I thought I’d get back to writing about some of the tests I had before my myeloma was diagnosed. Today’s post: The bone-marrow biopsy.
The bone-marrow biopsy is the least fun test for myeloma; in fact, it’s probably one of the least fun tests for anything. It’s important, though, because it allows doctors to see if abnormal amounts of plasma cells are present in the bone marrow. Doctors can also use the bone-marrow sample to check on your chromosomes (abnormalities in certain chromosomes can indicate a worse prognosis in myeloma), and doctors can even run specialized tests to see how quickly the plasma cells are growing.
To do all of this fancy stuff, though, they need to stick a large needle into your hip bone and suck out the marrow, and not in the cool way that Henry David Thoreau sucked out the marrow, either.*
The first time I had this test done, they didn't sedate me. They did use a local anesthetic, but, as I learned that day, it’s impossible to completely numb bone.
Yeah. Owie, owie, owie, owie.
Before the test, I asked the doctor and a couple of nurses if it was going to hurt. The reply was always the same: “Have you been through childbirth? Yes? Then it won’t seem that bad.”
Any test that has a pain level that medical professionals casually compare to childbirth is not a test you want to have without sedation. Also, when childbirth is over, you've experienced, well, the birth of your child. All I got at the end of that bone-marrow biopsy was a nurse showing me what my bone marrow looked like. Cool, yes, but you can’t dress your bone marrow in a Winnie-the-Pooh sleeper and take photos of it.
By the way, bone marrow looks just like blood. All my life, I thought it was white. Why? I don’t know.
The second time I had the test done, I was at the Mayo Clinic, and they offered sedation. Bless you, Mayo Clinic. Bless you. The nurse started an IV in the back of my hand, and the rest of what I remember of the entire procedure went something like this:
NURSE: I’ve started the IV, and now it might seem like the room is spinning.
ME: Yeah, the room is spin…
NURSE: OK, we’re done.
The nurse wheeled me back down the hall to where my husband was waiting, gave me some apple juice and cookies, and then let us go. I staggered out into the main waiting area, which, unfortunately, contained computers with Internet access. I immediately e-mailed at least one friend and told her I thought I was a puffy pink cloud. The drugs wore off in about an hour.
* Obnoxious use of my English degree!**
** And isn't that the only way to use an English degree? Obnoxiously?