Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Confessions of a Needle Wimp

I hate needles. On my list of Terrifying and Scary Things, they're right behind Big Hairy Spiders but beat out Snakes, Bathroom Scales, and Serious-Looking People on My Doorstep with Pamphlets.

So two years ago when I had chemo for the first time, I was lying there with my forearm taped to a board with an awkward IV after two bad needle experiences within thirty minutes, and I noticed people bypassing the bloodwork lab, sailing in to the chemo area and confidently grabbing a chair.  Not only did they pass GO, but they never got a needle in their arms.  The nurses came up, patted their chests, and hooked them up to an IV.  I was lying there with one hand more or less immobile, and they had both hands free to play Angry Birds on their phones, use their iPads, or read a paper. 

I wanted to be part of THAT club!  What was that, a Frequent Chemo Club?  Could I trade Hilton points?  Barter American Airlines miles?  Is there a secret password?  I bribed a reluctant nurse with some bagels and found out the secret - those people had PORTS! 

So if you google mediport, you'll get the full Wikipedia description, but let me tell you what it means from a patient perspective, as I'm getting a port tomorrow.   I'm going in at 6:15 a.m. (yes, a torture in and of itself) but in a couple of hours, I'll wake up with a small incision on my chest with a slight bump above it.   

But on Friday, when I go in for chemo, I'm part of the club!  I sail past the bloodwork lab and go straight to the chemo chairs.  I wear a RonWear jacket (I learned about it when RonWear won a Chase Mission Small Business contest) which allows me to simply unzip a slanted zipper on my right shoulder - no awkward wardrobe malfunctions and I stay warm and comfy.  A nurse will tap a small needle into the port (which honestly feels like she just thumped my chest with a high-five), and I'm hooked up!  She'll draw the blood for the labs and when it's approved, she'll come back and start the chemo.  No more thumping, no needles, no inconvenience, and in the meantime, both of my hands are free and I'm checking the news and then starting up Downton Abbey on the iPad, slowing down all the sections with Matthew, with no problems whatsoever.  It is SO worth it! 

There is the option to get a PICC line, a less intrusive and thus less risky procedure, but you have two 'tails' protruding from your inside elbow at all times - somewhat hard to cover with summer fashions and it does require some self-maintenance.  I vote for ports!

I've been privately rating my cancer journey so far this year on NPW (needles per week) and I'm sad to report I've been averaging 6 NPW through all these tests.  My right arm is beginning to look like I'm doing street drugs.  After tomorrow - NO MORE needles in my arms!  I figure that tomorrow's one port installation will save me over 40 needles over the next four and a half months - a no-brainer.

So when your friends are diagnosed with cancer and you know chemo is in their future, you should let them in on the secret:  "I'm so sorry to hear that!  Have you learned about the Secret Society of Ports yet?" 

Looking forward to my last needle tomorrow for another four months,
The Needle Wimp

Next post: Saturday (after an 8+ hour chemo session on Friday).  I know, you're all agog - but you have to wait!

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