Portia the Port

So Wednesday, I went to UPMC East hospital to get my new port installed.  To my surprise, my surgeon was the same man who valiantly performed my very difficult biopsy.  As soon as we came around the corner, he said “There she is – my lung capacity champion!”  This man is really impressed with my breath holding skills.  (Is there any way I can make money with this skill?)  Anyway, I felt confident in his ability to do the port procedure, after all we’ve been through together.  Dr. Varma is a young-ish kind of cute Indian surgeon.  I like him.  Probably because he likes me – isn’t it funny how that works?  I remember telling my mom when I was little that I liked one of my dad’s friends, and she asked me why and I said “Because he likes me.”  And she asked how I knew he liked me and I said that he smiled really big and his eyes got squinty when he saw me.  I’m pretty sure the guy was an ex-con for some non-violent crimes – Well, I guess I started early believing people deserve second chances.  Anyway, I like Dr. Varma. 

Along with him came a big, bearded, shaved headed, tattooed anesthesiologist.  When I told my dad this, he made a disapproving sound, and I said “NO!  That’s good.  I was happy.  That’s the kind of guy who isn’t going to hold back on the anesthesia.” 

See, apparently when Dr. Cordaro my surgeon who put Mort in just knocks you right out.  Dr. Varma has you awake but in “twilight.”  That can mean a lot of different things from my experience.  I know that during this procedure, your arms are basically tied down – look, if you feel the need to TIE DOWN MY ARMS, then you should probably just make real sure I do not care what’s going on.  So, biker-dude anesthesiologist and I had a little chat.  And I’m happy to report, we understood each other perfectly.  The procedure began with him injecting me with some drug that starts with an F.  Maybe fluvoxa-something?.  And he said “Your cocktail, my lady.”  And then he gave me another one.  Dr. Varma asked “How are you feeling? ”  And I said “Fine now, but scared it’s going to hurt.”  He gave the ok to give me another dose.  Then he started cutting into my chest and neck, but I could not possibly have cared less.  They had a little paper sheet over my head and I stared at the blue fabric with great interest and mentally floated on clouds.  Soon, they were done and I was wheeled back to the recovery area.        

My new port and I are getting used to each other. 

She’s new.  She’s sleek.  She’s a lean, mean, chemo delivery machine.  Introducing…Portia! 

I broke up with Mort the Port at the recommendation of my oncologist in February.  The severance was quick, not exactly painless but I healed quickly.  I thought I’d try being on my own for a while.  But it turns out, I’m not cut out for port-free living. 

Portia and I – I know, it’s a new relationship, but so far, well, we just work.  Unlike Mort, she doesn’t mind if I sleep on my side.  And she doesn’t insist on bulging out quite so brashly, announcing to the world that we are together.  She’s more confident, secure in herself.  Humbly dignified.

As long as she’s not shy with the chemo nurses, I think I’m in this partnership for the long haul.  Eat your heart out, Mort.       

We met with my doctors (liver surgeon, Dr. Tsung, and my trusty oncologist, Dr. Mehta) on Friday.  Apparently my case made it to the UPMC tumor board, whatever that is – a group of specialists that discuss interesting cases, I suppose.  Dr. Mehta likes to brag about me so he told everyone about my triathlon and breath holding skills. 

We got some good news Friday.  One is that Dr. Tsung doesn’t feel that my cancer is particularly aggressive – it’s been growing slowly, he says.  I wonder if my physical activity and generally anti-cancer lifestyle have helped.  Doctors tend not to think that way, but I think you have to look at the big picture.  How can what we eat and how we live not have an impact?  I’m not saying you can cure yourself with leafy greens but it’s worth giving up the bread and cake to give yourself an edge.  Since my CT scan, I have gotten very serious about my diet.  I am actively attempting to bring my weight down to reduce the amount of fat in my liver (down 11 pounds so far!)  And I am avoiding foods that are known to be cancer-feeding.  So this means:  no sugar, no processed junk, virtually no starches (I’m eating some hummus and beans which have a little starch in them) no red meat or pork, no fruit except berries.  So what I AM eating is:  lots of fish, organic chicken and turkey, organic veggies and some strange things I’ve researched that seem to boost one’s immune system and fight cancer including:  Noni juice, a raw, organic green super food powder, lots of fresh ginger, garlic and turmeric.  The noni juice smells and tastes pretty terrible.  I figure it must be doing SOMETHING if it tastes that awful.  🙂

Other good news we’ve gotten is that I am negative for two genetic mutations that are bad.  I’m not clear on exactly why, but if you have them, your cancer is harder to treat.  So, I’m in the “best” camp of Stage 4 colon cancer patients.  This situation is not good by any means, but my spirits definitely lifted some when I heard this news.  Both of my doctors seemed energized and ready to get to work on this stupid cancer. 

We start tomorrow.  Dr. Mehta is adding a third drug to my chemo regimen.  He cautiously delivered this side effect news to me:  It’s going to make my face break out like the worst teenage acne I have ever seen.  He said “The effect varies but you need to understand, your face will not be as pretty as it is now.”  I am struggling with this for one reason:  I have always been able to decide if I want people to know something is “wrong” with me.  But between this fanny pack infusion business and my face looking like a disaster, that choice seems to be less available this time around.  It will be humbling to draw attention in this way.  But as my mom and I discussed – what an opportunity to show my daughter, who could very well have acne in coming years, how to deal gracefully with this particular life challenge. 

I’m wrestling with the feelings.  Annoyance, fear, embarrassment, worry and frustration with myself with caring about how I look.  I’ve never “gotten by on my looks” per se.  But I never really stopped to appreciate just looking “normal.”  Cancer is a thief.  It tries to steal just about everything.  Physical comfort, energy, hope, confidence.  But. 

God is in His wheelhouse right here. 

Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… 


Beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.


Instead (your beauty) should come from your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle, quiet spirit.  (I know, I need some work here.)  🙂


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction…


Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…


Blessed is the man who perseveres under trials…

It’s another thing to entrust to Him.  Plus, I’ll know who my real friends are, when people start avoiding me because I look like The Swamp Thing.  🙂     

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