In an attempt to forewarn anyone of the gruesome bloody story that lies ahead, the placing of my port or central line was a diabolical nightmare. If you are about to have a port put in or considering it, 90% of port operations are a success. I don’t want to put you off it, but things can go wrong.
Or at least, with my current unlucky streak, things did go seriously wrong for me.
But let’s start at the very beginning. I was told that after my successful operation, I was to have Chemotherapy. My aggressive cancer meant aggressive treatment and I remembering weeping emotionally as the doctor detailed the chemotherapy side effects.
Your hair will fall out over Christmas (in the first week after chemo)
Your finger nails will turn black and maybe fall off
All your hair on your body and in your nose your eyebrows will fall off
Your mouth will get sore or change in texture
You can get Thrush in your mouth
You might get blue spots on your tongue
Your bones will feel weak
Your heart can have some side effects
You stomach will feel bad
Infections of the vagina and anus might be more common than previously
You will find it hard to fight infection.
The list is probably longer than that, but I already have had or have much of the side effects listed above and I am only half way through chemo so far.
So, during this meeting, the doctor said that to make Chemo easier you need to have a minor operation where a port for easy access for injections will be placed. This will help you and make Chemotherapy fast and less stressful. The port will be under the skin but you will feel it and it will be placed above the right breast.
From the moment the port was mentioned, I felt anxious. Having a metal tube constantly stick out of my and one that you could feel all the time - felt wrong.
BUT- considering that this was the (yikes) New Bena. The Bena that no longer looked away when watching Casualty and tried to read medical journals, I thought I would give it a go.
The day of the operation
Because I was strong and a new born cancer fighter Amazon woman, I went to the hospital alone in a taxi. I got there at 6am and my operation was at 7.45 am. I meditated, I can do this all morning and took very long deep breathes.
When I was given a room, I got changed in my gown and put on thick socks as I remember freezing after the last operation and thought I would come prepared. I got ready and this time, I could walk to the surgery room. I got on the bed, just outside the theater and got covered with hot blanket. Then I was pushed into the theater.
I waited for about ten minutes as people came in an out and sterilized things and put knives and things next to me. My heart was pumping and I felt terrible. Tears started coming to my eyes as the fear of the operating theater and the lights was starting to develop in my body. I could feel every tingle and goose bump in my body as it melted into the operating theater. Sweat from the lights started building on my forehead and behind my ears. Tears were now streaming down my eyes and every hair on my body was standing on alert. If anyone could have seen my neck, they would have thought I was a dog on alert.
The doctor that was supposed to do my operation couldn’t make it and so the gynecologist doctor came in and said that she would do it. I knew her from the day before; she had made me sign the papers saying that I was aware that there were side effects of the port and the one that told me that this surgery was only 20 minutes.
I would know nearly two hours later, that she lied.
I fight back the tears as I right about the next 90 minutes. I was uneasy at the start of the operation and it didn’t get better. I was injected with a local anesthetic and then made to wait for it to start working. I was told that I should scream or talk if I felt pain. The drugs would make me not care what was happening, but I would be able to feel pushing and shoving.
My right arm was strapped down to the table and my left arm was placed on a rest. The local drugs were affecting my right side of the body and then I realized that a lot of pain was coming from the left side of the body as the lymph node operation arm was very uncomfortable. I tried to move and the doctor said,
“don’t move”. I tried to explain the pain in my recently removed lymph node arm and the nurse adjusted my arm slightly.
Above me to the right there was a clock. I could see the time and after 15 minutes, I thought the operation was coming to an end, I spoke to the doctor.
Bena: is the operation nearly finished?
Doctor: No. Not even close, I can’t find your vein.
Bena: Should we just give up then?
Doctor: No. I will keep looking.
Bena: SCREAMS in pain.
Doctor: we need some more drugs. She injects me.
After a few minutes
Bena: SCREAMS in pain
Doctor: Yes. You have a lot of fat above your breast and I mustn’t be injecting deep enough for you to feel the drugs. She digs a needle deep into my chest the pain is mortifying.
