Port a Cath Removal After Chemo

[caption id="attachment_549" align="alignleft" width="350"]port a cath removal Port a Cath removal[/caption]

My Port a Cath removal signified a turning point in my cancer treatment. It meant that my chemotherapy was finished, and that the port was no longer needed, due to the cancer being in complete remission for over one year. This was an exciting time for me, and something I will always remember.



My oncologist actually postponed the removal a few times, as he wanted to make absolutely sure that I no longer needed it. If non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma ever returns in a patient, it usually happens within the first year or so after chemo is completed. We waited over a year after the end of my treatment, just to be safe.



When it was finally time for the Port a Cath removal, I was scheduled for an outpatient procedure at the Maricopa County Medical Center. So on that day, my husband and I headed over to the hospital a few hours before the surgery. The radiology department handle’s all Port a Cath placements and removal surgeries, so after going to the hospital admission desk, I headed over to radiology. But, I almost didn’t have the procedure.



My insurance had changed just before, and unknown to me, required prior authorization for the procedure. One of the radiology admission attendance got on the phone with my insurance company, doing what she could to get the approval. They told her it usually takes a few days to get approval, but they may be able to get it approved today some time. To them, some time usually meant 8 hours or more.
Instead of waiting around, we left. No sooner had we left the parking lot, I received a phone call from the radiology department. They had gotten the approval, and could do the Port a Cath removal as scheduled. So, we headed right back.
When it was time for the procedure, I was picked up in a wheel chair, and take to a prep room. I would be given a local anesthetic, so I would be awake during the entire process. Once ready, I was taken to their operating room, which was different than the other O.R.’s I had been in for my other surgeries.
I laid down on the table, and they set up paper drapes over and around me. This is to keep as much blood off me and the table as possible. It also helps block the patient’s vision of what is going on. People tend to freak out when they see a knife cutting into their skin!
I was given an anesthetic, and once it had taken effect, they started the procedure. Of course, I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could feel something. This anesthetic blocks out all of the pain, yet I could feel the Port a Cath being pulled out. It actually just felt like someone was pulling on my skin.
Once finished, they closed the wound with disolvable stitches, and dressed with gauze. I went into the same prep room for recovery, just for about an hour or so. This is just to make sure that the wound remains closed, and that there are no post-surgery complications. I was given a sack lunch and was released soon after.


The final major surgery in my cancer treatment, would be the removal of the Ommaya port from my brain.  Once that was complete, all I would do, and continue to do, is see my oncologist one every 3 months for check ups.  And, have CAT scans done ever 6 to 12 months.

I want to thank everyone who read my cancer story during this past 21 day series.  If you haven’t read it yet, or would like to read it again, you’ll find all the posts listed here.


Now that everything is completed, I can reflect back and say that, I am stronger for having gone through this situation.  And, after waiting over a year after chemo, and waiting through other delays, I was finally able to have my “Port a Cath removal” surgery done.

Reversal Of Ileostomy Procedure – Finally Back To Normal

[caption id="attachment_527" align="alignleft" width="350"]surgeons performing a reversal of ileostomy reversal of ileostomy[/caption]

My reversal of ileostomy surgery was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Because of the bowel obstruction, and then the resection surgery, I had to have an ileostomy performed. I would have the ileostomy for 6 months, while going through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. This was the most annoying and inconvenient part of my cancer treatment.

While I had the ileostomy, I had to always be close to a bathroom. It’s important to empty the ostomy bag when it’s no more than 1/3 full. Otherwise, the weight can pull the bag of, exposing the stoma (the piece sticking out of the skin) and causing a huge mess. Dealing with this was very difficult, because you had to put everything on just right, or the pieces wouldn’t stick.



The wound nurse at the hospital told me that, as soon as I got it all figured out, it would be time for a reversal of ileostomy procedure. She was right. I became a pro afer about 5 months, and now, after 6 months,  it was time to have my digestive system put back to normal.

When it came to the day of the surgery, I arrived at the hospital around 6am, was admitted, then taken to general surgery. My mother and one of my brothers had come with me to the hospital, and would wait while I had the procedure.  One of the surgery nurses came and took me to surgery prep to start an IV, and get me ready for the reversal of ileostomy surgery.

After the IV was placed, the nurse went to get my mother, who sat with me while I was being prepared for the operation. I had to sign consent forms, to give them permission to do the surgery. First, the anesthesiologist and his team came by to explain their part, and have me sign permission forms for that part of the procedure.

