Lions, Tigers, and Bone-Marrow Biopsies…Oh My!

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Let the chemo begin…

Today I am feeling much better. My fevers seem to be a bit more controlled and not going above 99.5. My cough is slowly getting better. My headaches are gone I am feeling pretty good. However…the day was just beginning.


My day began with a chest x-ray…nothing major. Went downstairs and just took a few pictures of my chest. Easy peasy Japaneasy. From there I headed up a floor and over about a mile (this hospital is GINORMOUS) to where they took these 8 minute pictures of my upper circulatory system. They drew some of my blood and then added a dye to the blood. After they re-injected me with my blood, they stuck me underneath this machine where I had to lay motionless for 10 minutes for them to take a million photographs to produce an animation or something. After three or four of those I got wheeled to the reproductive department.


As some of you may already know, chemotherapy almost always causes the patient to become infertile or sterile. This is something that I was rather lucky with the first time around. Four years ago after all of my treatment was complete, I got tested and was told that I was completely sterile and would never be able to have children. Well, maybe a year later, my girlfriend at the time, Dawn, and I went to go get checked out again just to be sure. And sure enough….they told me that somehow, someway, that I was going to be able to have kids and that my soldiers were indeed marching! Well, with the knowledge of now knowing that I am able to have kids, I felt that it was absolutely necessary that I don’t take the risk and bank some of my “men” before I start chemotherapy the next day. So I did just that.


After that, I came back to my room to prepare for the worst part yet. It was time…for the bone marrow biopsy. The only way to describe one of these things is to just walk you through it step by step.


They begin my instructing me to lie flat on my stomach and picking a side…left or right. (I choose “left”) After I have chosen the left side, they yank down my boxers and begin feeling for this crest of bone right above the crack of your ass on the left or the right. Go ahead…take a second or two and see if you can feel them. Find the tip of your crack, then go to the right or left about two inches. That bump that you feel is actually a part of your hip and is made of bone. This is where they will continue with the next step.



They start using this iodine solution to clean the left bone area. After the area is clean, the prep two injection needles with a local anesthetic called Liocaine. Wikipedia defines Lidocaine as a drug that is used topically to relieve itching, burning and pain from skin inflammations, injected as a dental anesthetic, and in minor surgery. Sounds like should do the trick…right? Well after the anesthetic is injected, a small incision is made. This is to make room for the larger needle…oh and the larger corkscrew-like apparatus.


So once the incision has been made, a larger and more dense needle is used to inject Lidocaine into that bumpy bone piece that I talked about earlier. First off, numbing bones doesn’t work. At least in my experiences it doesn’t. Well, after the bone has been “numbed,” it’s now time for the corkscrew-like apparatus. It has a bit of a larger handle so that the person using this oil rig can get a real grip on the process. Once the doctor has selected the appropriate spot on the crest of bone, he begins to turn clockwise and inwards…slowly towards the marrow of the bone. Keep in mind, I am very awake through this entire procedure and can feel quite a bit of what is going on. After maybe 5 minutes of working through the crust of the earth, it is time to strike oil. He uses the corkscrew device to extract the piece of hip bone which he had been working away at for the past 5-6 minutes. This gives an open path to what we all know and love, bone marrow.


Now before I move on, I’ll just throw in a tidbit of information. You see, the bone marrow is where my leukemia cell blasts basically live. So this is what they harvest to find out how bad the leukemia has gotten. Okay…on with the show.


The next tool I see in his hand is a large hypodermic needle. I know exactly what that bastard is for and I know exactly what I am going to feel next. I have had maybe a dozen of these biopsies done in the past and this is the one moment in time when I wish I could just go to one of those “happy places” and come back after its over. Well it doesn’t work like that and you have to sit there and feel every bit of it.


So he slides the needle through the skin and flesh and down into the canal that he has drilled into your bone marrow…no pain yet. The instant he starts extracting that bone marrow (much like a doctor would do it he was taking your blood), I feel the most incredible pain that I can ever possibly describe. It’s a combination of someone shooting you right in that spot with like a 9mm while a bus rolls over your back. I couldn’t breath and my lungs just momentarily ceased up. As I wretch in pain and he pulls the needle out, he analyzes to see how much bone marrow he harvested. “Nope…need more.” AND DOWN HE GOES BACK THROUGH THAT DAMN CANAL….son of a bitch!


*insert agonizing pain writhing sound here*


He pulls the needle out and begins to bandage me up…its over. Whew.

Bone Marrow Biopsy

A short while later my parents show up and everything is back to “normal.” And then, by total surprise, one of my old college roommates, Russ, walks right in the door with a smile on his face. I broke down again just seeing a friendly face…gotta get better with this! It was so good to see him. We talked about some of the old good times in college and caught up a lot on what we’ve been up to. We had a great time.

A bit later, Dawn stopped by with homemade pizza to cheer me up. Sure beats some of the other stuff that the cafeteria sends up regularly. Thank you Dawn for helping me through this. You were an angel for me four years ago and I see it in you again now.


Good night everyone. Chemo starts promptly in the morning. Need some rest

Bone Marrow Biopsy