Portacath! sleepytimes! overnight in hospital! hospital food!

these things are probably not that exciting.

WARNING: discussion of surgery, and surgical wounds, and hospitals, and hospital food.   if these are gross out/triggers for you, don’t read on.

i have a strange love of surgical stuff when i’m sedated.  when i’m not aware of what’s going on, i don’t really care. i’m not there. i mean, physically i am obviously there, but i am oblivious to what is happening around me.  there’s nothing scary – i let go, and i trust these people. perhaps that’s weird, but i feel power in trusting those i’ve researched and who are trusted by other people to do these things.  i surrender.  there’s no point resisting now, and there’s nothing to fear.

i was admitted, the surgeon chatted to me briefly about what the process entailed – he shook my hand and apologised that he didn’t have a chance to meet me before today (my oncologist pulled strings to get him to do it ASAP. young-person-stage-4-special). he drew a cross on my breast which is where the portacath would be inserted, explained how the tube directed the chemotherapy into my heart and then around my body.  i waited -the woman in the other bed in my room went into surgery first (to have her portacath removed!) and 15 minutes later, i was wheeled off.  the anaesthetist was a lovely older woman with flamboyant beads on her glasses string – green and crystal white.  she anaesthetised my hand first (weird, they normally just stab it in hard) and then inserted the cannula, and put in what i am assuming was some sort of mild sedative/twilight.  then that hazy feeling. then, i woke up, in two robes, in an unfamiliar room.

they said i could have morphine for the pain, but it would go in my butt or thigh. i HATE inter muscular injections so much.  and honestly, it hurt, but not that much. at the time, it’s probably because they were running morphine through the IV drip i had in. the memories of the next few hours (and to be honest, today as well) are really hazy.  i read for most of the evening – my book as far from my face as i could read, as something weird had happened to my short vision, and my glasses weren’t working for either close or distant vision. i read a comforting pulp fantasy book because i am without culture when my chest has a huge gash in it. i had a few panadol tablets, and like a hero (or more likely, an idiot) didn’t take another lot until the pain was unbearable. then woke up in the middle of the night in pain again, covered in sweat (this happens a lot to me. and to a lot of people. i assumed it was LIVER FAILURE until at least two other people admitted it happens to them as well).  temperature was slightly low.  this morning, i swallowed my pride and some endone.  yeah, no way.  i could barely walk, or write my name, was white as a sheet, and completely disoriented. i don’t even know what i did most of today. if anything?  hallucinated a few times… saw a cartoon behind my computer screen… pretty dull ones.

the scar itself is not long, 5-6 cms – it just looks big on me because i’m tiny. there’s another small nick above it, with one stitch.  the lower incision has 6 or so (i haven’t counted) stitches, under a clear bandage.  it is red and raised, and more of the pain is referred to my upper right arm. when i move it there is a dull pain. the skin is a weird shade of white where it meets. dull pain is fine, and not that hard to manage. it’s sharp, sudden pain that i can’t wrap my head around properly. it’s hard to relax into when it comes so fast. you can ‘observe the pain’ all you want but it’s not fun. i understand in theory how it works. but i think i’ll only get it once i see them insert that chemo needle in there.

honestly? i feel bad for even whinging about the portacath pain.  seriously. i’m looking at having most of my liver resected, my bowel resected (albeit about 5 cms), and lung ‘spots’ either radiation therapied away, or cut out.  seriously? my widdle arm hurts a bit?  i’m also terrified about the lung thing to the point now, whenever i cough (which has been often in the last few days) i become convinced it is THE LUNG CANCERS. i think it’s just a cold.  or the breathing tube they put down your throat under a general. dunno. probs not ‘lung spots’. my oxygen levels were completely fine. so, yeah. we’re all good. even if my pulse is a bit high.  i’m hoping regular exercise will help that at least a bit.

