Spinal taps and radiation!?

Eric's Journal
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Well, I had mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I would begin today by addressing some of the treatment concerns that I have had. I have a different doctor this time around and he has been strongly suggesting that I pursue some forms of treatment that I am not very keen on. The first one in which I will talk about is this spinal tap.


Apparently, when leukemia relapses, there is a chance that it can come back in the brain. As some of you may know, there is a membrane barrier shielding the brain fluid from your blood. However, it is possible that the leukemic cells can bridge this gap through a relapse. In order for them to determine if this bridge has been crossed, they need to perform a spinal tap. They will withdraw spinal fluid from my lower spine to determine if there are any leukemic cells in my spinal/brain fluid. At the very same time, they will replace the fluid that they extracted with some chemotherapy. The reason for this is to attack any leukemic cells that may be in my brain.

However, here is my concern with this. What if the leukemia never had a chance to enter my brain in the first place? The chemotherapy that I am on right now is apparently able to kill cancerous cells in my brain without the use of a spinal tap…or so that is how I understood it. When they puncture my spine with this spinal tap, there will be a blood exchange at the location with my spinal fluid. If there are leukemic cells in the blood that gets exchanged during this transaction of spinal fluid and chemotherapy, then the flood gates are basically opened and the leukemia is free to float on up to my brain…sigh.

The second form of treatment which has also been really concerning me is the radiation that the doctor is suggesting we perform before I go through my bone marrow transplant. Oh, and yes, I will be needing another transplant. We are going to have to get Steve and Lindsey (my two other siblings) tested to find out if they are prospective donors. However, before my first transplant, I underwent a round of what is known as consolidation chemotherapy. It is a smaller dose chemotherapy just to ensure that any leukemic cells that may possibly be left are destroyed before the transplant occurs. This time around, the doctor wants to give me 6 passes of full body radiation instead of the consolidation chemo. However, along with radiation, comes with all sorts of residual side effects. From long-term heart and lung problems to being diagnosed with cancers that are totally unrelated to the leukemia with which I am currently diagnosed with, there are some obvious risks that come along with choosing radiation as a form of full body treatment, and one that I am going to have to search for more opinions about.

My first guest of the day was one of my old roommates from college, Kenny and his girlfriend, Jessica. I completely forgot to take a picture with them, but I am sure he will be back soon enough. Kenny went to high school with me and we both went to UW-Whitewater and ended up being dormmates and eventually housemates. It was great seeing him again and hearing about everything that he has been up to.


A short while after Kenny came, another good friend from Two Rivers, Lisa, stopped in for a visit. She just graduated from UW-Eau Claire and is looking for teaching jobs in the Milwaukee area for high school biology/anatomy. I’ve known her for quite a long time and she is a very intelligent and interesting young woman. Thanks for the cards and the kind visit, Lisa! Tell your family I say, “Hi.”

Dawn popped in again for another visit. It’s always great seeing her. She stayed for a good chunk of the afternoon, helping me out with various things.

A bit later my roommate from Whitewater, Derrik, showed up. Soon after he walked in the door, my Dad showed up along with my older brother Mike and his girlfriend Megan.


We watched the Packer game and the Cowboys game after that. It was nice seeing the Packers win and the Cowboys lose just before going into the playoffs…figured it might give us a bit of momentum.


We sat around for quite awhile and just talked about random stuff. Megan brought in some delicious deer sausage with some cheese and crackers. Boy was that some good stuff! Thanks, Megan!

Once dinner was delivered to me, I was really starting to crash. It was only maybe 7:00 pm and I was already feeling extremely tired. My mouth is also starting to react to the treatment. I remember this same very thing four years ago or so. My lips are starting to sluff off, and my taste buds are going to all hell. I am also starting to feel some minor digestive discomforts. I am still able to eat and digest my food properly, but my stomach sure doesn’t rest nicely throughout the process.

Hopefully I will be able to sleep well tonight. I might ask for some sleep aids to keep me knocked out while they come in for blood draws at midnight. It’s hard finding a solid 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep at any given point of the day. Not exactly the greatest thing to be going through when fatigue is your best friend.

God bless and take care everyone!