, and I told them no...and "wouldn't it be nice if I could sleep through the next 8 months too?
They observed me for a few minutes in a post-op bay and did a quick x-ray of my lungs (since she was working pretty close to them during surgery). My heart rate kept making the machine next to me beep -- it kept going below 50bpm, but no one seemed to concerned about that (and it's not that much lower than my normal 55-65bpm).
Before long, they moved me to a recovery room, where Ben was there waiting for me. I was able to eat (finally) some peanut butter crackers and Ben had made me a sandwich, and drink a diet coke.
Then I evaluated my physical status. Took a look at the bandage, and realized my port was IN, it was bigger than I expected (I kept hearing "quarter sized" and this looks more like a $2 stack of quarters!), and it was sore, but not excruciating. I mostly just didn't want to move my right arm, though I could...just slowly and gingerly, with less range of motion.
But, step 1 of this cancer trip was complete.
And in case you were wondering...this is what the hospital parking lot looks like during COVID quarantine:
Once I was in my own clothes (with all my earrings back in) and back home, I felt quite a bit more normal. I spent the rest of the afternoon moving very slow, sitting on the patio with Ben, Ayla & Paxton circling around while I stayed still. Kind of the opposite of normal around here.
Last night we had leftover Costa's for dinner (thank you Josh & Rachel!) and then the kids and I watched the documentary "Chasing Happiness" about the Jonas Brothers...which we all loved for our own reasons. It was a good relaxing way to hang out with the kids and do something fun.
I slept *mostly* well, but around 2am got up for more Tylenol and couldn't get comfortable. I kept wanting to stretch my arms and shoulders and back and just couldn't do it. I ended up making myself a pillow wedge so I could sleep partially sitting up, and that seemed to help for the rest of the night.
I woke up pretty stiff, but I'm slowly doing better, and even managed a shower (though I didn't dare tackle trying to wash my hair -- just putting it in a ponytail felt painful enough).
I've heard it takes 10-14 days for this port incision to heal...bandages can come off Monday. Until then, I think I'll be taking it nice and slow.