As I have had lymph nodes removed from my right side, I am at risk for lymphedema if I have anything done with my right arm (eg. blood pressure taken, vaccinations, or blood tests etc.). As a result, everything needs to be done to my left arm now to reduce the risk of lymphedema. My veins are pretty non-existent and shocking…the lab technicians really struggle to get blood out of me whenever I go for blood tests…and that was before my cancer journey started LOL! So my shocking veins, coupled with the fact that I was going to be having IV treatments for a year, it was recommended that I have a Port-A-Cath inserted into my chest for having the IV treatments.
I didn’t love the idea of having another surgery, albeit a quick one, but I was loving the idea that it would make the chemo and Herceptin IV’s easier.
I went full steam ahead with the surgery and had a “PowerPort” placed in my chest. The actual port sits on the chest wall and has 3 raised bumps so that the nurses are able to locate the middle of the port for connecting the infusion needle. There is a long tube (or catheter) attached to the port which goes under the skin and up to my neck to connect into a main vein.
The PowerPort website has a great Patient Guideline which details how the PowerPort works and has useful pictures as well.
Here are some pictures of my port and the scars from it:
Before I had my surgery, I met a person who had recently had a port inserted about a month prior to me meeting her. I found it very helpful to see what the port was like as I was still a little hesitant about having the surgery. I was really encouraged by the positive experience that the lady had had and by the fact that you couldn’t even see her port. The nurses and doctors also showed me a couple of models/dummy torso’s with the port inserted and again you couldn’t see the port through the chest. As a result, I was expecting my port to not be noticeable.
After the surgery, I was a little surprised at how the port looked in my chest. As you can see from the pictures, it clearly stuck out of my chest and was very noticeable…I called it my third nipple LOL. I don’t carry extra fat on my upper torso (this all goes to my thighs LOL!) so I guess this was why the port was really noticeable on me, but not so much on other people.
The above pictures of my port were taken almost a year after I had the port placed in my chest so the port had plenty of time to settle down before I took those pictures (it stuck out wayyyyy more initially). I was curious to see if I would be left with an indent when the port was removed….I am happy to report that I do not have an indent now that the port has been removed…phew!
Whilst I was a little disappointed that the port was so obvious on me (and that no-one had mentioned this could be a possibility), my experience with the port has been great and I would make the same choice again in a heartbeat.
Potential Negatives Of A Port
The chemo nurses told me horror stories about ports needing to be replaced and infections etc. but I didn’t have any of those issues (thank goodness!!!!). My only complaint with the port was because the port itself and the tube were quite visible on me, my little daughter loved to grab at them and pull them….ouch! Sophia thought this was a hilarious game…me, not so much LOL!
The chemo nurses also told me that I had a very neat port and commented that I obviously had a good surgeon for it. This comment intrigued me and it turned out that some surgeons are a little crazy with where they place the ports – the nurses have seen them in the breast before (like you don’t have enough scars and lumps missing from your breast without adding a port into the mix!) or up close to the collar bone. The nurses have also seen really bad ones which get infected and have weeping scars (gross!)!
Travelling Whilst You Have A Port
I travelled quite a few times with my port and was worried that I would set off the security scanner at the airport. The port never set off the scanner though…phew. The first time I flew with the port, Simon mentioned that I had one to the airport security man – he wasn’t concerned about it though and said that I didn’t need to flag it up for going through security.
In case there was an issue with my Port (such as setting off a security scanner), I carried a PowerPort card in my wallet which detailed my name, the name of my port surgeon, the implant site/location of my port, and the date that the port was inserted. The PowerPort card also had a description of how to identify the port (with the 3 nodules that stuck out), infusion and flushing volume details, and lot details for the actual port that was inserted. I never had to use the card, but it was handy to have all of this information in case I needed it.
My experience with the port was great and it saved the poor veins in my left arm from collapsing so it was a winner in my book. Having said that, I couldn’t wait to get the port taken out and to be officially done with my cancer treatment (and the third nipple LOL)….whoop whoop!
I have now had the port taken out. An added bonus to the experience was that the surgeon opened up the original scars to remove the port, so I don’t have any extra scars from having the port removed. Port gone!!!