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Pick a Color Any Color

Hello! My name is Katie Ohnoutka and I live in Lincoln, Nebraska with my husband, Eric and two kids, Olivia and Carter. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 30 in June 2018. I underwent a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, 8 rounds of chemotherapy, 28 rounds of radiation, occupational therapy for axillary webbing, and I am now taking Tamoxifen. I am the carrier of a gene mutation, CHEK2, and I call my mutation a blessing in disguise. My mutation gave me a puzzle piece as to why I had breast cancer and that is a blessing to me. I recently got nipple tattoos and I love them!

After having my double mastectomy, I learned that I had a positive lymph node which meant chemotherapy was now apart of my treatment plan. Before I knew it, I was at the

appointment to discuss how my port would be placed. The nurse went through the procedure and explained how the surgery is simple and shouldn’t cause any issues. At the end of the appointment she was showing me what the port looked like and said, “ports come in all different colors.”

Wait, why are we discussing the color of the port? What the hell does this have to do with placing a foreign object into my body? Will having a fancy-colored port make things easier? I became fascinated with the idea of having a pretty-colored port in my body. I thought about it on more than one occasion. I can remember calling my mom and telling her my port would be a color. We both talked about it for a while like that was a normal conversation to have on a Tuesday afternoon. I couldn’t not think about it. I felt like the nurse was trying to make the process easier by saying, don’t worry a fancy-colored port will make chemotherapy better.

The day I had my port placed was anything but simple. The doctor was unable to place it on my right side so they had to switch to the left. During the switch, I began to vomit and this caused lots of commotion in the operating room. Even though my simple surgery turned into chaos, I still wondered what color had been chosen.

Fast forward to the day I was finally getting my port removed. My port did its job but not well. I never had blood return and the thing rotated on its side so accessing it became a problem. I had anxiety every time the nurse got out the extra-long needle to shove into the port. I was more than ready to have it removed. While the nurse was prepping me, I explained to her how ports come in different colors (as if she cared or didn’t know) and I demanded that I know what color mine was. Knowing the color of my port didn’t change anything about my cancer journey but man, I needed to know.

Waking up from surgery was easier this time and I immediately asked the question I needed an answer too.

Katie: What color was it?

Nurse: What?

Katie: My port. What color?

Nurse: Light purple.

Katie: That’s pretty. I beat cancer. I am a badass.

Couple minutes later

Katie: I could go for a Big Mac. (I have never had a Big Mac in my life. Apparently removing my pretty purple port created new cravings).

To this day I laugh about the nurse talking about the color as if I was able to pick out my color as a prize. I imagined the surgeon rummaging through a box of ports to find the perfect color to match my personality or give some sort of fate to my journey. I never got to see my port so the nurse could have just told me a color to satisfy my irrational need to know. I never did get that Big Mac that I so desperately craved the day I found out my port was light purple.

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