Then, one of the members of the surgical team came by and had me sign papers. He told me jokingly that, if I wanted too, I could keep the ileostomy as it was.  I laughed and said.  “No, no no. I’ve actually been looking forward to this.”


Then, the surgeon in charge came by to talk to me. He was the same surgeon who performed the bowel resection and ileostomy, and would be the same one to reverse it.

After about an hour or so, I was taken to the operating table. It’s funny how anesthesia works, because you don’t realize when you fall asleep. The aneshesiologist puts a mask over your face, and before you know it, you’re awake in the recovery room.

My mother met me in recovery, and sat with me while I waited for my room to be ready. When a “reversal of ileostomy” is performed, they typically have the patient stay for a day or more, to make sure everything is working properly. You are actually able to start eating later that same day, which may seen odd, unless you understand how the digestive system works.

Everything that goes through the small intestine is already liquified by the stomach. Since the only internal stitching was reconnecting the end of the small intestine (the ileum) to the large intestine (colon), it would not take much time for that part of the surgery to heal.

What would take longer was the hole where the ileum stuck out of the body. That would take a few weeks to heel completely. It was packed with gauze, and stitched with reinforced heavy stitching. Then, a dressing was placed over the area. One of the surgeons would come by a few times during my 4 day stay, to check on me. The first time was on my second day, when he unpacked the wound, and changed the dressing. The second time was after I had eaten, to see if my body was doing it’s normal duties yet.

I’m going to get a bit graphic here. The first time I did my duty, it was very runny. This is typical, because the body is getting used to doing things normally again. By the fourth day, I was pretty much back to normal. It’s funny how such an important bodily process is taken for granted, until your body hasn’t done it for awhile.



I went home the fourth day, then went to see my surgeon a few days after so he could check how I was doing. I had the stitches removed a few weeks after, and now I just have a small scar on the right side of my stomach. The wound healed up nicely, and my body is completely back to doing what it’s supposed to do.


That was it for the procedure. This was a surgery I looked forward to, because it meant not having to deal with leaking ostomy bags, or other issues that often occur when dealing with an ileostomy. In my next post, I’ll talk about having the Ommaya port removed. For now, I am glad to have finally gone through, and completed, my reversal of ileostomy surgery.



Radiation For Lymphoma – The Next Phase In Treatment

radiation for lymphoma
Radiation for Lymphoma is used when the cancer becomes metastatic, or spreads. Because my cancer spread from the lymph nodes in my armpit to the left testicle, the next step in treatment was to irradiate the scrotum area.

Radiation was done at a separate clinic from my normal chemotherapy. The Maricopa County Oncology Clinic contracts out to this clinic when ordering radiation treatments for patients. My first visit was with their doctor, who examined me, and let me know how things would progress. The second visit was to have a CT scan done on the area that would be irradiated. That let’s the doctor know if there is anything to be concerned about.



The radiation itself was very simple, and quick. I had a total of 15 sessions over a 3 week period. I would arrive at the clinic, check in, and wait for the technician. The machine they use when administering radiation for Lymphoma, or any other cancers, is a flat table that the patient lays on, with a large irradiator that can revolve around the table.



Each session was the same. I would lay on the table, with my scrotum exposed. The technician would leave the room and control the device from their.  First, the machine would rotate overhead, and send a few pulses of radiation to the front. Then, it would rotate, and do the same from the back. There’s no pain or feeling at all. Just a weird buzzing sound.



One side effect of this treatment, is that it will cause the same effect as a sunburn, to the area being treated. This is a small price to pay, to ensure that any and all cancer is destroyed. After my last radiation session was finished, that concluded the brunt of my cancer treatment.



Now that the radiation treatment was finished, I was closer to having my ileostomy reversed. They will not perform surgery while someone is going through chemo and radiation, because the body’s immune system will have a difficult time healing the surgical wounds. This will be the subject of my next post.

For now, I could celebrate one more step in beating cancer. I finished both my regular and intrathecal chemo, all tests have so far show NED (no evidence of disease), and now I was finished with my radiation for Lymphoma treatments.

My PET Scan Test For Cancer

PET scan test for cancer

A PET scan test for cancer is a common practice with patients who have finished chemotherapy. I was given mine a few months after my last treatment session. In this post, I want to talk about what a PET scan is, and my experience in having one done for me.



A PET, or Positron Emission Tomography, scan is an imaging test used to detect disease in the body, and is most commonly used by oncologists in detecting any remaining traces of cancer in a patient’s body. It’s very similar to a CAT scan, yet is more indepth. It is the most accurate and indepth way of detecting cancer in the body.



