A woman with her hand over her chest gazes at her reflected self among dark clouds, representing her two potential futures in her upcoming decision on whether to have a port inserted for immunotherapy.

To Port or Not to Port?

For bladder cancer patients whose cancer has moved beyond the bladder or is not responding to other treatments, chemo and radiation are given. Intravenous chemotherapy can be brutal on the veins, so oncologists will recommend the placement of a port for patients to receive their infusions.

But what happens when a port isn’t necessary for your treatment?

Do you need a port for immunotherapy?

I am receiving immunotherapy to treat my cancer, and most people on immunotherapy do not get a port. The drug doesn’t wreak havoc on veins like traditional chemotherapy. Visits are only once a month and so a simple IV stick is easier than PICC lines, central lines, or ports.

Realizing that my immunotherapy treatment would be long-term

But then there are patients like me. Veins scarred from harsh antibiotics, tiny veins that like to hide and roll no matter what we do, and skin that bruises if you look at it the wrong way. After 6 months of receiving my immunotherapy and coming to the realization that it will most likely be years of treatment, it was time to consider if a port would be a better choice (read: less stressful choice).

I have been struggling with this decision for 2 reasons

The first is my own vanity. I already have an ostomy and a massive scar down my stomach. The thought of yet another visible medical device on my body has not been easy to wrap my mind around. Yes, that may seem silly in the grand scheme of things, but it took MONTHS to come to grips with my ostomy and regain some of my self-confidence. Will my husband not want to touch that area, will it freak him out as much as it freaks me out? Will I see it and be aware of it every day? Just the idea of another lump to hide makes me scrunch up my face in disgust.

Practical fears around getting a port

The second mental block has been more practical. The fear of infection. The fear of my dog jumping on me and hurting/damaging my port. Will the port inhibit my ability to work out and lift things like my ostomy already has? Will I be able to sleep comfortably? Thinking about all the what if’s and ways a port can affect me negatively weighs heavily in my mind.

Considering the positives of a port

I also see the positives though. No more digging needles. No more 'fingers crossed my veins will cooperate today'. No more bruises when the nurse inevitably has to use my hands for blood draws and IV placements. I can see how a port will immensely ease the biggest stress of my appointments.

Making the difficult decision

Some days, I have my mind made up. I know that I need to get a port, and I am ready to go. Then the next day I am screaming in my mind “HECK NO!” I think this decision can be incredibly difficult for those of us where a port is not a necessity, but more of a comfort measure. You actually have time to weigh all the pros and cons of port placement. I have time to make my decision and I am leaning heavily towards agreeing to a port, I just hope I don’t lose my nerve!

Have you chosen to have a port?

I would love to hear from those who elected to have a port. Has it improved your treatment experience? I know many people struggle with making the decision to port or not to port.

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