Thursday, August 23, 2007

Any Given Wednesday

Since the day when I find myself most prostrate before god, the day I contemplate my mortality and pray most fervently is a different day than most Americans, I thought I'd invite you my sabbath. The reasons why Wednesdays find me feeling most small in the scheme of the cosmos and the fates is that I spend three to six hours every Hump Day in the cancer ward getting various treatments, usually simply liquid chemotherapy injected into my chest portal.

What kind of visuals does that meager description conjure for you? If I didn't know what it looked and felt like, I think I'd find it rather hard to imagine. So, for both your entertainment and education, I have, with the help of a few friends, photographed three of the procedures I may experience on any given Wednesday. Some people find me very strange and not a little morbid to be intrigued by needles entering my own body, but, personally, it makes me feel a little more in control. Also, if I leave it to my imagination, I've found that my idea of what must be causing that crazy pain is often scarier than the truth. The 3 photo "flip books" will be of 1) a lumbar puncture or spinal tap, 2) a bone marrow biopsy, and 3) a run-of-the-mill CBC and chemo injection. Here's numero uno:

Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap
August 22, 2007

These are the vials into which my cerebral spinal fluid will be collected. CSF is a clear fluid that circulates in the space surrounding the spinal cord and brain. It protects the brain and spinal cord from injury by acting like a liquid cushion.
I get spinal taps in order to both test my CSF and to put chemo medicine into my CSF. I used to get them very frequently, but my schedule for LPs now are every four months. These days, I rarely see results from my various tests and procedures to tell you the truth. Instead of celebrating every cancer-free test result, we just consider no news to be good news.

I sit on the side of a patient bed with my legs dangling and drape my body over a small adjustable table. I suppose the rounding of my lumbar region makes the vertebrae easier to delineate. After thoroughly cleaning the area, the doctor or physician's assistant will use their hands to feel deeply between my vertebrae, aligning with my waist, etc. A special plastic sheet is stuck to my back, I believe to prevent the various fluids involved from getting on my clothes. After a site is selected, they inject lots of lidocaine, the "pinch and burn" of which is really quite excruciating.

Needle is inserted into spinal column. This part can take several tries as they search for a good extraction place. When these occurred every few days or so during the initial induction phase in the hospital, I would have to get this done under fluoroscopy, to obtain real-time images of the internal structures.
This "hunt and stab" routine is my LEAST favorite part of all my treatments because sometimes the needle hits weird nerves or other places which cause jolts down my legs or shocks up my back. Everything in my body tells me that I should NOT be playing around with this vulnerable space, but what can I do?

After a juicy spot is found, the "plug" needle within the needle is removed to allow fluid to flow outward.

Collecting the precious nectar. Drip, drip, drip.

While they're there, chemotherapy is injected. You know, two birds with one stone.



Anna said...

AAAAcK...i think I would need to be unconcious for that procedure. Looking at this HELPS you get through it? It gives me the major willies. You are very brave... We need to celebrate in a major way when you are done with all this! xoxo

Clif said...


You are a brave woman.