Birthday Biopsy & Endoscopy

Today I spent my 27th birthday in the hospital. Literally... all... day.

This morning I went for my bone marrow biopsy, so they can test to see if the cancer has spread to my blood. The reason they do this is because it helps them to determine the "stage" of the cancer, i.e. if it's either I, II, III or IV. Obviously a lower stage is better because it means the cancer is still localized to my anterior mediastinum.

The doctor and the hematology lab technician were both friendly. I told them it was my birthday and asked if Kaitlin could maybe take some pictures of the procedure for me. They lab tech said he had heard weirder requests in his time, and that we could totally take pictures if we wanted. He told us that one time a woman came in for a biopsy and she insisted on playing a musical instrument during her procedure, and then she and her friend sang together in harmony. Say whaaaaaaat?

The procedure itself only took a few minutes. Basically the doctor froze the skin above my back pelvic bone. He then stuck a hollow needle the size of a screw driver into me. It didn't hurt too much, but it was a weird, unnerving feeling because he had to use a lot of force to actually push it into the bone. The only part that really hurt was when he sucked out the sample of bone marrow: I would equate it to the feeling of having a loose tooth that isn't quite ready, and somebody yanking on it as hard as they can. The excruciating pain only lasted a 3-4 seconds though.

The really funny thing was that when the doctor found out I wanted some photos, he said "great, I can use them when I teach my med students!" Consequently, he kept stopping the procedure to say "okay Kaitlin, come over and get a picture of this part. Oh... no... actually get it from this angle... here... yeah... right there... perfect!" Anyways, click on the photos to the right if you wanna get in nice and close!

My second birthday present was an afternoon trip to the ambulatory care centre for an endoscopy. The reason I needed to have this procedure is because I've been having really bad stomach pain for several weeks and my oncologist wanted to see if it was from an ulcer, or if the cancer had spread to my stomach. The procedure was supposed to be at 2:00 pm but one of the doctors was away sick so it actually ended up being way later. I got put on a gurney at 2:30 or so, and was hooked up to an IV line with a saline drip. I had to lie there and wait until 4:15 to have the procedure, which sucked, because I hadn't been allowed to eat since midnight and I was tired, starving, and bored; the latter because Kaitlin wasn't able to book work off in the afternoon so I didn't really have anyone to keep me company. I got the nurse to take my photo and she said, jokingly, "You look way too happy for what we are about to do to you!"

Eventually (after I sneaked in a 30 minute nap) they wheeled me into the operating room and the procedure finally got underway. They sprayed some NASTY tasting stuff into the back of my mouth to numb my throat and subdue my gag reflexes. It tasted like the world's worst cough medicine and really stung. Then the nurse put a sedative into my IV line so I would relax. Once all was ready, the doctor put a long tube with a camera and a light into my mouth and said "swallow" ... gag gag gag ... once the tube was on it's way down my throat it wasn't too bad though. The whole thing took about 20 minutes and when it was over I got wheeled back out and once I was more coherent, the doctor came to talk to me about what he had seen.

Unfortunately the endoscopy showed that the cancer has spread to my stomach. The circled part of the photo is cancer, and the white part on top of the lump is an ulcer, which explains the pain I've been having. While it is bad news that my lymphoma is spreading to other parts of my body, there isn't really much else that they can do about it at this point. My chemotherapy treatment will still start on Friday, and will still be the same regiment as previously mentioned.

Anyways... thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post which will probably be on Friday.


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