the main difference, as far as i can tell, between public and private hospitals is carpet and wall paint choices.  private hospitals have carpet.  public hospitals have linoleum.  private hospitals have slightly stronger pale colours, while in public hospitals they tend to be a bit more anaemic.  there were also only two people to a room – and my room mate left before bedtime, so i essentially had my own room in the hospital. it was pretty great.  the breakfast was better than some crappy hotel breakfasts i’ve had.  which doesn’t mean much, of course – and because i didn’t get a chance to order, it came with stuff i wouldn’t eat. mystery hospital sausages.  what the hell even are they?  the dinner had chops, and i like chops, and mashed potatoes.  both were tolerable. the chicken and corn soupy thing was also pretty ok.  came with apple juice, which i only had a bit of, and an edible, if not very exciting, crumble.  i’ve never stayed overnight in a hospital that is not a psychiatric facility, and the freedom! they bring you your pills! you can just wear the hospital robe all day and no one cares!  you can eat in bed!  there’s something soothing about it. and i know that’s the point right?  i will make hospital food reviews a part of my blog as a regular thing. though, the public hospital doesn’t let you use the internet, OR your phone at all.  why is this when the private hospital gives you free wifi??

i got my diet instructions today from a dietician to help with my 10kg in 2 month weight loss. it is a Protein and Energy Enriched Diet.  this includes making every mouthful i eat or drink have energy of some sort. no water, no coffee, no tea. JUICE! CORDIAL! SOFT DRINK! protein 3 times a day. eat whenever i want, whatever i want. find ways to add ‘energy’ to your foods. i love that they call it that. cheese everywhere. butter. milk. eggs. ice cream. full fat. glucose!!!! and jam. just chuck that shit in everything.  i take this as permission to eat jam however i want to, and to eat custard at 3am.

And here’s tonight’s Mountain Goats song about life, and death and mortality.  and jam. i really like eating jam out of the jar. with no spoon.


About elizabeth

various things.
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17 Responses to Portacath! sleepytimes! overnight in hospital! hospital food!

  1. Nikhilā says:

    the bit of advice that first strings to mind about portocaths, is they get cold! not on their own of course, but they are metal and metal can get really cold (especially if you are like me and can’t regulate your own temperature properly. Once you’ve healed from the surgery they are really funny. I can’t remember mine hurting much, but you are aware of this solid lump in your chest and you can feel it moving when you move your arm, and you poke it, expecting to have some kind of sensation, like you would if you poked any other lump in your body, but it’s numb. It’s kind of surreal. But they are honestly your bestest friends in the whole wide world. I’m kind of disappointed that they waited for my veins to get sooooo scarred before they gave me one.

    Once you have it removed we’ll have to compare scars 🙂

    (and yeah, i was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food i was given while in hospital last.)

    • veritas says:

      i think they go in almost as standard now – which makes so much more sense! the doctor seemed hesitant, as though i mightn’t want one – i was all ‘oh my god, no more hand needles? BRING IT ON!!!’

      your scar will be totally more epic cause you got bigger after yours was taken out!

      i wish i just could have picked stuff – i mean, it was better than plane food, which is not a high bar to set, but i really didn’t fancy beans and sausages for breakfast. toast and cereal did it for me.

      • Nikhilā says:

        it just dawned on me that it’s almost 20 years since i started treatment, so there are probably quite a few things that have changed!

  2. Sonja says:

    When you eat jam without a spoon, do you mean that you’re jar-tonguing? I’m confused.

  3. Cordelia says:

    That settles it. I’m sending you jam in a care package. Maybe some maple syrup. Any other North American treats you want? Be friends with cream and butter and eggs. Make hollandaise. Eat Nutella and peanut butter on toast with butter underneath.

    Hope your recovery is quick.

    • veritas says:

      oh wow, maple syrup lollies and jam would be great – we like putting it in bread and butter pudding actually – it makes for super delicious treat that i can eat at least a decent amount of!

      sadly eggs (on their own) make me feel ill. dunno why.

