A Veiny Situation

I am just dropping in to say they got the PICC in!


That is not my arm. That is a very sterilized version of what a PICC looks like. The “line” goes up inside my vein and straight into my chest. Mine is currently all bandaged up, I’m actually just off to the hospital now to get the dressing changed. My arm is currently red from the surgical wipes and probably swollen and bloody. Funfun.

I wish I could say I went through the PICC insertion procedure with flying colours. But unfortunately, my predictions of it going horribly were correct. I think we can sometimes sense these things.

I’m “blessed” with small veins. Which means accessing them always turns into a stressful and painful experience. But as my mom pointed out, it’s because of my tiny veins that we were able to detect the cancer early (via restricted blood flow + blood clot), so I can’t get too angry at them now.

They brought me back into a large room very similar to an operating room. I had to lay on the exact kind of bed/table that they do surgeries on. I hate being on those things. Thankfully, the freezing actually worked on my skin, and they were able to get the line in through my vein all the way to my armpit – then it just stopped. My vein seized up, and seemed to get smaller so they couldn’t push it through any more.

At this point, they were injecting me with contrast dyes, taking tons of x-rays, and called the doctor in. Even though I couldn’t feel the line inside my vein, I could feel that things were being moved inside my body, if that makes sense. And they were squeezing and pushing into my arm at the insertion point which hurt like a bitch.

Anyways, it’s not the pain that upset me. It’s the fact that I’m sick with cancer and have to put up with this crap in the first place. Laying on the table with a face mask on, watching the x-rays flash on the screen and seeing the dark shadow in my chest, hearing the nurses and doctor talk about what to do with me. It’s an unwelcome reminder of something I can forget about when I’m at home – I’m a really sick person.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but you may have already gleamed it from the information I share. I am a big fat wuss when it comes to hospital procedures. I have always been disturbed at the idea of doing things to my body – including cutting, stabbing, and poking it. Surgery was (and still is) one of my worst fears. Having to modify my body in some way using items from the outside world (ahem – like the three screws in my arm), make me want to cry, throw up, and pass out all at the same time. So even if the PICC is a small thing to some people, having tubes hanging out of my arm 24/7 reallyreally weirds me out.

Anyone else out there like this? Currently my biggest fear is getting an infection while on chemo and needing a blood transfusion. Getting someone else’s blood in my body is something my brain just can’t compute. This whole cancer this is a nightmare for so many reasons.

So a few tears were shed yesterday and I was pretty weak after just from the stress of the experience. But as my oncologist said, “they got the PICC in, that’s what matters.” And it was quite handy to have during chemo #5 yesterday.

The GOOD part of yesterday is that I got news on my most recent chest x-ray. My oncologist said there was a “marked improvement” compared to the one taken four weeks ago. I should be getting a PET scan after my next treatment, which will be able to show more detail on the cancer situation. It was fantastic news to hear after my mini breakdown in the morning. A boost in confidence that all this crap is really worth it. I’ll do anything to be skipping along cancer-free once again, arm tubes included.

Posted on September 15, 2011, in Cancer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. “A marked improvement” <—that sounds really, really good. You know, it's ok to be a wuss or have a good cry now and then. No one can be strong all the time!

    • I’m just happy I didn’t get off the table and run out of that room while getting the PICC. The whole time I felt like I was *thisclose* to doing it :P

      • Susan I am currently in the same situation as you …i just completed chemo # 4 and it looks like we have the same date for our last chemo Jan 12

    • Sorry to hear about your Hodgkins and ensuing treatment. In 1997 I had stage III lung cancer so I can relate. I had something called a port that was under the skin on my upper chest under the collar bone. It had a tube going into a vein in my chest and was implanted while I was under general anasthesia. What you have sounds really unpleasant.

      Good luck with your treatment, I hope it goes well.

  2. You are such a trooper–wow. Hope you have a calm rest of the day!

  3. Hospitals can make us feel that way. Its a realization that life is fragile. But your spirit and your heart are strong Susan. You are going through so much, so being afraid of a needle, well thats just reasonable! So glad to hear that the xray looked better!

  4. Susan, I am so sorry that you have to endure this! I am glad to hear there’s marked improvement thought!

    Stay strong, sweetie! I wish I could give you a big (((HUG)))

  5. I can’t imagine going through that, Susan; don’t want to. I’d be in the “wuss” category, too, without a doubt. Hooray for the x-ray results! Here’s to the PET scan offering more detailed good news. Blessings.

  6. AWESOME news about the “marked improvement.” “Improvement” is one thing, but adding “marked” in front of it is cause for a happy dance, even if your legs are still weak from PICC heebie-jeebies.

  7. My sister-in-law had a very similar reaction to the concept of getting/having PICC line, and she’s normally pretty stoic. She said it really freaked her out! Even more than the concept of the bone marrow transplant that she was being prepped for. Good news, though — the feeling passed quickly — and it worked well, and made getting medications and blood work done so much faster and easier.
    Oh, and she’s doing great a year later!!

