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  • Writer's pictureA. Murphy

Getting my tube

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

Twas all hallows eve, when the chemotherapy began. I'd worked that very morning at the pool. One last coaching session for who knows how long. I had no idea how long my chemotherapy would take, so I said my goodbyes knowing that it was probably going to be months before I saw them again. Just before I left I turned to look at the pool one last time, surprisingly I felt tears threatening to break out. I had been to that pool almost everyday since I was eight years old, I have my share of complaints about it but strangely it's like a second home.

I knew my chemotherapy meant staying in hospital for quite a while, so I had packed up. Clothes, books, laptop, even my game console. My mum accompanied me up to the hospital where we waited. But before I could have any chemotherapy there was something I needed. What was called a line. It did have a proper name but in all honesty I do not remember what it was. Long line? Central line? PICC Line? Hickman Line? There were too many names. It was so my chemotherapy could be delivered in an easier manner. It was a tube that was inserted into my chest and travelled into my heart so that when my chemo was delivered it would travel directly into my heart which would then pump it around my body more effectively. It's an excellent way of delivering treatment but that didn't mean I wasn't apprehensive about having it done.

It didn't exactly sound like fun, having a tube pushed all the way into your heart. Everyone assured me that it wouldn't hurt, I would feel some discomfort sure but no pain. Like the fertility scans, I was working it up in my head, thinking that it be worse than it actually was. Once again I was in a gown, and led to a room that reminded me of an operating theatre. However, it was not a proper operation so it was not a proper operating theatre, it was smaller, less equipment. I lay on a table and my chest was blocked from view. My head was in a sort of tent so that I did not have to see. They used a local anaesthetic which was by far the most painful part of the experience. It was sharp and stung. Though I was told it would be local anaesthetic weeks ago, they were left with no choice, they could not use general. Before getting the line they asked if I had eaten. Of course I had, I ate breakfast, no one told me I couldn't, so that ruled out general anaesthetic. There was a similar issue with my cleanliness. They asked if I had been using the Hibiscrub (an antimicrobial skin cleanser) to wash with the last few days. No, because no one had told me to or given me any. I was given a bottle and washed with it in the toilet on the ward standing over the sink. They had probably assumed that someone else would tell me, then that person assumed the same and so on and so forth.

(I had to stop writing this for the longest time because I've had to look after my sister's new puppy. It has thrown my regular schedule out the window completely.)

It was true that it wasn't painful but it was uncomfortable. Especially when the doctor operating on me encountered the extremely tough tissue in my shoulders and upper chest. The fact that I have been swimming competitively since the age of eight meant I've built up a lot of muscle which was difficult to push a tube through. I was lying there whilst I felt her shoving (at least it felt like forceful shoving) the line in. It felt like I'd been pummeled in that particular spot for the hours.

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