I didn’t want a Picc Line
Chemo is administrated intravenously through a cannula in your lower arm or back of your hand. Once the cannula is taped in place the drugs are slowly injected into your vein. The solution then runs through your veins and all over your body. There is a risk that if the solution leaks out of your vein then the chemo can cause severe burns, ouch!
This was how my first 3 Chemo treatments were given. Each time it became slightly harder to find a vein as your veins get blocked and small blood clots make it harder. The nurses wanted to give me a picc Line as it made their job a lot easier and was quicker. But for me having a picc line in my arm for 24 hours a day was not going to be fun. I didn’t want that constant reminder of Cancer. Plus I was worried how I would play netball with it in. There was no way I was giving that up. I felt that the nurses really pressured me into it and eventually told me their was no other way. This I don’t believe as I’m sure if they had enough patience they could have found a vein each time. I wouldn’t recommend having one fitted if you can help it.
By my fourth Chemo they had already booked me in to have the picc line fitted. I asked if they would try once more to get a vein as I really didn’t want it. They attempted to get a vein 8 times but my veins just gave up, so off I went behind the curtain to have the picc Line inserted.
You are awake through the whole thing. I imagined it was going to hurt a lot but it wasn’t so bad (your pain tolerance threshold increases so quickly through Chemo). The nurse said the quickest he had done one was 30 seconds the longest nearly an hour! He put his surgical gown on and made a small hole in my arm, then the line went in, threading through my vein up to my shoulder and then I had to turn my head so he could get the line past my shoulder blade and down to my heart. It felt strange and I saw a lot of blood but he managed it in 20 seconds! Yeah a new record!
They sent me to get an Xray as the picc line has to be a certain distance from your heart. Once the chemo was given through the picc it would run up the vein and free flow out near your heart and around your body. The Xray was ok and they could now tape the line in place.
From now on I had to wear a big plastic sleeve over my arm every time I had a shower so it didn’t get wet. The next week I was in quite a lot of pain and had to drink a lot of water to make sure my veins stayed plump. It felt like my whole side was very badly bruised as my vein was getting used to having a new friend in it for the next three months. I couldn’t lift my arm up for a few weeks until I got used to it and the internal bruising wore off.
Playing Netball With My Picc
I knew I would have to disguise the Picc Line playing netball as I was sure if the umpire saw it she would make me come off. I’m sure their insurance didn’t cover me. Who knows what they used to make of my bald head! Probably thought I had alopecia, I used to play in my hat but sometimes my head got so hot I had to pull it off. I liked to scare the opposition as well with my gangster look. It got to be a struggle to play as I had less and less energy. Sometimes I had to come off at half time as I had so little energy left to run around, it was amazing how much chemo zapped you. Occasionally the ball would hit my arm or my opponent would barge into it and ouch it would hurt and sometimes bleed. I was exhausted after a game and found it a struggle to drive home but I wasn’t going to let it stop me completely, otherwise the cancer would have won and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
I found it hard to know what to wear as I was always conscious that you could see my bandage and picc line. You can see it peeping out here. I used to think where are all the other people out and about who are going through treatment. I did feel pretty alone, Gemma and I had afternoon tea at St Pauls. Waking up the staircase I realized just how my energy was effected. I felt like a old women having to stop to catch my breathe ever 10 stairs or so.
Having it cleaned
It took about 20 mins to clean it and it stung like crazy with the solution they put onto the open flesh. The only one advantage of the picc was each time I had to go for blood samples I could go to the chemo ward wait ‘an hour’ and they would take it for me through the picc line. There was one occasion when no blood was coming out, my veins were so blocked. They had to keep trying to flush the vein out but it still didn’t work. It was as though my blood had dried up! At least I wouldn’t be appealing to any vampires. I would be their worst nightmare.
It was such a relief getting the picc line removed. It took all of a few seconds to pull it out. My veins had blocked and were indented because of all they had been though. It took about 6 months for them to heal. I was actually quite sad when they did heal as some of my external warrior scars were drifting away, but I finally had my arm back and it was like heaven.