Thursday, July 27, 2006

July 26, 2006 - Flashback

This afternoon, I stop by Dr. Lerner’s office for my monthly port flush. This five-minute procedure involves sitting down in one of the row of chairs in the Nurses’ Room, while one of the nurses runs a little saline solution through my implanted port, to dissolve any blood clots that may be blocking it.

I haven’t thought much about my chemotherapy for some time, but suddenly it all comes back to me. Vanessa approaches me with a heavy-duty, medical paper towel, on which she’s got balanced a syringe, an L-shaped needle, a tube and some little paper packets. “Which side?” she asks.

“The right, I reply,” pulling aside the collar of my shirt.

Opening the paper packets, she removes some cotton swabs, pre-soaked with red-brown Betadine solution, and wipes them over the area of my chest, below the right collarbone, where the port hides just under the skin. “Deep breath,” she says. Obediently, I breathe in deeply, then feel the familiar prick of the needle. It hurts a little more than a blood-test – it’s a bigger needle – but not much. Like most people, I used to dread needle sticks, but now I hardly give them a thought. I’m a pro. Cancer treatment will do that to you. This is nothing – a mere dry run, compared to an actual chemo treatment.

Taking up the syringe, attached to the needle by a plastic tube, Vanessa slowly presses the plunger. Instantly, I feel an odd, bubbling sensation in the back of my throat, accompanied by a peculiar plastic taste. That taste brings it all back, as though I were one of Pavlov’s dogs. I feel vaguely nauseated for a moment. It’s the prelude to chemotherapy – but, thankfully, there will be no chemotherapy for me today.

Moments later, Vanessa slips the needle out, tapes a wad of sterile cotton over the spot where it was, and hands me a billing form to drop off at the receptionist’s desk on the way out. It’s all over for another month. By the time of my next port flush, I’ll have had my CT and PET scans, and will be coming in to hear what Dr. Lerner has to say about the results.

But for now, the memory lingers...

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