Because a PET scan test for cancer is so indepth, it is also very expensive. This is one reason why it is used only after a patient shows no signs of cancer through other means (blood tests, CAT scans, etc).   It also exposes the patient to radiation for longer periods than a normal CAT scan.  There is also no need for repeated PET scans, unless a patient shows signs of a relapse of the disease.


My experience started when the PET scan was scheduled. I was told to eat a very low carb and high protein diet the day of the scan, and to drink plenty of water. When I arrived at the hospital for the test, I first went to the admitting desk. From there, I went down to radiology, got checked in, and waited. From there, one of the radiology techs came to get me in a wheel chair, and took me outside to a special trailer set up for Pet scans.



One of the first things in a PET scan test for cancer, is testing the blood sugar. The level of sugar in the blood must be no higher than a certain amount, which is why I was told to eat a low carb diet. After my blood sugar was checked, and the levels where good, they then injected me with a radioactive sugar water solution. What happens is, any cancer cells will come out of hiding and immediately go for the sugar, and the radioactive dye in the solution is used by the PET imaging scanner to photograph and detect any cancer.


After the injection, they had me lay on the scanning table and rest. It takes time for the sugar solution to go through the body, and for any cancer cells to “take the bait”. I rested for about half an hour, then was woken up by the tech. I went to empty out my ostomy bag, and then went back to the scanner.

The process of a “PET scan test for cancer” is similar to a normal CAT scan. The difference is that, it is a slower and longer process. The idea is to be as thorough as possible. The entire process, from the time I got to the trailer, until I was finished, was close to 4 hours.


After the PET scan, the radiology doctor read the scans, and sent the report to my oncologist. I saw my primary doctor about a month after the PET scan, and asked her if she could find out the results for me, since I wouldn’t see my oncologist for atleast another month after that.  She checked the report, and the results of the test showed no sign of any cancer in my body. My husband was with me when I got the news, and as you can imagine, we where extremely ecstatic!


So, now that my chemo was finished, and my PET scan came back clear, the next step was to get radiation on the testicle area, to ensure that all cancer there was killed after my orchiectomy. That will be the subject of a future post. For now, I had piece of mind knowing that the PET scan test for cancer detected no remaining signs of the disease.

Final Chemo Treatment – The Hard Part Is Finally Done

[caption id="attachment_481" align="aligncenter" width="400"]final chemo treatment final chemo treatment[/caption]

A final chemo treatment for any cancer patient is something to celebrate. Since all of my R-CHOP treatments where pretty much the same, I decided to just write about the final session. It’s something I’ll always remember, as it signified the most difficult road in my treatment coming to a close.



A few months before my final chemo treatment (probably after my fourth R-CHOP treatment), my oncologist informed me that, based on blood tests, they cannot find any signs of cancer. He then said that, after I was finished with my chemo treatments, he would schedule a PET scan, which was a more indepth way of testing for cancer. That will be the subject of a later post.



As I said, all treatments where about the same. I would arrive at the clinic and go to the admission desk, where they would sign me in (just like with any doctor visit). After which, one of the nurse assistants would come get me, take my vitals, and then have me wait for the doctor. Then, my oncologist would see me, examine me, and update me on how things where progressing. Then, it was back to the waiting room, until the chemo nurse came to get me.



Depending on how busy they where that day, it sometimes could take about an hour before the chemo nurse brought me back to the treatment room. The first thing she would do is access the Port a Cath and flush it with saline. Then, they would give me Benadryl to alleviate any nausea. Finally, they would start administering the chemo drugs. This was the same with all sessions, including my final chemo treatment.



My Mom would sit with me during most of my chemo treatments, only missing maybe one or two of them. We would pack our lunches the night before, and bring them with us. Because of the ileostomy, I would have to get up to empty my ostomy bag quite often. Luckily, I was able to wheel my IV pole with me, so I could use the restroom.



After my “final chemo treatment” was finished, we where picked up by my brother and taken home. However, I did not know that this would be the last session. This only made 7 rounds of the R-CHOP treatment, so I should have had one more.



I arrived at the oncology clinic that day, expecting to have my 8th and final session. I saw the doctor as usual, then went into the waiting room. That day, I went in by myself. My uncle had dropped me off in the morning, and my brother was going to pick me up later that day.



Then, my doctor came into the waiting room and said that, he felt I did not need any more chemo, and I would not be getting treatment that day. After 7 R-CHOP sessions and 1 RICE treatment, there was no need to put my body through any more strain from the toxic drugs. So, that meant the previous session was actually my final chemo treatment.


