Radioactivity and My “Super” Power Port

It wasn’t long after Rene’s homecoming that we launched into further battle with my cancer stuff. The day after he came home (Monday), we spent about three hours in the hospital, the majority of which was spent waiting for radioactive dye for my MUGA scan to fully circulate in my body (Spiderman and I have something in common.) The MUGA has about the same radiation level as a chest x-ray. The experience is pretty similar to the pet scan I had done last week, except a pet scan exposes you to about three years worth of natural environment radiation.

There was also the usual amount of waiting room time (or HGTV time — as Rene & I have learned) and the scan itself took about 30 minutes. It’s kind of like a somewhat uncomfortable spa experience where you get to lay down and zone out for half an hour. They even had music playing. The med techs were rocking out to some early 90s love/power ballads. I think they forget that the patients and spouses can hear them… but I digress.

They took very detailed “pictures” of my heart while I laid down in 4 or so different positions for about  7 minutes each. The MUGA scan essentially provides my doctors with a baseline of how my heart is operating. The medical technicians inject radioactive dye into my veins using an IV in order to monitor oxygen inflow and outflow (among others things) from my heart. At some point, I will have to go back for another MUGA so they can keep tabs on my heart during and/or after chemo. Unfortunately, this is necessary because one of the many possible side effects of chemo is heart damage.

Similarly, chemo can also be really hard on your veins. Outside of chemo, cancer in general requires many many tests and procedures before and after diagnosis. In the last six weeks, I’ve probably had somewhere in the vicinity of 7 IVs and countless blood tests. So along with the super powers the lime green cookies bestowed upon me last week (courtesy of my Bateman friends), I was also given a PowerPort on Tuesday. The port will be used to administer chemo and also provides a spot where they can take blood and also administer other drugs I might need so they don’t have to create an IV every time I have a procedure.

Compared to my three biopsies, the power port placement actually went pretty smooth. To recap, I woke up in the middle of my bronchoscopy and proceeded to cough while they still had some tubes down my throat and were rinsing out my lungs. I bounced back very quickly from that procedure though,  and bravely had Taco Bell right after with no nausea issues at all, and went back to work the next day. Before the fine needle aspiration, I was a emotional wreck and then became infamous at the hospital because I passed out in the recovery room and proceeded to vomit all over the place. The x-ray tech was in my room taking a chest x-ray at the time and accidentally pressed the code button instead of the nurse call button, causing a very dramatic scene in which 20 people ended up in my room ready to bring me back to life. The bone marrow biopsy was just traumatizing in general since I wasn’t sedated at all and they had to drill into my hip (I don’t think further explanation is needed.)

In contrast, during my port placement I  felt more emotionally prepared and barely felt any pain. Also, I convinced the nurse to give me an IV through the arm instead of the hand since I still had a bruise from the hand IV from the fine needle aspiration. The nurse happens to be from Louisiana, which I think makes her more inclined to like me 🙂 Although I stayed conscious despite an ample amount of happy drugs, I was really relaxed and also had an enjoyable Queen soundtrack playing per my request. They also learned their lesson and gave me a ton of anti-nausea meds before and after the procedure.

Ironically though, the recovery time on the port placement has been a lot longer. It’s taken a good three days to really get the mobility back in my neck and I’m still a bit sore from it. I’m also not supposed to lift anything heavier than three pounds for two weeks, and five pounds for the following two weeks. I find this pretty unreasonable since what  woman’s purse is lighter than five pounds? I’m also bummed I can’t pick up  my cat and dog. However, this has come in as a handy excuse when it comes to household chores though. Poor Rene. He probably expected a peaceful, luxurious homecoming and instead is tasked with pretty much every chore I don’t want to can’t do (which is all of them.)

It also looks like I’m growing a parasitic twin above my right boob.

I like to think that it will be the source of my new super power. I will keep you posted. Maybe all this radioactivity will have unexpected benefits 😉

They also gave me a nifty card to carry around in my wallet and on my key chain, so in case there’s ever an emergency, medical professionals will know that I have a port

One thing about cancer that you never hear people talk about is how much it frickin’ ITCHES! Not only do I have the general itchiness from Hodgkin’s, but the adhesive on these bandages is intense! And they don’t really keep any alternatives in stock, at least not at my hospital. Unfortunately, for both the port and the bone marrow biopsy, I had to keep the bandages on for at least two days. We’re talking some torture level itchiness here. I don’t know how kids make it through this stuff, because it took all my self-control at age 25 to keep from peeling them off early. I will also sadly admit that I’m still the eight-year-old who scratches her mosquito bites raw. Let’s just say I won’t be wearing any bikini’s anytime soon due to the scabs developing around the adhesive spots. Thankfully, I have found that the spray-on Benadryl and CVS-brand knock off works wonders for this issue. I highly recommend them to if anyone is having the same problem.

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12 thoughts on “Radioactivity and My “Super” Power Port

  1. i never realized itchiness was a result of the cancer… my mom had that but i assumed it was from general skin problems she had.

    she also had a port put in. I’m glad your experience was as “good” as something like that can be… she was allergic to latex and they used a latex adhesive to put her bandages on after the port. needless to say that did not end well…

    so encouraged that you are continuously doing well! love from dc as always.

  2. Ask them to use paper tape. Maybe it will be more gentle on your skin? It works for me as I’m sensitive to the regular stuff…worth a try. BTW, I wore lime green today in support of TEAM LAURA!!! Love you, Cuz!

  3. Laura, if you are that itchy from the tape on the bandages, you are probably allergic to it, and they ought to have other types of tape! Ask about this! You are going through enough discomfort, without any that is unnecessary! Tell them the old nurse on Team Laura said for them to find a different tape next time!

  4. Hey Laura! One of my blog readers pointed me over here to send support. I was diagnosed with stage 2a Hodgkin’s in June 2011 at the ripe ole’ age of 25 as well, and finished treatment in Dec 2011. Getting my first follow-up scan in two weeks! I blogged all throughout my treatment if you want to pop by and feel free to email me anytime! It helps a lot to have cancer friends in your corner who truly “get it.”

    Also, I wholeheartedly agree that they should put people out for the bone marrow biopsies. I got a bilateral one (meaning they poked me on both sides of my pelvis) and happened to come down with a wicked stomach flu that same day. I threw up on my oncologist before he started and passed out after it was done!

  5. Laura, I wanted to comment on the itchiness from the bandaids- we had spine surgery patients all the time who were itching from latex tape, switching to paper tape can definitely help. Also, I had an issue once with bandaids itching and my dermatologist gave me a topical steroid cream. Just remember, your healthcare team wants to make you as comfortable as possible, so don’t be afraid to ask tons of questions! Love, Steph

  6. Women tend to be more vigilant than men about getting recommended health checkups and cancer screenings, according to studies and experts.They’re generally more willing, as well, to get potentially worrisome symptoms checked out, says Mary Daly, MD, oncologist and head of the department of clinical genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.`

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