At the start, I couldn’t stand my Hickman line. I could never look at it and it would scare me. I don’t like the idea of having a clear dressing over it really, but it’s the hanging lumens that I find the real issue. The lumens are less easy to hide and even when you sleep, you’re constantly reminded of your illness. It’s getting better, but it’s quite obvious that it shouldn’t be there. Under clothes it looks weird and makes you feel not-as-human as other people. There are two plastic wires hanging from my chest, so it’s not very ‘normal’. I couldn’t stand to tell people about it before because I felt it was too gross. I didn’t get many uncomfortable reactions, though, just that people felt it was hurting me. I was also worried for other people to see my line because I thought it would make them pity me.
Seeing people in the public eye with a line would make such a difference. If people knew more about them, it would make me feel less ‘freakish’ about myself. Also, maybe people would be okay to approach me if they knew why I had a line in, rather than just stare at it and pity me. After Closer Magazine, I’d love to see them on models – Kate Moss, for example, someone that loads of young people love and hate. Or Justin Beiber.
The Hickman line gets stuck in immediately after diagnosis and before chemotherapy starts, before someone really has a chance to think about it. The play specialist will have a doll with a line to demonstrate what it’s like, but it’s a doll-like cuddly toy. I always encourage another patient on the ward to show the new patient what it is like, to see it on flesh, in a body, on someone with the same shape, so that they can, in a way, relate. That seems to help a little, but it still is an alien being.
The lines come with positives and negatives. When you have cannula, you’re very restricted and can’t do anything as your hands or arms have needles. Suddenly, when you have a line, you are enabled to do things: but what are you going to do when you feel rubbish? We always stress that it’s discreet and you can wear what you want, but it’s still something hanging out of you.
To us, it’s normal, but to patients, everything needs to be reconsidered: Can I do this with a line? Can I do that with a line? It’s another stumbling block after all the other stumbling blocks that get put in your way with chemo, surgery and treatment. Although there are restrictions, there are plenty of things that patients can, in fact, do with the line.