That would not be the end of my cancer treatment however. There would be a few more surgeries and radiation treatment, the temporary side effect of a foot drop (from one of the chemo drugs) as well as other doctor visits. That was ok though. I was just glad that, after months of chemotherapy, I was now done with my final chemo treatment.

RICE Chemotherapy Regimen – Aggressive Chemo For Aggressive Cancer

RICE chemotherapy regiment

After seeing how aggressive my cancer had become, my oncologist decided to switch my treatment over to the RICE chemotherapy regimen. This is a highly aggressive, and highly toxic form of chemo, which not only attacks and kills the cancer, it also breaks down healthy tissue rapidly. It is for this reason the RICE therapy is only given as an inpatient procedure.


The therapy was given via the Port a Cath in my chest over a 3 day period. The drugs used in the RICE chemotherapy regimen are:





Most patients are given 3 cycles of RICE, with each cycle being 14 days apart. The very next day after beginning this treatment, I began to feel the side effects. I began losing my hair, and within a few days, lost all the hair on my body.  Including my eyebrows and eyelashes.
I also dropped from 160 lbs to 110 lbs in less than a week. There was almost no fat on my body, and almost no muscle mass. I looked like a skeleton wearing a skin suit.
My body wasn’t producing any saliva or mucous, and when I coughed, the incision from my bowel resection hurt. It was important to cough as much as possible though, to prevent any fluid from resting in the lungs, which could cause pneumonia.



The biggest and most dangerous side effect however, was the effect that the RICE chemotherapy regimen has on the immune system. Because non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma affects the lymph system, which is part of the immune system, that was dangerous enough. However, due to the aggressive RICE therapy, I had absolutely NO immune system!
I ended up being put in a room by myself, and labeled as neutropenic. Which means, in layman’s terms, that my immune system was so suppressed, that it could not even fight off the simplest of infections. Basically, my entire immune system was gone.
When a patient is neutropenic, they cannot eat fresh fruits and vegetables, can’t have any fresh flowers in their room, and all visitors must wear filter masks and gloves to protect the patient.



So, to counter the side effects of the RICE chemotherapy regimen, I was given all sorts of antibiotic drugs, nutrition boosters, and other medicine’s to prevent sickness and also to stimulate the rejuvenation of my immune system.
Plus, having the ileostomy made things even more difficult. Having the end of the small intestine sticking outside your body invites even more possibilities for infection. Thankfully, the nurses and nurse assistants who took care of me did an excellent job at helping prevent anything like that from occuring.



That was basically my experience with the RICE treatment. I would be in the hospital for a total of 26 days, and at times it seemed that I would never leave. I would see my oncologist shortly after my hospital release, which I’ll write about in another post. But let’s just say that he put me back on the RCHOP treatment, saying I no longer needed the highly aggressive “RICE chemotherapy regimen”.



Ommaya Reservoir Placement For Intrathecal Chemotherapy

[caption id="attachment_438" align="alignleft" width="350"]ommaya reservoir placement Ommaya Reservoir Placement[/caption]

I had my Ommaya reservoir placement just before my small bowel resection procedure. Both of these surgeries occured on March 22, 2012 (2 days before my 42nd birthday). An Ommaya port is used to administer intrathecal chemotherapy. This process delivers chemo drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, to target cancer cells that have spread there.
Since the Ommaya was installed in the brain, the procedure was performed by a neuro-surgeon. Since I was under general anesthesia during the operation, I can only say what happened based upon what I was told.


Before the Ommaya reservoir placement can be performed, an MRI is done to map out the brain, and locate the fluid chambers. The MRI was done a few days before the procedure. This is necessary to insure proper and safe placement of the port. Incorrect placement can be detremental, especially if any brain matter is damaged.


During the operation, the surgeon makes a small, semi-circular incision, in an area just above one of the fluid chambers (based on the results of the MRI). A small skin and scalp are then pulled back, exposing the skull. From here, a hole is drilled through the skull, and into the fluid chamber, just wide enough for the Ommaya to fit in.
Once the port is placed, the Ommaya reservoir placement is almost complete. The scalp and skin are replaced, and the would is secured with heavy stitching. For extra security, the wound is also stapled. Finally, a dressing is placed on top of the area, for extra protection.
After the operation, I was back in the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit), and would soon go back to the O.R. for a small bowel resection. As far at the “Ommaya reservoir placement” goes, that part was done. I would not actually start intrathecal chemo until I was released from the hospital. That will be the subject of another post.
So, that was pretty much it for the actual procedure. Having the port installed would allow my oncologist to administer drugs into the brain and spinal fluid without risking spinal damage, as is common with spine injected chemo.
I would have the Ommaya port in my head for 2 years, until March 25, 2014. I’ll talk about the Ommaya removal in more detail in a future post. I will say that, out of all the procedures and surgeries I would endure, the Ommaya reservoir placement was one of the easiest surgeries to recover from.

