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It's important to know that you're not going through treatment alone. There are many patients who have been affected by cancer and have made some of the tough decisions you may be struggling with right now. The stories below offer a personal perspective and may help guide you in your decision making process.



Virginia's Video

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Deciding on a Port

Virginia's Story: Chapter One

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Beginning Treatment

Virginia's Story: Chapter Two

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Utility of a Power Injectable Port

Virginia's Story: Chapter Three

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Considerations

Virginia's Story: Chapter Four

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Wendy's Story
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Wendy's Story: The importance of being your own best advocate (Wendy Lemke is an employee of C.R. Bard and a Breast Cancer Survivor)

Wendy - Cancer Survivor

As anyone fighting cancer can tell you, there's a story in every journey. I'm sharing mine because I want you to know that through it all, it's about knowing yourself and being your own best advocate. It's about taking an active role in treatment decisions and having the confidence to say, "Let's do it my way." Hopefully my story can help...

It was the early hours of the morning when I felt the lump. I called the doctor and she told me, "It's probably nothing. Just come into the office tomorrow and we'll check it out". The next day I went in for a mammogram and they found what they thought was a cyst. I had a biopsy, and five days later I got a phone call saying it was cancer. Needless to say it was quite a shock from what I was originally expecting.

I decided to get a second opinion and went to a leading cancer institute. I met with the surgeon, and she decided that because of the location of the lump, she wanted to do chemo first, then a lumpectomy in order to conserve as much tissue as possible. After that, I would have radiation.

At the word chemotherapy, I asked the surgeon right away whether I should have a port. I told her I knew about ports, and was aware of the benefits. She thought I didn't really need a port, but told me to discuss it with my oncologist since that doctor would be the one to make the recommendation. However, before I met with the oncologist, the surgeon wanted to do a minor surgical biopsy, so I had to go in for pre-admission testing and blood work. They did the blood work using an IV and it was fine, but I got myself so worked up that I passed out. I'm afraid of needles and I have very small veins, so again I told the surgeon that I thought I should have a port. She said, "You're only 35 years old. Other than having breast cancer, you're young and healthy. Let's wait and see how it goes, and if it doesn't go well, we'll get you a port. Let's see if you can get along without it and avoid having any additional procedures."

My oncologist agreed. "Our oncology nurses are among the best in the world-you're not going to have a problem," she told me. I thought, "Okay, you're the doctor, you're the expert." So I went to my first chemo and that was fine. The second chemo was fine too. But the third was when the problems began. I had to have 8 chemos total, and at my third one, my vein collapsed. I got stuck again and the nurse couldn't find a vein. Again, I passed out. After I woke up they stuck me two or three more times and I passed out again. At this point everyone knew what was going on and the oncologist finally said, "Okay, now you're going to get a port." But since I still needed to get my chemo, she told me to go home drink lots of water, wrap your arms to keep your veins warm and come back tomorrow.

The next day I was met by the entire oncology nursing staff at the facility. They put hot packs on my arms to make my veins plump up and even considered having me do pushups to plump up my veins. One nurse after the other tried to find a vein, and after 6 or seven tries over 2 days, I got my chemo.

The day before my next chemo I finally had my port installed. After that, everything was fine. It's been so much easier. I don't need my husband or friend to go with me to the doctor's office, and I'm confident I can get my blood drawn. It's just been so much easier for me, for the nurses, for my family.

I finished my treatments in March of 2007 and I still have my port. I go quarterly for blood work and with my port I know they will be able to access my veins without a problem. In another year, I'll go down to needing blood work only twice a year, and at that time I'll probably have the port taken out.

The one thing I would tell someone about to begin chemo is to talk to your doctor about it. Have confidence in yourself and in knowing your own body.

Debbie's Story
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Debbie's Story: The encouragement to speak your mind (Debbie Phelan is an oncology nurse and cancer survivor)

Debbie - Oncology Nurse and Cancer Survivor

As both a cancer patient and a nurse, my experience is a bit unique. I hope my story will help you, and others, realize how important it is to advocate for yourself. Learn all you can and speak to your healthcare provider. As it turns out, knowledge really is a powerful thing...

