The “port” is as much a part of the cancer experience as breathing is to the whole “being alive” thing. Ports are the devices that provide easy access to the blood stream for both the intake of medications and chemotherapy, as well as to get blood samples for the daily grind of “platelet counts” and other medical tests I am more than happy to forget about these days.
As they are implanted in the chest with direct access to the heart, it is easy to develop a sense of security with your port — or, in my case, my son’s. While ports can stay in for years, even decades in adults, in young children they tend to become infected or no longer fit the growing body. So, for most kids who complete treatment, the last step is having their port removed.
This is what Vampboy did this week. After a brief visit to the OR, he was eating his usual post-anesthesia feast of graham crackers, while I considered the deeper meaning.
That’s it…We’re DONE.
VB now gets to join the ranks of his toddler counterparts who wail and thrash as they get needle sticks in the arm for shots and the like. We have begun explaining to him, in a loving way, that the days of emla-induced pain-free pokes are over, but at the moment he just responds “oh, they’ll put a port in my arm.” Sure, honey…If that makes you feel okay about it.
This momentous occasion also does marvels to re-constitute fear and panic in VM and I. As our lives have been filled historically with “other shoes dropping”, it is easy to think that the “Evil C” is just waiting for us to remove his port before it starts tap dancing in his little brain again. Of course, new ports are just as easy to put in as this one was to take out, but that doesn’t sway your mind from the paranoia similar to that which drives pro-sports enthusiasts to wear the same pair of undies every time their team has a home game — without washing them in between.
Maybe we should have left the port in to be safe….
Maybe I should pull out my lucky bowling shirt from high school and wear it for the next 10 years…
My mind wanders through these thoughts and concerns as we make our way out of Chez Healing that afternoon, stopping in the lobby to buy a Mickey Mouse balloon and a fake fish tank that lights up for our little trooper patient. While VM makes the purchase, VB runs over to the giant glass case in the middle of the entrance, holding within it a complex roller-coaster that wooden balls travel through. In between the rhythmic clanging and dinging as the balls hit against bells and metal plates, VB wraps his arms around my leg and leans in for a hug. Instinctively I lower my left hand, and realize to my astonishment that he’s grown tall enough that I can rest my hand on his shoulder without having to bend down. Amazing.
There will always be worry — but not this moment. This is a space and time where cancer no longer lives.
In this moment, we win.