May 30, 2010


it's official...i had my port taken out! i probably was the most excited patient in the entire day surgery unit friday morning. in fact, i may have been the only excited isn't known for being fun or exciting. unless, of course, you're a cancer survivor having the device through which you received chemotherapy removed from your body. it's one of those hugely significant events that probably only makes sense to those of you who have been through it, but it's like being freed from life as a cancer patient, it marks the end of being actively in treatment, and it means that your oncologist doesn't really think you'll need it...which is the biggest vote of confidence in the world.

the actual procedure was a piece of cake...i checked in to the day surgery unit, waited, and then got called back...on previous visits, i've met a nurse who takes me to the pre-op area to get completely undressed and meet with the nurse, doctor, anesthesiologists, and whoever else before the actual surgery. this time, the nurse told my mom that she was going to take me and i'd be back in fifteen minutes and ready to go home...and, to make it even better, i only changed from the waist up. it's a funny time in your life when you realize you are comparing the quality of doctor/hospital/office visits with how undressed you are...the less undressed you are, the better the appointment usually is. anyways, they prepped the area, injected a good deal of lidocane, then i saw the knife...and, for some reason, i had a moment of freaking out. i haven't had a surgical procedure since october, and i was quite out of it for all the previous something about knowing what was going to happen gave me a bit of hesitation. but, my surgeon is one of the most incredible doctors i've ever met, and she was quick to assure me i'd do just fine...and she continued to stand next to me and talk with me for the rest of the procedure (which was actually done by a resident). it was an odd experience to feel the cutting and tugging, and the surgeon explained that since i'm young and healthy, the tissue grew around the port really quickly. so, he cut and pulled for quite a while, and then gave one big tug and pulled it right out. apparently, throughout the procedure i was scrunching my nose and making faces the entire time. the poor resident was so worried that he was hurting me...but, for any of you who know me, you know that those faces really don't signify anything too unusual. then, i asked to see it...and the resident had it cleaned off for me so i could take a picture of it. and, that was that...adios, port.

right after i left the hospital, a funny thing happened.... usually, i have tried to cover my scars, not really wanting people to see them, ask about them, or whatever else people usually do. i left the hospital with a large dressing sticking out from my shirt, and i told my mom i wanted to stop at my apartment to change before we went out to lunch. i got home, came inside, and realized i didn't want to change. for the first time, i felt so proud of my scars, and my big, ugly bandage. it's not that i want people to stare or ask about them now...but, i don't feel any hesitation about telling my story. there was something seriously siginifcant about having my port removed that i hadn't made my physical self feel like a survivor instead of a patient. mentally and emotionally, i think i've been there for a while...but, i never realized how much the physical piece was really holding me back.

so, now i am totally free from the role of cancer patient...and learning the new forever role as a cancer survivor. it's an interesting transition, but one i'm trying to embrace with as much of an open mind as i did my previous role. there are many, many lessons to be learned from this chapter of life, but it's a whole new approach. life was totally turned upside down almost a year ago, and then i spiraled through an entirely different world of cancer...and now, on the other side, i have a perspective and purpose that i am so appreciative for. there will be lots of challenges, but i feel so in awe of the chance i've been given to learn...about myself, about life, and about empathy. i'm beyond excited to use the past year of my life to propel me into a new life of helping others and validating my own experience by 'paying it forward'.

the most common response when i tell people that i want to be involved in the cancer world...volunteering, pursuing a career in oncology social work, contributing to support groups, etc., is that i should 'take a break from cancer' and 'live my life'. perhaps my situation and approach are unique (in fact, i know they are)...but my desire to give back and help others in similar situations is not something i'm pushing myself to do because i feel i have to. it's because i genuinely want to...and, that's what i wish more people understood. just as my optimism towards cancer was genuine, so is my desire to help other cancer patients and their families. it may be unique, and it may be an exception to the rule...but, i know i'm ready. and, if it turns out that i'm not...there's only one way to learn that...through experience.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo Grace!!! Awesome post. I am soooo excited for you. I know that Jared would understand about what you want to do with your future. He gets so much joy helping out other kids with cancer and being part of their lives.

    much love to you!