Small Bowel Resection Procedure – The Surgery That Literally Saved My Life

[caption id="attachment_421" align="aligncenter" width="400"]small bowel resection procedure small bowel resection procedure[/caption]

A small bowel resection procedure is performed to repair damage to the small intestine, when perforations or tears or to large for the body to heal normally. Because of the blockage and tears I had in mine, this was the only way to repair it. This began one of the roughest roads in my recovery from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.




As I wrote in my last post, they had started an NG pump, to remove stool that was poisoning my system. The doctors on staff wanted to wait before doing any small bowel resection procedure, to see if the tear in the small intestine would heal itself. The next step, was to see if my body could handle food, without the issues I had experienced before.



The initial idea, was to give me liquid foods first, then eventually move to other foods, if the tear was healing itself. Well, someone had made an error, and the first meal they gave me was solid food that was chopped up. They refer to this as “mechanically soft”, because it is chopped up by hand. Typically, this is given to people who have trouble chewing or swallowing.


Thinking it was ok to eat, I did. Within 20 minutes, I began to feel pains in my stomach. And not like the pains I had before. These pains where so bad, it felt like a bowling ball was trying to push through my stomach. I literally felt like my stomach was going to explode!


I ended up on my knees in a ball on the floor. I called the nurse and she came in quickly, then asked how bad the pain was. She could see from my face, that the pain was excruciating. She got ahold of the doctor in charge, and he prescribed Morphine for the pain. The nurse put it in my IV, and within a few minutes, I was fine.


Later that night, I was taken down to the O.R., and prepped for surgery. I was supposed to have my small bowel resection procedure the next day. First, I would go through an Ommaya reservoir placement procedure. That will be the subject of my next post.



Anyway, after the Ommaya placement, the General Surgery staff came to see me in the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit) and said they needed to do my “small bowel resection procedure” immediately. So, within the hour, I was taken back to surgery.

I awoke in my SICU bed, with my nurse checking me to see how I was doing. I was also surprised by my husband, who was currently attending culinary school in San Diego, and was given the week off to come and see me. He was there also to listen to and ask the doctors and nurses questions. I was pretty doped up from pain meds, so most of the stuff coming out of my mouth was jibberish.


I woke up with a catheter installed, so I would automatically urinate, and also so they could measure the amount, to make sure my body was urinating enough. The surgeon had made an incision all the way from below the sternum, to just below the stomach.  He said he had cleaned out a few liters of stool that had leaked out into my body.    They cleaned and washed everything out with a saline solution, and completely packed the area with antibiotics.



The surgical wound was stitched with disolvable stitches, and stapled. During the small bowel resection procedure, they removed 21 cm of the small intestine, with the tear, and joined together the remaining sections. The small intestine is about 20 feet long, so there’s plenty left over.


In order to let everything heal properly, I was also given an ileostomy. This is where the ileum, which is the end of the small intestine that attaches to the colon, is pulled outside the body. Basically, I would wear an ostomy bag, which would collect stool outside the body. This would happen automatically, as everything moves through the small intestine involutarily. I would have the ileostomy until all chemo and radiation treatments where finished. The ileostomy will be the subject of a future post.


During the procedure, one of the hospital’s oncologists was on site, checking for any signs of cancer. It turns out that the cancer had spread to the stomach, and caused the blockage and perforation.



This began the roughest road in my recovery. If I had not gotten to the hospital when I did, there was a good chance my small intestine would have completely ruptured. In fact, some of the surgeons thought I would not make it much long past the surgery. They’ve seen people with similar conditions, who didn’t make it more than a few months.



Well, I’m glad to say that, they were wrong. For this, I have to thank the surgeons and the rest of the hospital staff, who helped me through my small bowel resection procedure.

