I thought I’d write about a few of the medical tests I had to have before I was diagnosed with myeloma. Since this ordeal started, I’ve learned about medical tests that I never dreamed existed. The most unusual one, by far, is the 24-hour urine sample.
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. It involves a very large jug.
Most people with myeloma have too much protein in their blood and some also have it in their urine. The 24-hour test – as gross as it is – is the best way to check.
The first time I had this test, it was with my local doctor. I was horrified and amused at the same time. What if, while I was driving my sample back to the office the following day, I got pulled over by the police? What if they wondered what I was transporting in the big orange jug and wanted to check? Deep down, I almost hoped this would happen so that I’d finally have an interesting story about myself to tell at dinner parties: one that could end, “… and then my parents sent the bail money, and everything was fine.”
Or – and this would be even more exciting – I could finally have a fun anecdote to share with Alex Trebek if I ever were a contestant on Jeopardy!.
ALEX: It says here that you were once arrested.
KAREN: Yes, Alex. I was pulled over while transporting an enormous jug of my own urine.
ALEX (Shoots a withering glance to the producers): Who let you on this show?
In the end, I’d probably be so far behind the other contestants that I wouldn’t be allowed to participate in Final Jeopardy, but who cares? I’d get to say “jug of urine” on daytime TV. And allow me to take a detour here: Does anyone else get annoyed by the way Alex Trebek pronounces “foreign” words with an accent? I’m talking about the way he always insists upon pronouncing “Mexico” “Meh-hee-co”.
Of course, my trip back to the doctor’s office was uneventful. I did score brownie points with the doctor for thinking to enclose the jug in a plastic Hy-Vee bag before I returned it.
I had this test for the second time at the Mayo Clinic. This time, I had to wait in a long line in front of a desk staffed by people who hand out jugs all day and tell the patients how to, ah, fill them up. I wondered if any of them dreamed of this career as children. Worse, what did they tell their own children when they had to speak at the elementary school career day? Did they try to come up with a fancier name for their job?
CHILD #1: My dad is a fireman.
CHILD #2: My dad is a policeman.
CHILD #3: My dad is a Waste Product Containment Technician.
CHILDREN #1 and #2: Oooooooh!
At least this jug came with its own nondescript plastic drawstring bag. An untrained observer would simply think I’d picked up a little something from the gift shop. Everyone who worked at the clinic, however, seemed to know exactly what was in the bag. When I arrived for my bone-marrow biopsy, a nurse showed me to a small locker.
“Here’s where you can store your coat and your urine,” she said casually, as though she were saying, “Your coat and your hat” or “Your coat and your mittens.”
The following day, I placed my filled jug on a special cart, where it was whisked away by people who, I then realized, have even worse jobs than the jug-hander-outers. Do you think the jug-hander-outers bully the jug-picker-uppers? Do they TP their cars and snap them with towels in the Mayo Clinic locker room?
After all of my jug-hauling adventures, it turns out that I'm not doing too badly, urine-wise. The tests found small amounts of abnormal protein, which is never a good thing, but I don't have enough for the doctors to get too concerned. That's good news for my kidneys. I’m not sure if I will have to repeat this test someday, but if I do, I will once again be on the lookout for the police. If they try to pull me over, the jug and I will hightail it to Meh-hee-co.