Look, This Is a Stent


Just before I had my port removed from underneath the skin on my chest after a year and a half of cancer-drug infusions, I asked the surgeon if I could keep it after he plucked it from my body. I did not want it because I am a collector of gross medical relics; I just wanted to add it to my box of breast cancer items so that I could share it with others headed for a port procedure. “Look, this is a port,” I would say. “This is how it works.” I practiced this same routine with my baggie of lost hair, my wigs, my lymphedema sleeve. It helps prepare people; it sometimes minimizes fear.

The surgeon told me I could not keep my port. My sedation was kicking in, and I did not have it in me to argue.

Yesterday, a different surgeon removed a stent from my ureter. He had placed it there 3 days earlier during kidney stone surgery. The stent helps with healing and allows urine and stone fragments to pass freely. It is a painful little bugger, and I was thrilled that the doctor yanked it out.

“Do you want to keep it?” the nurse asked me.

“Hmmm, I wasn’t allowed to keep my port,” I said.

“Why? my doctor asked. “You paid for it.”

I do not know why I was not permitted to take my port home, but I am now the proud owner of a ureter stent. See photo. If you ever must get one, this is how it looks. Don’t be scared. It does cause discomfort, but only for 3 days. And after those days, man, you will feel like a million bucks. Like I do.

Port Support

My sister and Danny were with me the day I had my port removed. That surgery signified the end of cancer — the means by which all drugs entered my body was taken away. I worried I’d need one again at some point, and maybe I should just leave it there. But I have not required anything of the sort, and that boy in the photo is now 8 years old!

Every Scar Tells a Story

Every scar tells a story. Here’s Angi’s:

Angi Navarro

I got my first port in April 2005.  I was told I should probably get a port prior to chemo (for breast cancer), so I found a general surgeon who could perform the surgery ASAP.  I only had to do four rounds of chemo, but I didn’t want to take any chances with ruining my veins.  As it is, I only have one arm which can be used since I had lymph nodes removed on the other side.  After I completed my chemotherapy, I went ahead and set a date to have it removed, since it was pretty much useless as far as using it instead of an IV for surgery and such. My general surgeon didn’t find it necessary to take me back into the OR to remove my port. Instead she did it right in her office, claiming it wouldn’t hurt.  At the time I had it removed, only three months had passed. So when she took a scalpel and sliced through the original incision, she was cutting through a healing wound — and it hurt. The site never healed correctly after that. Scar tissue formed on top of scar tissue. But still, it wasn’t all bad.

In 2008, when my cancer returned, it was thought that I would have to endure chemo again. So when the breast surgeon went in to remove bits of my chest wall, she placed a port so I wouldn’t need another surgical procedure. It wound up unnecessary, as I underwent radiation instead. The port sat unused until April of this year. I was undergoing breast reconstruction surgery, so my plastic surgeon removed it. Not long after, as it was healing, I noticed some areas that hurt when I touched it. Upon closer inspection, I found that I had very small bits of nylon surgical sutures poking out of the scar. I couldn’t pull them out or cut them any closer to the skin. These stitches sticking out, along with scar tissue on top of scar tissue, made for a pretty uncomfortable area. When I found out that I would be having revisions made to one of my breast implants, I asked my surgeon if he could make it a little less sightly. He agreed to revise the scar for me as part of my procedure on Monday. I’m looking forward to being able to wear my seat belt and bra straps comfortably again.

There’s a lot more to Angi’s cancer story than this. You can read all about it on Cancer is NOT a Death Sentence.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please leave a comment, and I’ll be in touch.