Bowel Obstruction In Small Intestine – An Effect Of Aggressive Cancer

[caption id="attachment_400" align="aligncenter" width="394"]bowel obstruction in small intestine Bowel obstruction in small intestine.[/caption]

A bowel obstruction in  small intestine is nothing to take lightly. As it turns out, the abdominal pains and constipation I was experiencing where the result of a blockage and perforation in the small intestine. In this post, I want to talk about my experience with this, and why it was the worst and most painful experience of my entire cancer ordeal.


After my third chemo treatment, I began to experience stomach pains whenever I ate. As soon as I “passed gas”, the pain went away. I contacted the nurse navigator at my old oncology clinic, who said it was possibly constipation, caused by the chemo drugs. So, she had me go and get some over the counter medicine, to see if that would help.


Not thinking that it could actually be a bowel obstruction in  small intestine, I let this go for a few months. I was inbetween clinics, and wasn’t scheduled to continue my chemo for a few weeks. I was also going to meet my new primary care doctor, which we’ll discuss in a future post. Over time, the pain just got worse. Again, thinking it was only constipation, I ignored it.
It wasn’t until I talked to my uncle, who basically convinced me to go to the ER to get checked out. His thought was, it could be dehydration (which is another common side effect of chemo). If so, they would rehydrate me using an IV, and I should be fine. So, he came to pick up my mother and I, and we headed to the Maricopa County Hospital ER.
The first thing they did, once I get passed the Triage, was take an x-ray of my abdominal area. They also gave me something for the pain, so I could relax. When the results came back, the doctor in charge explained that, there was a bowel obstruction in small intestine, which also caused a tear, or perforation, in the small intestine. The result was that, the tear was causing stool to leak out of the small intestine, which was poisoning me from the inside.
It was not known whether I would need surgery at this point or not. Sometimes, intestinal tears will heal themselves. But, because of the cancer, and a suppressed immune system from both the cancer and the chemo, it was a very likely possibility.
The first step, was to clear out as much of the liquid stool as possible. So, they put in what is known as an NG tube, or, Nasogastric tube. Basically, the tube goes up your nose, then down your throat, and into the stomach. NG tubes are used for many things, including feeding and, in my case, pumping the stomach. The tube was attached to a clear cannister, so they could measure how much stool was being removed. They also would send some to their lab, to test for anything else that might be of concern.
Shortly after starting the NG tube, I was admitted to the hospital. As soon as my room was ready, I was taken upstairs. This was the beginning of the most difficult part of my cancer experience, and would make everything else I went through in life look like a cake walk.
If you ever happen to experience similar symptoms as I experienced, especially if you are a cancer patient, get checked right away. A “bowel obstruction in  small intestine” is nothing to take lightly.

Maricopa County Oncology Clinic – My Next Stop In Treatment

Maricopa County Oncology Clinic

The Maricopa County Oncology Clinic would be my next stop in my cancer treatment. The clinic I was currently being treated at, Arizona Oncology, was a private clinic, and was only able to give me 2 sessions of chemo (sessions 2 and 3), because there was no government funding. The county clinic would continue my treatment.
I met me new oncologist about a week after my 3rd treatment. We discusses what would occur with treatment, and what I could expect. Everything was pretty much the same as with my last oncologist. One major difference was that, at the county clinic, they don’t like to give intrathecal chemo in the spine. That’s because, over time, this could cause the spine to become brittle, and cause serious problems later on.
The strategy for intrathecal chemo at the Maricopa County Oncology Clinic is to install an Ommaya port. This is done by a neuro surgeon, and is installed in one of the fluid chambers of the brain. It’s the same concept as the Port a Cath, only used for intrathecal chemo.
I was scheduled to receive 5 more cycles of the R-CHOP therapy, and after the cycles where completed, I would receive radiation treatment on the testicle area, to make sure all cancer was either removed or killed from that area. Radiation would be done at another clinic, which will get into much later.
My first treatment at the Maricopa County Oncology Clinic wouldn’t be scheduled for atleast a month or so, as there where not enough spots available for more chemo patients. So, I just continued doing what I was supposed to do, by taking care of myself and eating right.
The good news is that, after my third chemo, the lump in my armpit disappeared. So, we know the drugs where doing there job. Unfortunately, during this time, I began to develop serious abdominal pains. The pains where excruciating, and felt as if someone was taking a pair of pliers and twisting my intestines. Pain would stop if and when I released gas, and would start again after I ate. I talked about this with the nurse navigator at the previous clinic, which will be the subject of my next post.


Meeting my new oncologist, I learned how the county clinic handles treatment. I also learned what to expect, and learned that different doctors and clinics do things slightly different. All in all, my experience with the “Maricopa County Oncology Clinic” was great.