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The Mental Part of Chemo

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

Everyone hears about chemo and on some level understands that it is poison given to patients in order to kill the cancerous cells. Chemo can enter the body through a PICC line or more commonly, through the use of a Portacath. This device is surgically implanted in the operating room. It is placed under the skin, directly above the heart, into the right atrium and it will stay there for the remainder of the treatment. Sometimes, it is kept in the body after the treatment is done in case doctors have to do blood draws.

While the idea of the Portacath is a great one and solves a lot of issues (as seen in the video below), the anxiety of having the Poracath increases in children and adds on to the mental toll cancer has on a patient.

With patients who have Portacaths, the days they receive chemo is filled with a growing balloon of emotions that begin in the morning. After waking up, Lidocream must be applied to the body where the Portacath is located before going to the hospital so it has time to numb the skin. Upon entering the hospital, the Portacath will be the main access point for chemo drugs to enter the body and for blood draws to occur. Many children wake up dreading the cream because they know what will follow.

Additionally, many parents experience anxiety (later diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), as they desperately watch their child's fear and anxiety increase when a nurse is about to access the port. While some patients want to get it over with as soon as possible, others want to avoid it as much as possible. Sometimes the child reacts the same way each time, and other times children who don't normally get emotional get very upset about it. A child's mental load may be added to as they tear up and scream because they don't understand why they need to have a Portacath.

While Portacaths are a necessity for treatment, for many, they are a dark reminder of how much cancer will strip away from you.

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