I unpack my saline, heparin, needle, cap and dressing change kit and place it all on the table. My iPhone alarm tells me it’s port flush day; something that rolls around every four weeks or so. My port (or portacath) is located on my left ribcage and allows access to my bloodstream for blood draws or IV antibiotics whenever I need them. An internal septum was placed surgically and connected to a long tube that’s tunneled under the skin to a larger vessel in my heart. When my arm brushes against the obvious bump or I go to flush it and I see the inch and a half scar, I am reminded how much I love my port and how thankful I am for it. In all honesty though, it took me years to get here and a challenging internal process to be “ready” for it.
Flashback to a few years ago: entering the hospital felt routine at this point, my symptoms would worsen, my body would feel heavy and weak and I knew I needed IV antibiotics to give me a boost. I always felt at peace going into the hospital. Granted, I hate putting my life on hold, I hate relinquishing some of my independence, and I HATE hospital food, but I knew I could smile, negotiate a weekend stay and be shipped back to do home IVs. Subsequently, I would resume my role as nurse and my life would return back to normal to uninformed onlookers. Home IVs meant PICC lines, a semi-permanent IV tunneled through your arm to the same vessel in your heart but removed once treatment was over, and after 15+ PICCs my veins were scarred and occluded. The placements became slightly traumatic (that’s what you get when you refuse sedatives) and I developed some sort of anxiety equal to the amount of scar tissue hiding in my vessels. I will point out, I am generally not an anxious person (praise the Lord) and the only obstacle standing in the way of my happiness and peace during frequent hospital stays were PICC lines.
I knew it was time. It was time to take the next step in my care and that meant a portacath. The idea of having a port always weakened my soul and I was disappointed in myself. A port meant my body would be altered on the outside and I would physically look irregular. It meant I was really sick and my disease was in fact progressing. It meant I lost control and the force I battled to hold off everyday was gaining ground. It meant CF was winning and I was ultimately losing. Ports were for very sick cancer patients, certainly not for me.
Weeks turned into months, my doctors continually brought forth the option of a port and offers turned into dismissals. Slowly, greater clarity erupted and I saw through my vanity, stubbornness and shortsightedness. The Lord reminded me of content and faith and that with every season comes passing, but also new life. I was starting a new life and I owed it to my groom, myself and to the opportunities ahead of us to do everything in my power to best take care of me. I attended my bachelorette party with my last PICC and it was removed seven days before my wedding.
A year later, my husband comes to kiss me on the cheek and tells me I look beautiful as I go to care for the implanted device that has given me peace and a renewed sense of independence. It is a concealed weapon against my greedy disease and I am thankful for the continuous protection. The bump under my skin proves that sometimes the change we desperately try to hold off can alter our lives in the most positive and forward thinking way. I know that I will need a reminder of this lesson time and time again in this life as CF brings forth unwanted changed repeatedly, but I hope I will always look down to my ribcage and be comforted and reassured as I am now.