    Hugs to you… sorry it’s so scary…

  8. No, completely agreed – I’m always paranoid about procedures too.

  9. I am so happy to hear the good news.

    I have a fear of surgery too.. bleh. I will watch it all day performed on someone else, but I don’t like the idea of being knocked out. ew.

    millions of hugs to you :) you will make it through this!

  10. Those feelings are SO very valid. Huge props for not running out of the procedure. There is absolutely nothing I would rather experience LESS than surgery or the other things you mentioned…the one time I had a major surgery is still a scary dark cloud that makes me totally panic whenever I think of it. I recently had a blood clot and have ended up getting a ton of lab work and seeing a hematologist several times because they can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with me, and just going to the hematology/oncology clinic for appointments freaks me out beyond belief even though it’s looking like I don’t have a life-threatening condition and will be FINE. You’ve been dealing with much more scary stuff amazingly well.

  11. I’m so sorry the procedure was so taxing! The thought of feeling stuff moving inside my veins makes me shudder a bit inside so I commend you for not freaking out and bolting! I too get freaked out by surgery and various procedures. I have an IUD and that feels alien enough! I couldn’t imagine having someone else’s blood or organ inside me. I think that would take a lot of getting used to! My best friend has had many, many blood transfusion though so I guess you just get used to the idea!

    Great news about the marked improvement!!! I’m so happy to hear that all this unpleasantry is doing some good! :)

  12. Great news about the Marked Improvement (yes, it deserves caps, actually should be in ALL CAPS ;))
    Just saw the article in the National Post supplement being distributed across Canada – great article – as soon as I saw it I recognized that jumping picture. I’m on the mailing list for the Myeloma Canada foundation and they sent out an ecopy….
    Take care, JoAnn

  13. Ugh – sorry to hear you had a bad experience. I’m just the opposite – I have nice, “you’re totally a heroin user” veins. Great for giving blood.

  14. I completely agree with you. I think it’s easier to see someone older in the hospital with those things (maybe easy isn’t the right word, but it makes more sense) but young people shouldn’t be going through these kind of things. I’m terrified of needles and being poked/proded.

    Keep positive lady <3

  15. You did a good job staying as calm as you possibly could getting that inserted. Man. And the ‘marked improvement?’ that is AWESOME.

  16. Susan, congratulations on the results! That’s terrific. I think you are being very very brave! You are going through a lot and still trying to find some normalcy and joy in life. You have every right to shed a few tears. Sending you warm healing thoughts…

  17. You know my PICC story. I was hoping yours would not resemble it. I hate procedures as well. In my experience, as simple as they are supposed to be, something always complicates matters. I’ve also been “blessed” with small veins. So just wanted to say I love you and that I’m glad it’s over. I cried too. The procedure just felt like it would never end. I saw the concern on the radiologist’s face, as well as the concern of the nurse as she stroked my other arm. When my hand mottled and he talked about possibly inserting it in the other arm, I thought I was going to faint.

    The PICC weirded me out, especially for the first two cycles. However, given my difficult IV insertion history, I know it was better that I had it. The chemo could have seriously burned me – it was much safer going in through a PICC. Despite the issues I had (nerve damage, allergic reaction, etc.), I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about that. You did it. It’s done. And you’ll be so happy when they take it out. Maybe this is crazy, but the thing I most looked forward to about treatment being over was not having to wear the PICC line. That’s because it gave me issues from Day 1. It was the BEST feeling walking away from it. I told Chris and some other family member/friends that I was going to throw it in a fire and dance around it. But once it was taken out, I didn’t want to expend anymore energy on it and walked away happily, hoping I would never need one again.

    It will get less creepy over time. Ports freaked me out even more, so I’m glad I didn’t need one of those.

  18. Yeah for the word “improvement” double yeah for “marked improvement”!

  19. It makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it, so I completely understand! I always hated tests that put anything into my skin. From TB tests (that weird bubble) to shots. I have also had doctors have a hard a time finding my veins and get nervous because I sit so quietly and look away the entire time. Then again, I get anxiety from basic things like dental work. Ugh.

    So, if you ask me – you’re doing great! I’m glad they got it figured out and all set. :)

  20. Sorry you had a crappy experience. I am a nurse and I HATE getting poked and prodded. When I had my thyroid surgery, I had the incision plus a row of “dots” above and below from the sutures. I was the most upset about that because it was so noticable. They finally went away but it made me angry every time I looked in the mirror. Are you not a candidate for a Port? Maybe at some point you can get one of those so it will not be as noticable to the outside world. Good luck and continuing beat cancer vibes from a fellow survivor!!

  21. Congrats with your ‘marked improvement’! That’s good news, yay!

    And I don’t think you’re a wuss.
    Don’t be hard on yourself, you’re doing great. I think dealing with your fears right away helps you to stay positive in the long run.

    Cancer is a real bitch. It’s inside of you and you can’t walk away from it, it’s always there. Just as the treatments. Sometimes it feels like it’s not happening to you, but when they stick needles in your arm, you can no longer deny it. I personally believe that it really helps to accept the fact that it’s crap.

