Kids with Cancer

Closing the Chemo Chapter: Chase Has His Port Removed

by Ellie Ewoldt
July 7, 2014

Two years ago, at the start of his childhood cancer treatment, Chase had a port implanted under the skin of his chest as an entryway for chemotherapy, medications, and nourishment. Last month, he had it removed — a milestone for any child with cancer, but especially for one who beat the odds of a highly fatal brain tumor diagnosis. His mom explains what the presence of this device has come to mean.

Chase with a catheter in his port

Chase with a catheter in his port.

“The general protocol is that after six months of clear scans, we remove the port … even for the ATRT kids. And as I look at Chase, I don’t see any reason to make an exception.”

We took a moment to absorb the words Chase’s attending doctor was speaking. Even with the concern of relapse and all that comes with an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT) diagnosis, the port could and should be removed.

This small piece of foreign material currently embedded in Chase’s chest has somehow come to both symbolize and encapsulate the last two years.

It was the first thing in and will be the last thing out. We’ve had it placed, and replaced, and replaced again and again. We’ve fought to keep it, repair it, and protect it. We became trained and comfortable in the procedures to sterilize it and triage when there was a problem.

It was a picture of the need for chemo, yes, but it also provided lifelines of blood, platelets, fluids, medicines, and even nourishment when he could not eat.

Chase after PICC line surgery

Chase rests after surgery to place a catheter in his arm.

The access to his veins has at times been on both sides of his chest and in both arms as well. It has inexplicably infected multiple times, been infiltrated by deadly chemo, cracked and broken, and once even slipped out as he turned in his sleep.

Chase’s first and shortest catheter in his chest was placed on August 16, 2012, when he was only 2 years old. He doesn’t remember a time in his life when he didn’t have tubes coming out of his body or an access point for the tubes embedded under his skin.

In its own way, it has become part of his body and his identity, so when he was told that it was to be removed, he became very angry and questioned whether the doctors were going to remove his skin and bones as well — so much is this small device a part of him.

Chase before port surgery

Chase with one of his nurses before a port surgery.

This constant access to his body was in some ways the craziest complication of his treatment months, yet a complete blessing, too. But now it’s time for the last remnant of the chemo chapter that can be removed to be separated from his body.

No more flushing it and locking it to keep it clean. No more crash kit with clamps, swabs, and gloves in a bag that goes everywhere Chase does. No more ER fever guidelines. When he goes in for MRIs or labs, he’ll require a peripheral IV, just like a “normal” child. A scary and wonderful thought.

Read more of Chase’s story.

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