I was 48 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer that had probably been there forever. It was 2004 right around the holidays. I was sitting in my bedroom watching TV one night and for some reason, I randomly ran my hand across the top of my right breast. I'd already had two breast exams done that year and had a mammogram. Everything was negative. So the next day I called my doctor and saw him right away. During the exam, as my doctor was feeling things around he was very quiet. After examining my breasts, he started feeling my neck and I knew he was feeling for my lymph nodes. I nervously joked, "Find anything?" After feeling my underarms he finally said, "You can't leave here until we have an ultrasound scheduled." I don't remember what he said after that.

Two days later I had my ultrasound. I'd seen enough ultrasounds to know what a cyst looks like and what nothing looks like. This thing was gray, kind of triangular shaped and had arms and legs growing off of it everywhere. I knew right away that that wasn't normal. The technologist was very quiet and took measurements. Then the radiologist came in and looked, and he too was very quiet. Then he said we needed to biopsy this thing right away. I ended up getting a biopsy a couple of days later.

My cancer ended up being stage IIA meaning that it was under 2 centimeters but it had spread to my lymph nodes and blood vessels. It was a slow growing estrogen-progesterone positive, HER-2 negative cancer which required chemotherapy every 2 weeks for 8 cycles.

I ended up having a thickening of tissue in my breast, and never did feel a lump. The lump was under the thickening tissue.

Due to previous surgeries that resulted in vein damage from different medications that I had received, and my recent axillary lymph node dissection, I knew that my access sites were going to be limited. I immediately asked my surgeon for a port.

For both patients and nurses, it's all about ease of therapy. It's less traumatic. You can have all your infusions and blood work done through your port and once the needle's out, you're free to go. You can take showers, exercise and even go swimming. It's so easy to have your life and be independent - not be attached to a catheter hanging out of you when it's not in use.

If I could offer any advice, read anything and everything you can about your port. Just be aware. Know the facts. My mammograms were negative because I had dense breast tissue, and often times the mammograms don't pick up lumps because of the thickened breast tissue. It's really important to be aware of your own breasts before and after the cancer!

Beverly's Story
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Beverly's Story: Turning information into inspiration (Beverly Kidd is an oncology nurse and three time breast cancer survivor)

We're all here for a reason. For me, a big benefit of having cancer and having gone through all those things is the opportunity to share with others. To tell people who are fighting cancer that they're not alone - that there are a lot of us out there that have gone through this journey. Know that it's one step at a time, and be sure to honor and cherish every day. Hopefully my story will offer some inspiration...

I had become an oncology nurse in 1994 and was working in the hospital at the same time I became pregnant with my second child. I was 8 1/2 months along when I found a lump in my right breast. During my weekly OB visit, I told the nurse practitioner that there was a lump in my breast that I wanted to her to look at. Turns out that I wasn't allowed to leave the office before I had a scheduled visit with a surgeon here in town. Following an ultrasound that determined the mass was solid, the surgeon told me we needed to schedule a biopsy. At that I said, "You know, I'm 81/2months pregnant. Can't we do this today?" So we biopsied it right then. It was a Thursday, and like most cancer patients, I had to deal with waiting for test results until the following Monday. When my surgeon didn't call, I contacted the office. I was told that she had been very busy in surgery and that I should come in that afternoon to get my results. Well, here I was a big pregnant woman getting ready to have a baby in a couple weeks sitting in the oncology surgeon's office being told I have breast cancer. I learned that I would probably have to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Most of that visit I spent crying.

The next morning I called my OB/GYN and learned that he was out of town until the following day, so I spent one more day waiting. When he arrived back in town, my OB/GYN called me at home and said, "Because you have this breast cancer growing, we need to have this baby now. Pack your suitcase and we'll see you tomorrow morning." So that's exactly what I did. I went from getting my results on a Monday to having a suitcase packed en route to the hospital on Thursday to have my child. I delivered Thursday evening and was discharged on Saturday. The following Tuesday I went back to the hospital. I had a lumpectomy of the right breast and an axillary dissection. My surgeon removed 36 lymph nodes out of the right axilla and a 2 1/2 centimeter tumor in my right breast. My margins were clean and I went home from surgery that day.

