Thursday, January 5, 2012


On Tuesday I went to the Oncology office to get my port flushed.  Have I mentioned this yet?  In brief, I'm no longer using my port (huzzah!) but I have to keep my port until the odds improve that I will remain cancer-free (boo!).  An unused port requires routine maintenance so that no yucky blood clots or infections develop in the port.  So about once a month I need to pop in and get my port flushed.

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.        


  1. Glad this is just routine maintenance, what a bother. I should be glad to see that port removed disposed of (or framed if you really feel it's become a part of you). Way to keep on getting on.

    BTW - love that you're posting from the future. It says you posted at 9:24PM, yet here it is, only 9:16PM. You are way more magically that we've all imagined.


  2. And I am way badder at grammar than you'd expect. Last sentence of my comment SHOULD be:

    You are way more magical than we've all imagined!

  3. I love how you explain everything from such a scientific point of view. When Zeb was in the NICU, Brad and I were the same way and it *almost* made the whole thing a bit more bearable. Oh, and 30 ml is equal to 1 U.S. fluid ounce...also something I learned in the NICU.

    Can't wait until you are writing the post about that port being removed!

  4. Magical indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So much love always being sent your way! :)

  5. I don't know why, but this sounds super painful. :-/ And even with the port picture/diagram, I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around it. When you "flush" it, how does the saline not go into your body - or does it? Does that make sense? And if it does, does it adversely affect you in anyway? And the gentle addition of the heparin ... that just sits in the port ... does it diffuse into your body? And if the saline DOESN'T diffuse into your body, how do they stop that from happening? Maybe I should just stick to English. :)

    I haven't told you yet, but thank you so much for my package!!! Start checking your mail next week...something is headed your way!!! :)

    I dig snail mail!

    Love you, B.

  6. I dig snail mail, too! And no, flushing or using the port is not painful at all after the poke (although it was VERY painful to have put in). Think of the port as a tadpole with a really long tail, with the head just under my skin above my right breast and the tail weaving through my body into my superior vena cava. To access or use the port, the nurse jabs a needle into the so-called tadpole head, but not through it. Once the needle gets in there, I can't feel anything. The needle's end is inside the port. The fluids can then be pushed in or out of me through the port (tadpole) as needed. Does that help?