Monday, June 15, 2015

Chemo part 2, Number 8: Port Clogged

I have an entry started from my last chemo, but it has been making me feel physically ill each time I try to finish it.  I'll have to publish it when it gets further away from a chemo date.

Chemo this week went as expected.  I cannot believe how just typing these words brings my stomach up to my throat, it is just incredible.  I am going to have a piece of peppermint gum to try and calm my stomach, and hope to get through this entry.

I guess that chemo sentence is not quite true.   My nurse and I spent the early part of my visit trying to figure out how to unblock my port.  Faye was off today, so I had Tracy, who is often on Fain 3 with me, but never my nurse.  Right from the start my port would not give a blood return, which is important when they need three vials of blood for blood work.  Tracy pushed saline through my line trying to clear it, but it would not work.  The saline went in, but no blood would come out.  I tried sitting back, reclining, reclining further, raising my arms, coughing, walking around the nurses station, laying down on a stretcher, raising both arms, coughing some more.  Through all of this she still could not get enough blood for my tests.  She finally resorted to getting the three vials of blood out of a vein in my hand.

Even though we knew that the saline was going through my line and into my vein, the obstruction at the end of my line still needed to be cleared.   The solution is to inject the line with something that  breaks down whatever is forming the little flap at the end of my line.  I don't remember what the official name of this stuff that got pumped into me is, just that we were calling it drain cleaner.  Ugh.  Not a pretty picture.

I was worried about what happens to the little bit of stuff, once it breaks down.  Does it dissolve or go into my blood stream?  Where does it go?  The nurse assured me it would not hurt me, that the solution sits in the line, clears up the problem and gets pulled back out.  Or something like that.  It needs to sit in the line for about an hour, which is about how long it takes to get my vitals done, wait for, and then visit with the doctor. 

When I see Dr. Safran, I get some good news.  My ct scan looks very good, with only two little dark spots present that he is not sure about.  He has asked me if I think I can handle two more chemo treatments, numbers eight and nine. I tell him this chemo is difficult, and that the best way I have found to get through it it by sleeping all weekend.  We agree this might not be the worst way to deal with it.   I tell him yes, I will do two more chemo treatments.

He tells me we can do a pet scan after the ninth, and then decide what to do from there.  I ask him what my options will be. It looks like I have three.  One, I can do nothing, and see what happens.  I will need to be monitored, since there is a very good incidence of recurrence with this type of cancer.  Two:  I can take a new drug that is supposed to suppress cancer cells from reoccurring.  Three:  I can take part in a trial with an experimental drug which will be very closely monitored.  Two in three people are on the new drug, the third is on nothing and monitored closely.  I think this is good news, but I am also scared.  There is a big decision to be made here.  The best course of action would have been to never get myself into this position, but it's too late for that.

Before I head to my pod, I find my friend Nancy in the reception area.  She has taken a vacation day to come and sit with me while I receive my treatment.   As I show her where we will spend the next few hours, we pass Carole, my chemo friend, she is heading off for her doctor's appointment.  She has chosen the pod beside mine, so we promise to talk later.

It has only been forty minutes since I have had the drain cleaner in my port.   It is still not quite long enough to work.  Nancy and I sit and talk to pass the time.  My friend Rasika also stops by to visit.  She is visiting Providence from Australia, and chosen to spend part of her day here in Fain 3 with me.  I am fortunate to have such friends.

Finally, after more reclining, arm raising, and coughing, the thing that gets my blood flowing again is laughter.  Of course.  Now that my port is all set, I am ready to go, ready to sit for four hours and get chemo slowly, but steadily poured into me. 


  1. Laughter! A beautiful solution.

    And what a hard decision. All three of the choices sound like they have plusses and minuses. I guess that's why they make you choose instead of just getting all bossy about it. I know what I'd (imagine I'd) pick & hope to read about what you choose and how you decide---such suspense.

  2. I hope you choose option 2 or 3. I have a friend in Seattle with cancer who volunteered to be on a trial. They don't tell you if you will get the new trial drug or something equivalent to what you would ordinarily get. If the trial drug shows great results, they sometimes stop the trial early, and switch everyone over to the new drug. Hang on, brave Kathy, and sleep your way through it if you have to. It could be very promising

  3. Whenever I have a hard decision to make, I make a list of all the pros and cons of each. It sometimes helps to make things more clear. So glad you found your chemo friend. I was wondering/hoping you would!