It takes about as long as an oil change; most of the time is spent waiting.
I have previously documented my port and its usage for chemotherapy. But thankfully it's been awhile, so I thought I'd document the flushing procedure. First, access (poke) the port with an L-shaped needle. Then draw liquids out of the port before flushing. This is because a small amount of heparin sits in the port reservoir 24/7 to prevent blood clots in the port, but I had heparin-induced thrombocytopenia back in March. This means that heparin indirectly causes a decrease in my platelet count. I probably don't need to worry about it any more, because I probably have enough platelets to spare now that I'm recovered, but I just don't feel like doing something I know my body hates. You never know when you'll need all of your platelets!
So I always ask the nurse to draw off the heparin before flushing my port. Sometimes something is stuck in there (yuck!) and I have to do the Y-M-C-A to get it unstuck. "Gross, what's stuck?" you may ask. Well, perhaps my body tried to "heal" the tiny opening in the port tube, thus blocking it temporarily. Perhaps the port tube is stuck to the side of my superior vena cava. We're not quite sure. Only once were we unable to will it unstuck, and in that case we just proceeded to flush the port with saline. The force of the flush is always sufficient to unstick my port, it's just on the initial withdraw that the challenge sometimes presents.
After the withdrawal of the heparin comes the flush with saline. Ten to 20 milliliters (I'm such a nerd that I don't even know how many ounces that is, or perhaps a true nerd would have the conversion memorized) is all it takes. Finally, the nurse gently injects a mere three milliliters of heparin into the port reservoir before removing the needle.
I've decided not to add the port flush pokes to my poke tally. I feel satisfied with my year-of-cancer-treatment poke tallies, and don't want to artificially inflate its meaning with port flush pokes.
But the real point of this post is to admit how WEIRD it was to be in that oncology waiting room! I feel good, I have a full head of hair, I'm not being treated for anything, I'm smiley. The further I get from all of that cancer business, the less amenable I am to be in a place having to do with cancer treatment. It didn't bother me for my December flush, but I was slightly bothered this time. I even found that a decorative quilt in the reception area that I so adored now makes me slightly queasy. All of this is an interesting phenomenon that we must keep tabs on, but perhaps I've said enough for now.