Wednesday, 11 November 2015


It was only 7.15am and I had already endured a short car ride, walk to the station, an over-ground train, an under-ground train and another walk to UCLH. I can't speak for my Mum, but I was definitely ready for bed and my day had only just begun.

I sat in an unfamiliar reception area, slightly dazed, waiting for my name to be called. "Alexandra Spain, would you like to come through". I was showed to a bed in a children's ward, as being 17 at the time was an awkward age as I was just above the children's age criteria but just below the adults. I changed into some more comfortable pyjama's and attempted to get some more sleep or at least peacefully shut my eyes. I then discovered that this wasn't going to be possible. Children, and I'm talking small babies here, were crying around me. Although I couldn't see them with my eyes, their painful cries made me feel uncomfortable and saddened me to think that such young children were most likely suffering an awful disease when their lives had barely begun. 

"Are you here to have it removed?" The nurse asked me.. I wished. I knew I had a long road ahead of me towards recovery and I would have done anything to fast forward time and be at the point where my portacath could be removed. Unfortunately, I didn't own a time machine. So there I was, patiently waiting to be taken down to theatre for an operation I wasn't even slightly prepared for. Queue the portacath. 

I had done very little research about my diagnosis, let alone the procedure I was about to have and what exactly a portacath was.  All I knew was that the veins in my arm's and hand's were going to have a break and be able to recover from being stabbed and bruised by cannula's for a month or so. It was also supposedly going to be my new best friend (it didn't disappoint!). Everything in my life at the time was scary, new and confusing. I didn't want to get myself worked up and caught in the unknown so I just went with the flow and this procedure was just one of those things. I was told I was having it to benefit me, so very little questions were asked. What time? What date? Where? That about covers it. I hadn't even googled what it was.. and that is coming from someone who use to diagnose themselves with the help of google whenever they was feeling rough.

I was wheel-chaired to theatre, where outside of the room I was introduced to the guy that was going to insert my portacath. He gave me a brief description of what was going to happen and even showed me the portacath itself. It was pretty daunting as I hadn't seen what one had looked like beforehand and I was still finding it hard to accept and adapt to my new lifestyle. My mind was elsewhere at the time and as I look back on it now, I believe cancer stole some of my identity. A normally chatty, bubbly and polite girl now sat on the wheelchair and stared at this stranger with an unimpressed blank face as he waved about this object in front of me that he spoke about inserting under my skin.

The procedure was painless as I was put under a general anesthetic. My first anesthetic and my first operation. The anesthetist was talking to me one minute, and suddenly I felt my eyes starting to shut out of my control and off to la la land I went.

If I'm honest,  I can't exactly remember where or when I woke up. What I do remember is looking down to the right side of my chest and seeing a strange object protruding out of my body covered with a bandage. So much for the nurse's saying portacath's are unnoticeable. But I was wrong. At the time my portacath was inserted I was under-going frequent treatment on consecutive days which required my portacath to be accessed. Another new thing I had learnt. Once a chemotherapy nurse came and dosed my body up with the latest necessary poison to fight off my leukaemia, she explained how the portacath worked. A small disc(port) was inserted under my skin and has a tube (catheter) connecting to a large vein just above my heart allowing intravenous chemotherapy or medicine to be given directly to my bloodstream. The portacath is accessed using a special gripper needle and will be pushed through my skin and into the port disc. The portacath can be used for a quick and simple blood test or for any intravenous chemotherapy or medicine you may be having. It can even be left accessed for up to a week whilst having continuous treatment where it will have a special dressing taped over the gripper needle.

At the beginning, the site of the portacath was a little sore, which isn't surprising, but it isn't painfully sore, just annoyingly so. One thing I must admit is that it is a strange physically adjustment. I would be sitting face forward, and if someone addressed me from the side I would have to turn my whole body round to make eye contact with them as my neck was relatively stiff a few days after the insertion. I can only imagine that my neck muscles were getting used to this foreign object being placed under my skin. There is minimal scarring on my chest, where the portacath has been inserted, and an even smaller scar nearer my neck.

I can definitely say that the portacath has indeed become one of my best friends and will continue to be until the day comes along in 2017 where it will be time for myself and the portacath to part ways. Along with saying goodbye to cancer treatment.

No comments:

Post a Comment