BY LIZZY SMITH
I had no idea what a port was until I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012. A few months later and in preparation of countless infusion appointments, chemo, and two stem cell transplants, I got my trusty port. When I got a call from my doctor's office to schedule putting the port in, I had no idea what it was and almost declined the appointment. When I realized that I was going to have a "thing" put in my chest and that I would be getting poked there all the time, I almost had a heart attack. It was not a happy moment, I can assure you. But that port has been a godsend, no joke. Getting it placed what no biggie either They put me under sedation (by the way, the nurse had to fish for a vein!) and I didn't feel or remember a thing. I woke up and it was all done. Anyway, we filmed me getting accessed from my trust port. No anxiety anymore- I'm a pro! And, if you're getting one, so will you. I promise. And there is no one on the planet who hates needles more than me.
As far back as I can remember, I hated getting poked. Finding veins in my body is a really awful experience. One time, and this was awkward, I was heading into surgery to repair my broken ankle. I went back to my home town, Bishop, to get the surgery done over Christmas vacation when I was living in Washington, DC. My very good friend, Mandy, had just finished up schooling and we was drawing my blood. (Side note: Mandy is one year younger than I am and was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer that had spread to her lung and hip just one month after I was diagnosed. She is fighting hard and so far so good) She had to poke me six times before she found a vein. I wanted to punch her in the face but I felt so bad for both of us. I think it traumatized her because she stopped working in the lab just six months after her career began.
So when I was diagnosed with myeloma and all of a sudden, I started getting poked many, many times per week, it was pretty awful for me. And then I got my port. The first few times that my nurses accessed my port, I thought I was going to pass out. Anxiety was in the stratosphere. But quickly I realized that it was nothing! The nurse was simply poking through a very thin layer of skin. No fishing for a vein anymore. I don't even flinch when I get poked. It truly is "no big deal." Is my port pretty? Of course not. But it's not that horrifically ugly either. And it's not "that" noticeable. And besides, if it is noticeable to others, oh well.
But what I loved best about filming this little segment is helping others understand myeloma and navigate their treatment. It's amazing that at the age of 44 my entire life and focus in life changed radically in an instant. I have a whole new purpose in life. A whole new reason to get out of bed. I want to make a difference. I want to help others. I want to live, find treatments and cures. I want to help other cancer warriors remain strong and help them kick evil cancer in the arse. Living a more purpose filled life is one of the blessings that have come about from my cancer diagnosis. Of course I would love to have never gotten cancer but I did and I move forward and take the blessing where they come and be a better person (or at least be better to the best of my ability). I am on a quest.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).