  4. Prue Holmes says:

    So glad the procedure went well. Yes anything that saves your veins has to be good! Richard sends a message: Don’t forget TimTams! He hasn’t been able to have them since he had his stents put in his arteries!
    Loved the Eat Jam song! (There is a theory about sugar and cancer though?)
    The plan your doctors have given you for tackling your cancers seems very hopeful and do-able.
    Sue just had a 1cm tumour on her lung removed by keyhole surgery….”a piece of cake” her surgeon said. She was only in hospital overnight.
    Don’t let the pain get too bad again….it isn’t necessary and you know what happens to martyrs…they get burned at the stake! Keep yourself free of pain as much as possible…take every little pill they give you.
    Lots of love, Prue

    • veritas says:

      the theory on cancer and sugar is interesting – sugar feeds cancer cells – but it also feeds ALL our cells. i had read up on it – cause a few people had mentioned it. the Mayo clinic say this: “Sugar doesn’t make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn’t speed their growth. Likewise, depriving cancer cells of sugar doesn’t slow their growth.” – there’s so much information out there. though there’s a bit of evidence that some cancer can grow faster from sugar?

      i’m going to be much better at taking pain killers. the non-endone ones i have are almost as good, and i just can’t stand the way endone makes me feel – i can barely stay awake for the next 24 hours. it also could just be because i’m exhausted anyway.

  5. Prue Holmes says:

    Liz, I just thought perhaps I should clarify some of the stuff I’ve passed on to you regarding diet. Sue really believes the extras she takes help her; Margie only drinks her veggie juices when her husband makes her; and Clare, Nikky’s godmother, who is a scientist and had an operation for vulval cancer last year…..just eats and drinks normally and says it’s all hogwash….just eat a sensible diet! She won’t even take extra vitamins! (Prefers a whiskey and chocolate instead!)
    I’m done with those sorts of recommendations now! It seems there is room for each patient to make their own decisions and choose their own approach. And Sue and Margie have made it to 4 years from diagnosis.
    So glad you like your liver surgeon, he sounds inspiring and confident! You’ll go well.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your blog. You write exceptionally well.

    • veritas says:

      juice is actually on my list of stuff i SHOULD have lots of, according to my dietician – water will fill my stomach without much energy, while juice (veggie or otherwise) will give me more energy. if for that reason alone, i’m going with juice!

  6. “and jam. just chuck that shit in everything.” ❤

    • veritas says:

      there’s actually a LIST of stuff on my dietician’s paperwork explaining what food items you can chuck jam in. there’s a lot. i also want nutella and ricotta crepes made with extra cream. CANCER DIET BEST DIET.

  7. katiedavis says:

    When we had to calorie-load Ms 5’s food as a babe, we put cream cheese in everything. Cream cheese icing is pretty much food of the gods, so I’m seeing jam filled cupcakes with cream cheese icing in your future.

    Slightly more seriously… I was on a liquid diet for an extended period a couple of months back and I learned a few tricks.

    Enprocal is a protein powder that has no taste. I’m all about texture and I assumed it would be gross, but it was fine. There’s something about putting protein powder in savoury food that freaks me out. But I could deal with the Enprocal. It will give you a big calorie boost and protein energy is gold.

    How do you feel about smoothies? Possibly unappealing because of the cold, but if you can do it, they are good vessels for calorific deliciousness. Frozen banana, vanilla almond milk or soy, vanilla protein powder and peanut butter is a good one. Or trade the peanut butter for nutella (haven’t tried this but it sounds pretty freaking good). Or add shredded coconut instead of peanut butter. My favourite smoothie is frozen banana, mango and passionfruit plus spinach, vanilla almond milk, vanilla protein powder and shredded coconut. If you want vanilla protein powder the Nature’s Way one from Coles is pretty good and every now and then they have it for half price so you can stock up.

    French toast is good too. Go light on the milk and really let the bread soak then cook it really slowly. I haven’t tried it but I reckon you could whack Enprocal in the egg too.

    Now I want french toast…

    • veritas says:

      these are all excellent ideas. i actually LOVE juice and smoothies – i need to be careful about fructose levels, but i am SO getting one of the chocolate banana ones from Boost soon. there’s also a weird paleo cafe thing in canberra that lets you chuck protein powder into Everything, which will be useful. i really want some sort of blender that’s going to make smoothies for me.

      home made custard is currently one of my favourite things. and home made bread and butter pudding with jersey milk cream.

      cream cheese! that is a great idea. cream cheese icing is delicious. i might start becoming a crazy baker in my six months off work…. it sounds appealing.

  8. greenspace01 says:

    cream cheese and jam sammiches are nice

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