When I was 6 weeks postpartum and post-surgery, I started chemotherapy via peripheral IV. My veins weren't bad, but they were discolored. I could see the streaks in my arm. I did chemo every four weeks, followed by radiation. Then I went back to work in oncology doing outpatient infusion and went on living my life.

When my son reached the age of 4, I was having a regular exam by my oncologist (I was down to annual visits now) and sure enough, she felt my left breast and it didn't feel right. She sent me for a sonogram at my hospital and scheduled surgery to get the whole thing out of my chest. We didn't have a biopsy. She took it out and since we didn't have a definitive diagnosis yet, I had to wait for the results. But I kind of knew. I just had an inkling that I was going to have to do it all again.

Two weeks later I went back to surgery because my margins weren't clean and sure enough, it was a new cancer. They did a wide excision to get clean margins and removed 16 lymph nodes from my left axilla. Then they put in my port. I knew I needed one since my chemo medications were going to change, and a peripheral IV was not a good idea. It gave me peace of mind. It's also less painful to have a port accessed than having a PIV placed each time you get chemo. I often tell my patients that it feels like a bee-sting. It's like "ouch" and then it doesn't hurt anymore. I knew that comfort and ease of getting chemo through a port would make this part of my journey a little easier to deal with. I began chemo, and did it once a month for the next 4 months. Then I had a couple weeks break and started radiation that lasted 6 1/2 weeks.

When I got to five years, my oncologist said I didn't need to see her anymore, so I started only seeing my OB/GYN annually. That was 2 years ago. He suggested that I follow up with someone who does professional breast exams. I kind of blew that year off, but the following year I made an appointment with my surgeon. She and I talked, and she asked me what my feelings were about genetic testing. I was very pro-genetic testing. Not only had I now had breast cancer twice in 2 different breasts under the age of 45, I also had a family history of cancer - both of which are strong reasons to do BRCA testing on somebody. So I said, "Sure, let's do it."

Two weeks later I found out that I tested positive and started to plan ahead. I decided I would do a mastectomy and have my ovaries out in 2009. My surgeon suggested we do a PET scan to make sure there wasn't anything suspicious. Sure enough, there was a highly suspicious lesion in my right breast. So I said, "Well, I guess we'll do this a little early." On January 26th of this year, I had a radical mastectomy and breast reconstruction. It turned out that lesion was the real deal. It was a half a centimeter tumor in my right breast tissue. I found a new oncologist and while I didn't have to do chemo this time, I did go on to have a radical hysterectomy.

During the last 3 years, I've been the head nurse of oncology. It's a really good place for me to be. As an oncology nurse, we're out there to educate and uplift our patients and really learn to listen. I know I'm in the field I'm supposed to be. Now I have that extra little thing to say, "I know what you're feeling. I've had that chemo. I know what it's like to have a port." Sometimes patients may be a little worried about getting a port, but I'll tell them I have one. I'll show them.

I believe that sharing stories and talking with other survivors is so important. It makes it real. I often encourage patients to do the walks for cancer and see how many thousands of survivors there are. Many people survive and do their treatments and go to work. It's inconvenient to get diagnosed with cancer but it shouldn't run your whole life. You have to hold on to the joy. Don't let cancer take that away.

Edward's Story
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Edward's Story: Becoming a 'Port Authority' (Edward Keigh is a cancer survivor. He is the author of the book, Communicating with Patients, and is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication.)

Edward - Cancer Survivor

In early August 1999, I began preparing for a trip to Austin, TX. I am in the speaking industry and was planning to attend a big speaker's conference. A few days before my flight to Austin, I began to experience severe abdominal pain and went to see my family doctor, who examined me and did a CBC (Complete Blood Count). I attended the conference, however, I felt ill for most of the event. Upon returning home, there was a call from my doctor's office informing me that the CBC indicated anemia: I was then referred to a gastroenterologist.

