Jen drove me in to Hopkins on Wednesday to have my port removed. I’ve had this lump on my chest since the earliest days of treatment; it was the first step of many in starting chemotherapy. Essentially the drugs are so caustic that if they injected them into my arm through a normal IV it would eat away the veins there, so they use the port to pump poison directly into my heart. It’s come in handy in the hospital visits I’ve had since then, because I’m a big chicken when it comes to needles and the port is a really simple way to draw blood. It’s not without its dangers, though: as a highway right to the heart the risk of infection is greater. The nurses at Hopkins are super-strict about blood draw policy, requiring special training and a specific procedure with masks and protocol and two changes of gloves. The nurses I had in Delaware were more cavalier, dispensing with the protocol and just jabbing a needle in. This was a bit disconcerting, but I guess I’m still alive.
This procedure was different from having the port put in; it was faster and required only a light dose of Fentanyl to make me happy, but they never knocked me out completely. I basically laid on the table for about 15 minutes under a blue sheet while the doctor tugged and poked and patted at my chest a bit, and I just focused on not giving a shit. Which I really didn’t. Fentanyl is scary stuff.
After it was finished they wheeled me back out and “recovery” took about 20 minutes. I was a little light-headed but otherwise OK, and I didn’t puke up my empty stomach like I did after the biopsy.
So now I’m lump-free with a scar on my chest, and I can’t be underwater for a month until it’s all healed up. I also won’t gross Jen out when I give her a hug, or feel it dig into the shoulder strap when I wear a backpack, or knock into the damn thing with my hand when I’m in the shower, and that’ll be nice.
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Meanwhile, I’m trying not to worry about my low white blood cell count. Hopkins has a handy portal with all of my medical information, appointments, and test results, and when I go back and look at the numbers, they plot a steady decline from last summer to the present day, with no peaks in between. What does this mean? Should I be worried about bone cancer? One of the many releases they had me sign before chemo stated that this was a possibility, but we signed it anyway, figuring we’d hit the tumor with every gun we had. It wasn’t until afterwards we learned the chemo did nothing at all. Did I give myself bone cancer for nothing?
To be clear, we don’t know what this is yet, but the drop predates the elimination diet by months, and everything I’ve been eating is supposed to boost my immune system, not lower it. Is there some other reason? It’s been on my mind a lot the last two weeks, and I’m trying to remain upbeat and calm about things.
From what I’ve read about leukemia, it seems to be treatable if it’s caught early, and survival rates have gone up in the U.S. for those who have it. That’s somewhat cold comfort, but I have to take what I can get in terms of good news right now. And it’s still too early to go out to the Internet and scare myself stupid with more bad news, because we don’t have a diagnosis yet.