Anatomy of a Port, aka. the Lump in my Chest

I am writing this post for anyone out there having a port put in, and for those who are just curious. When I was about to have mine placed, I was totally freaking out and I had a hard time finding any information about what the procedure would be like and what it would feel like to have a foreign body under my skin. Now that I’ve been through the process I’ve had the opportunity to share my experience with a few others who were afraid just like I was and I thought if I share the experience here, hopefully I will be able to help a few other people through it.

So, let’s start with the basics. A port-a-cath, or “port” is used to access the blood stream of a patient who will be undergoing frequent infusions, such as chemo or my liquid gold. It is placed in the muscle tissue in the upper right part of your chest (unless you shoot a gun apparently as I was asked that before I had my surgery) and a catheter runs up from the port to the bottom of your neck then into the vein. My port is a smiths medical and looks like thisAnd here is what it looks like in me

And here is what it looks like when it is accessed.

It’s not too terribly noticeable unless it’s bruised, which happens from time to time after an infusion due to my low platelets. Honestly, I think I’m probably the only one who really notices it much. It took me a little while to get used to it showing once tank top season commenced but I’m pretty much over it now.

Out of all the medical procedures I’ve had over the last year or so, this was the one that I was the most freaked out about. It was such a foreign concept to put a piece of titanium beneath my skin and it made me so uncomfortable. And I was scared about the process of having it put in, knowing that I would be awake and be able to feel it. But in the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. When they put it in, they do awake sedation. In other words, they give you an amazing drug that allowed me to finally understand drug addiction. Seriously, I was deliriously happy the entire time they were cutting me open and sticking this thing in me. Considering how totally freaked out I was by the entire idea, that really says a lot for awake sedation. I could kind of feel what was going on but I didn’t care. Not one bit. And I was actually sad when it was over and I knew that the amazing floating on the clouds feeling was about to end. Well, now that I sound like a total drug addict.. Moving on.

I really struggled with all of it for about the first week after my port was placed. Maybe it was all the stupid sci-fi movies J makes me watch but I was totally grossed out by the fact that there was something under my skin that didn’t belong there. I had a hard time looking in the mirror for a little bit. And for the first week or two, I could feel the catheter in my throat which made me feel like I perpetually had a burp stuck in my throat. You’re welcome for that graphic description. But it was surprisingly a lot less painful than I had expected. I didn’t have great range of motion for a week or so but it really didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I had expected. I have learned through all my medical adventures that the body is surprisingly able to withstand the knife, much better than we ever anticipate.

It didn’t take long before I was extremely grateful for having the port put in right away. It is so much more comfortable than an iv while getting an infusion and I much prefer having my port accessed than having blood drawn from the one good vein in my arm. I sing their praises to anyone getting one. They make life with an iv pump so much more pleasant.

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7 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Port, aka. the Lump in my Chest

  1. Hi there, thank you for this post. My father had a port-a-cath inserted today and even though I am a nursing student, I was still a little freaked out about it all. Reading this makes it easier for me to understand the actual procedure and what he went through today.

  2. I am so glad I stumbled across this. My father is having one installed tomorrow and he its freaked out by the idea. I read him your story and showed him the pictures and I could tell he felt much better about it. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  3. I’m happy I came across this blog. I’m 21 and I’m getting a port placed this week so I can continue to receive blood transfusions. I am very self conscious of the port because I was thinking of how it would affect my social & sex life, and on how visible the port would be because I’m skinny. This made me feel a little more confident of getting the port placement. Anyways, I hope all is well with you. Thank you so much xoxo

  4. I’m 16 and tied to an IV machine 24/7. After 2 PICC lines and a couple of central lines that decided to get infected my doctor suggested a port (which is set to be inserted within the next couple of days). I was interested in finding out about the practical side of having a port, like what it would look like once inserted and things like that, and if it feels wierd, but all I found were pages that talked about the actual insertion of the port and how much it hurts afterwards. In doing that I managed to freak myself out, but then I found this blog post and you don’t make it sound scary at all and you know what it’s like so you answered the questions that the doctors can’t so thanks.

  5. A great read. Thank you as my partner is having one put in this week and we have been worried about it. Hopefully this will help him through it.

  6. Thanks for this. I got mine placed last Thursday and my first chemo with it today. I had a picc line for the first round of chemo and It is a pain in the a$$! Showering is difficult with the picc.
    I have a pump for 48 hours, so I’ll have to bathe differently during that time. Thanks for the graphic of the line. I was wondering what and where exactly it was. I don’t feel the “burp” in mine thank goodness. It’s just still tender from the surgery.

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