I've learned a lot through this process, namely that you need to go to a hospital or facility that places lots of ports, that way yours will be the gold standard. In my case, that turned out to be Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The unit I was in places 10 or more PER DAY! Anytime you get a chance to practice something 50 or more times per week, you are going to get good at it.
For those who are curious about the process and the port, here's the run down:
I had to fast the night before. When I arrived at the hospital, I waited in a pleasant room at the Shapiro center until I was called down to surgical prep. I had my IV (last one for a long time!!) inserted. The resident came in and explained the procedure, and showed me what the port looked like. Here's a pic for the curious (mine is the one on the left):
Next, I was wheeled into a small operating room, given the happy drugs and gently slid to the table. If you've ever had a colonoscopy or similar procedure, your sedation will be "twilight" - that is you really don't know what's going on, but you can respond (albeit slowly) if asked to.
Before I knew it, I was being wheeled back to the recovery bay and ravenously downed graham crackers and ginger ale. I was on my way in 20 minutes and felt marvelous (all things considered). No pain meds were given, which made me hopeful! I was told to rest for the remainder of the day, take it easy for a couple days, and then light activity for a week.
When I woke the next morning I expected to be really uncomfortable. Honestly, it was just a dull ache as if my trainer had worked me too hard at the gym (actually she works me worse - LOL). I was shocked!
I was due for my first chemotherapy later that morning, and scared to have anyone pull back the bandage to access the area. Again, NO SWEAT! The phlebotomist numbed me with spray, and marveled at how amazing my newly inserted port looked. I didn't even have swelling or a bruise!
The access went quickly and painlessly as did my first chemo (I'll do a separate post about that later).
I've now had the port for over three weeks and I can't really tell it is there for most of the day. Since mine is on the left, my seatbelt really aggravated me for a week or so, now I don't notice. I'm able to sleep on that side again and find that it has become a part of me.
I tried port access without the spray yesterday, just to see if it hurt (yeah, I'm like that) and while it didn't hurt, I did find that it was just slightly more tingly and I was able to feel the first couple drugs going in. I'm going to go back to the spray just because it made it literally pain free and numb. I've got enough to deal with, may as well take the easy way out when I can.
Bottom line: If you are due for a port, find a surgeon who does this in his or her sleep :) Don't be afraid, it's not bad. I breeze through chemo while I'm hearing other infusion machines beeping like crazy due to blocked lines after patients have had to be extremely patient while IV's are placed. It's your choice, but don't let fear of insertion make the decision for you!