    Every time I have to go to hospital I give myself something to look foreward to. That can be a movie, nice flowers or a magazine or something like that. When I’m really intimidated by what’s on hand, it’s a movie and flowers and a magazine. Nothing wrong with a little spoiling yourself every now and then ;).

    Wish you all the best and hang in there!

    Love from Holland.

  22. FUN TIMES!!!! I had one of these when I was in the hospital years ago. I was on so many antibiotics and drugs that my veins were collapsing. This was actually a lifesaver for me. Sorry you are going through this. :(

  23. I am so sorry you had to go through that, but I am happy your doctor saw a Marked Improvement in your scans. I have small veins, too, and they are not fun :-/

  24. That sounds pretty bad :-( But marked improvement – yay!!

  25. I know that you have mentioned before that being told the anecdotal cancer scenarios of other people is somewhat annoying, but I wanted to add just one more if I may.

    About 6 years ago my uncle was diagnosed with a solid tumor of lymphoid cells in his heart, partially located in the wall between his heart’s chambers. He went through many of the procedures you are having to deal with. A major concern was that even if the chemo worked to dissolve/shrink the tumor, perhaps it would open a hole in that wall. Fortunately that did not happen, the chemo worked wonderfully, and he has been cancer free for 5 years.

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you and sending good vibes your way.

    • Nono, I like hearing positive cancer stories! This one is a particularly good one to hear, because the most “active” part of my cancer sits right at the top of my heart (squeezing a main vain going into it actually) and I’ve always been scared of the caner spreading to my heart. Good to know chemo can still kill it if it makes its way in there :)

  26. i am so with you. every time i think about the 8″ titanium rod and 8 screws in my arm, i want to vomit. hell yes marked improvement. xo

  27. first time commenting, sister in small-vein-ness. i have all the same issues with needles/iv’s/medical procedures. i can’t count the number of times i have passed out during blood draws and iv insertions. i just wanted to tell you that even though i don’t know you, i think of you often. i’m sorry you had to go through this to get the PICC. there is a reason people get post-traumatic stress from medical procedures (and that doesn’t help when you know there are more in the future). i hope tomorrow is a better day!

    • I was reading the other day that PTSD after a cancer diagnosis is a very real thing – both for the patient and family members. I’ve only ever attributed it to traumatic events like war, or near-death experiences. But um, being told you have cancer is pretty frickin traumatic! It IS a near death experience. I don’t think people recognize that enough…


  28. Yay! I’m glad they got it in no problem and that your x-ray contained some good news. I’m sorry the procedure was so difficult and stressful. I think the hospital setting is not conducive to low-stress, which is somewhat ironic. But you are so brave.

  29. I am extremely weirded out by medical procedures. I have to have an endoscopy (which I realize is no big deal) but it freaked me out. My insurance wouldn’t cover anesthesia so I paid out of pocket because being awake with a hose down my throat and in my stomach was horrifying.

    I have been told I have small veins too. I also didn’t realize you’d be awake during the PICC line insertion.

  30. HI–Just want to say hang in there- I think you are a wonderful person and I know you will get through this and someday this will all be a memory. I hate anything to do with surgery, needles etc too–I just become a total, weepy mess. But I have learned it’s OK to lose it and to ask for what you need. And I’ve come to love nurses. I’ll be sending loads of good energy your way! You are going to get through this!

    • Nurses really are a godsend!! The PICC procedure was the first time I didn’t take any anxiety meds before a procedure. Now I know I should really take them. They don’t always help, but my sheer will is not always enough!

  31. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this. Hugs!! And I am really happy to hear that there’s an improvement. Yay. Hang in there. You will get through this.

  32. Thanks for the update, glad it was a success (overall). Sounds kind of corny but thanks for letting us all into your life, especially after something like a PICC insertion it’d be easy to say “I don’t really feel like dealing with the world” and curl up into the fetal position with a blanket and some ice cream (at least that’s what I’d be doing), so this entry reminds me how extra cool it is that you write about things like this. I hope you get some much-deserved rest this weekend!

  33. “Marked improvement” never sounded so beautiful!

  34. wow, I couldn’t imagine having to get a PICC. Yeah, the cost of getting my port was probably insanely more than a PICC (general anesthesia and all) but I couldn’t imagine being awake for that. Major props to you!

  35. Hey lady! You are doing amazing! I hate being poked, cut…any of that. When I went through it all, it reminded me of being sick too. Now when I have to go for check ups, I have severe anxiety…so it’s not just you! I wanted to share a story that was written about my brother-in-law recently…hoping to give you some positive vibes!! Thinking about you!

  36. You are very very brave and should be very proud of yourself <3

  37. “I am a big fat wuss when it comes to hospital procedures.”

    Are you freaking kidding me!?! You are handling this with more grace than I can muster to just READ about it. I’d say shedding a few tears is the best-case-scenario reaction to this mess. I would have had a heart attack right there on the table.

    You are a freaking HERO.

  1. Pingback: The Best Kind Of News « The Great Balancing Act

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