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Penny the Port

May 22, 2018

Last Wednesday, I had surgery to install my port. I was surprised to learn that it was a full-on, no food after midnight, anesthesia surgery. I guess it makes sense, but ugh. Another surgery.

The day before and morning of, I felt a lot of anxiety about it. I’m not sure exactly why. I’ve had about a million surgeries, but this time, instead of having something removed, I was having something added. It was upsetting to be back at the hospital again so soon. The nurse was worried about my veins so she gave me a shot of lidocaine before inserting my IV, and let me tell you, it just made it worse.

I woke up from surgery with a painful knot just inside my shoulder blade and my whole left shoulder in a knot. I thought it was the position I was in during surgery, but I was thinking about this last night and I’m sure the amount of anxiety I carried into that surgery had something to do with it. I went home that afternoon and felt good that evening aside from the pain in my shoulder and back. It became excruciating and I had to pull out some old surgery pain killers for it. It was annoying that the pain I was having wasn’t even related to my port. I couldn’t even feel the port location for a couple days.

It was also discouraging because I knew last week was my “good week” and here I was having surgery and pain that was interfering with what little time I had to feel good. I got through the next couple days and felt good enough to go to a concert on Thursday and a party at a lake on Saturday. Both of those were incredibly life giving and fun.

My dear friend Barry, his sister Nancy and I

Watching my hot husband tear it up on one ski – first time since I’ve known him!

I went to the chiropractor on Friday and she said she thought that the pain was a combination of mental stress and physical stress. My body was responding to the intrusion of the port. My mind was using my body to protect the port so I was hunching my shoulders. And it was a generally stressful week with the kids. Some days it seems like they just fight and argue from the time they wake up at 5:30am.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year thinking about stress and how it affects my health. I believe stress was a major contributor to me having cancer. From 2010 to 2016, we had no less than 3 major life events every single year including international moves, job changes, local moves, giving birth 3 times, having 2 miscarriages, dealing with depression and many other personal/family challenges.

I learned a lot about the impact of stress on your body when I started at Real Health Medical in the fall. I have been intentional about saying no to things and being conscious of what is too much/stress inducing. I also had a friend point out recently that from the time you are diagnosed with cancer, your stress levels escalate. It seems like even when you don’t feel stressed, there’s some level of it there under the surface. So here’s another painful reminder that I need to continue to manage my stress.

I felt gradually better as the weekend went on, and only had a little pain when I went for my second treatment yesterday. Since I had already done it once, the only stressful part was doing it with the port this time. Every time I have chemo, I have to get blood work beforehand to make sure I’m strong enough for the treatment. This time, since I had my port, they were going to use it. The nurse told me that it doesn’t normally hurt going in, but people can be bothered by the pressure it takes to put it in. Ugh. I was dreading it and wanted to cry. Thankfully, she also told me it was normal to feel emotional and good to cry if I wanted to. So I did, and it ended up not being a big deal at all. It didn’t hurt. And the whole rest of the treatment process was truly so much better with the port.

We met with Dr. Z after the blood draw, and he said my numbers looked amazing – like I hadn’t even had any chemo. We talked about my medicine and I found out that I can just take the Zofran and use the one that makes you really tired as needed. Last week I was taking both of them around the clock. He also gave me something to help me fall asleep since the steroid makes my body feel restless even when I’m exhausted. He said my super power is metabolizing things that make normal people go to sleep, so it might take an elephant tranquilizer to put me out. I agree with the tranquilizer part, but am not sure about the super power part.

Last week when I got the port put in, I had several people tell me how it would become my friend and that some people even named theirs. I posted that online that night, and that’s how Penny the Port came to be. She’s a little bigger than a penny, and costs way more than a penny, but as my friend Annie said “No such thing as a bad friend named Penny. Penny adds life to her friends. She’s never a sourpuss.” So Penny she is.

This morning I got an oncology massage. Last week Jonathan kept encouraging me to get one, but the idea of putting myself into someone’s hands with this weird port and how uncomfortable I felt made me nervous. I was reminded that there a places that specialize in this though, so I went this morning and have continued to feel better in my neck and shoulders. I’m tired now, but I’m still awake which is better than last week. I’m hoping for an early bedtime and good sleep.

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