Bena starts crying in pain and gets anxious.
Doctor to nurse: Did she have any happy tablets before the operations?
Nurse: No. That is not procedure
Doctor: How am I supposed to operate when the patient is crying? Get me the morphine.
More drugs are pumped into me and my body feels as though its flying in the air. I must move slightly as the doctor says, “hold her still”.
The nurse jumps on my body with her hand on my bad lymph node arm and her whole body pressed on my left breast which is still very painful after the operation. I want to push her away and even tell her that she is hurting me but I can’t. My mind transcends to different levels and images of flowers, babies, my kids and kites appear in my head.
The doctor speaks, “She has so much fat this is terrible. I think I see the vein, but I can’t cut it.
I sing at her, “chop off the fat, chop off the fat”.
The doctor and the nurse start talking about work and life and I drift back into happy land.
Istart seeing pictures of my first bra and realise that my boobs had such a major impact in my life, shaping the way I am and what I do and wear. My nickname at highschool was Boobie Bena. I remember, birthdays and events with cousins and my sister who would be jealous wondering where Bena got her DD mangoes from when everyone else would wear support bras for their egg yolks.
I realised that maybe I was born to have cancer? I was the only one with big boobs. I was fatter than everyone too. Terrible metabolism. Loved steak (all other Hindus out there please forgive me). I drunk way too much wine – even on a normal day. Smoked drugs in Hamburg and Amsterdam oh God... and in Budapest.
Happy thoughts of kites and birds started becoming bad thoughts of “I brought this on myself, I was bad. I did bad things. This is some side effect of a joint I smoked when I should have been studying for my degree”. I pictured people in the industry that I had had rows with poking jibes at me and laughing that I had cancer. I felt sick to the stomach and could feel myself wanting to vomit.
I opened my eyes and could see the clock – 40 minutes had gone.
I asked the Doctor to stop.
She said that “she was there now and it wouldn’t be much longer”.
The Doctor asked the nurse for something and the nurse shouted, “I only have one pair of hands”.
The Doctor said, “its not about having one pair of hands. I am warning you that I will need it and you need to get ready”.
The nurse doesn’t reply. She gets something and gives it to the Doctor and ....
Then I SCREAM.
The pain is back.
Nurse: we are running out of anesthetic.
Doctor: We are are nearly there.
Doctor: Quick hold this in position
Bena: Feels like an elephant is sitting on her then wishes her arm wasn’t strapped to the bed as she feels a vein or meat or flesh or something very close to her neck being snapped or bridged into place.
Feels the doctor injecting the last anesthetic into her.
The nurse looks over the cover to look at me. Her face pictures the mess and complications that are happening to me and it’s scrunched up with a manner of disgust and awfulness.
Her eyes feel sorry for me, but you can see that she is trying not to show me as her text book nurse training kicks in.
Nurse says to the Doctor: This was my first port operation and it’s going to be my last
Doctor: This was a messy one
Nurse: I don’t want to do any more today
Doctor: There are three more scheduled today
Nurse: This has put me off for life.
Bena: Rolls eyes and looks at watch – 60 minutes has gone by. I feel intense pressure and can see the Doctor punching my arm through the thin sheet between us. I shake my head as tears continue to roll down my face and land on my neck seeping into the crack between my gown and my body. The wet fizzles up instantly when it get there as I am hot with pain, sweat and fear.
I can’t believe I am here. I wish that this was a dream and I feel terrible. Suddenly the pain starts again. I shout out but the Doctor says,
“I am so sorry. You will just have to breathe as we don’t have any more drugs left I am on the last two stitches”.
I squeeze every part of my body in pain and agony. A head appears above me and the Doctor says,
“Frau Roberts. I am very sorry. But you have to believe me – you had so much fat in that area and the vein was so small. It was a very difficult operation. I didn’t enjoy it either. I am sorry.”