The gastroenterologist did a colonoscopy, which revealed a tumor on the right portion of my colon. My family and I were stunned at the news. I had surgery at the end of August, which revealed an advanced stage of Colon Cancer (Stage III Colon Cancer, which means the cancer had spread to the local lymph nodes).

After my diagnosis, I developed a motto, "Just because cancer comes into your life, does not mean joy has to exit." After I told people I had cancer they would often look at me with sad faces. I told them, "Cancer will not stop me from enjoying life!" I even found a new nickname! Since I had part of my colon removed, I am now a "semicolon."

At the end of September 1999, chemotherapy treatments were initiated. I did experience side effects from the treatments, including nausea. However the side effects were nothing compared to the constant needle sticks. My veins look great but my nurses described them as "rollers." The needle comes in and the veins "roll" out of the way. My nurses were struggling and I was in pain.

After one particularly difficult needle stick experience, one of my nurses said to me, "It is time for a port." They took out a model of the human chest and explained to me what a port is and how it will be a wonderful tool to help with chemotherapy sessions.

I had the port surgically implanted as an outpatient procedure. The recovery was very fast with actually little pain. For my next chemotherapy session, the nurses easily found the port and treatment was now a snap! No more agonizing needle sticks!

The port did not interfere with my life at all. I never felt the port in my chest and I was able to do all my normal activities, such as take part in complementary therapies - my two favorites are humor therapy and pet therapy. I set a personal goal for each chemo session - I would have to walk in with a fun prop. Variety is the spice of life, so I found a diverse collection of items, such as noisemakers, stress balls, funny teeth and wild hats. I was also a bit of practical joker! At one chemo session, I told a nurse my elbow hurt. She came over to me and as I was bending my elbow, I simultaneously used a hidden noisemaker that made cracking sounds! The look on her face - priceless!

I live in house filled with Pugs. They always make me smile. They knew when I did not feel well. As I was lying on the bed resting, they would stay with me. They were there to take care of me.

Immediately after my diagnosis, I began to study everything about colon cancer diagnoses, staging and treatments. I read books, attended lectures and joined an online discussion group. However, I now realize that in addition to learning about our type of cancer, we also need to learn about items that can make the experience so much better, such as a port. If I speak to someone who was just diagnosed with cancer and I know they will need chemotherapy, I immediately tell them, "You should ask your doctor about getting a port. It can make your life so much better!"

I actually learned so much about ports, one friend told me, "I can now call you a 'Port Authority.'"

At the time of my diagnosis, I just celebrated ten years in the speaking industry. I now speak at many cancer-related events, both professional and survivor meetings. I share my cancer story. When I begin to discuss my port, I actually show it to the audience - the actual port that was implanted in my chest. I tell audiences, "During chemotherapy treatments the port was my best friend."

Actress Annette Funicello once said, "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." Even with cancer, life is beautiful.

Edward Leigh, MA, travels the U.S. speaking at cancer events presenting his uplifting program, "Trauma to Triumph." He also helps healthcare professionals more effectively communicate with patients. He is the author of the book, Communicating with Patients. He is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication. He has appeared on The Today Show, The Montel Williams Show and the Discovery Health Channel. He can be reached at 1-800-677-3256 or www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com



Disclaimer - The testimonials provided represent the experiences of the particular individuals making them and are not intended to be a recommendation or a referral for any device or procedure. Bard Access Systems, Inc. and its affiliates do not warrant that any of the statements contained in the testimonials are accurate, complete, or will apply to any particular individual's circumstances. Testimonials may be edited for clarity or brevity. If you think that you might require a vascular access device, you should consult your doctor or nurse. Bard Access Systems, Inc. and its affiliates will not be liable for any decisions made or actions taken by you in reliance on any statement contained in a testimonial.

Only a doctor or nurse can determine if a port is right for you. Like any vascular access procedure, there is always a risk of complications, including venous blood clots, skin erosion, infection, a collapsed lung, or clotting of the port catheter. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these and other risks, and whether an implanted port or other treatment delivery options are right for you. For important safety information, please click here.

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