I Am Greater Than the Sum of My Parts
Last Thursday my port, the Borg-like apparatus which was implanted in May under my collarbone and over my heart (for easy chemo pouring), was removed.
I had to re-read the email announcing the procedure a couple of times.
“Port removal will take place at your surgeon’s office and take about 30 minutes. You can drive yourself there and back. Eat and drink normally, no fasting required, call us if you have any questions.”
It seems like cutting your body open and removing something should be more involved than this, but, hey, alright.
Although I could have asked someone to go with me, it seemed fitting and important that I do it by myself. I was taken back to a nice room that looked like a small conference room in an office building—except that there was an exam table and sterile instruments and swabs, but other than that, just like a conference room. Vitals taken, attractive XXXLLL gown with snaps up the front donned, paperwork signed making sure there was no question about what was being removed: port, not a kidney. Check.
Soon my gorgeous, amazing, supermodel surgeon came striding in in her jade-green suede pumps, and it was time to get this bastard out of there.
My surgeon had an assistant with her who was a marvelous hand-holder and, man, I held the shit out of her hand. An outsider might have thought I was arm wrestling with her, so active was my hand-holding.
So, the worst part of this whole scenario is the “numbing of the area”—which means foot-long ice picks are systematically inserted into every possible square inch of flesh around the “site.” Although I did not actually see these evil ice picks, I know what I felt, and thus the professional hand-holder is brought in to keep me from punching my surgeon, whom I love, in spite of her ice-picking ways.
Gradually the pain goes from ice pick, to smaller ice pick, to needles, to giant, angry killer bees, to less-aggressive, run-of-the-mill bees, to disembodied firm pressure.
We were then ready for extraction and I was informed I would feel a “tugging pressure.” No sharp pain, but it did, indeed, feel like an octopus was being pulled out of a quarter-sized hole in my chest. There was tugging. So much tugging. Then I heard, “We need to make the incision bigger,” and I bore down in my arm wrestling match. I was winning, but I still should have brought my own whiskey.
I told her I wanted to keep the port, so when it was finally freed, she held it up for my inspection. It looked like a computer mouse, only it was heart-shaped and purple and metal. My very own purple heart. She clipped the catheter mouse tail off and dropped the purple heart into a stainless cup, making a satisfying “ping” like a Wild West doctor who’d just dug a bullet out of a gunslinger’s arm, flinging it across the jail cell into a metal bedpan. Then she stitched me up, and I was ready to drive myself home and eat a burger.
And that was that. Radiation and chemo finished a month ago, and I am no longer on Tamoxifen. Port removed.
My body is mine. Unadulterated and uninhabited. I am not like I was.
I have two scars above my heart and slightly to the left. They form a “greater than” symbol.
I am greater than the sum of my parts. My heart is larger than it was.
Scoot over please, I need some room. Thank you.