The picture you see above (courtesy of Emily!) is as close as I hope any of you ever get to a spinal tap. But it’s quite a masterpiece. I didn’t know if I actually wanted to look at these pictures – might make me more concerned about the procedure – but I decided they were pretty cool. I think I’ll frame this one and use it as a conversation starter.
Round 2 – the treatment phase at least – was substantially more difficult than round 1. Nothing against the fine professionals at Hopkins, but needle proficiency was not at an all-time high yesterday. The morning blood draw left my arm with a bit more blood on it than I usually like, and the spinal tap…well let’s just say it took a few punches before we hit pay dirt. Which is fine, except in the spinal region.
Nonetheless, everybody got what they needed. Due to my hellish round 1, I changed things up this time around, going with the IV fluids during the procedure and spending the rest of the day as flat and still as possible. Will it work? I’ll let you know Thursday afternoon.
More interestingly, I did get to speak with Don (Dr. Ambinder’s PA, who will be referred to as “Don” from here on out) about the results of my spinal fluid analysis. The bad news: nothing. The good news: everything. The whistles. They go woo.
Don actually didn’t seem like he was going to bring up the issue during our brief conversation, so I asked about the fluid analysis directly. I’ve only been with these folks for a couple weeks, so it’s still hard to figure everything out: Do they routinely tell patients everything? Do they only tell patients if the news is bad? How long do these things take?
In any event, Don game me a comprehensive answer in an excruciating manner. The way he explained it, pathologists look at four things: The number of cells present (mine was 1 per sq millimeter), the glucose and protein levels, which elevate when there’s excessive cellular activity (my levels were normal), and the cells themselves in a process called flow cytometry and one other process that involves essentially smashing the cells to analyze them. Pathologists did not detect any lymphoma cells or abnormal activity during the final two tests. For good measure, I asked Don if I was correct in interpreting this as good news. He said yes. So…woo.
Of course, this was the expectation. And there’s still some chance that one of the later fluid samples comes back and something bad shows up. But this was as good as the news could have been based on our first sample. Had there been activity, I’m looking at a much longer IT chemo regimen…possibly in the 15-20 treatment range. That would have taken a long time. And been unpleasant. I wanted to avoid that. As it is, I’m looking at 5 treatments total (3 more). And, I pray, a very good (and universally agreed upon) long term prognosis.
Still have one final hurdle to clear – the PET scan analysis. Of course, like everything else, this thing got jacked up. I thought I had all 3 discs in early March; I didn’t. I tried to get the discs before my first treatment, and they didn’t get in the mail in time. I hoped to have them before my second treatment, and somebody put the wrong tracking number on the discs; they got lost. Finally, I got the thing in the mail on Saturday and got it to Don today. So he’s gonna take a look at some things. And hopefully I can clear that final hurdle.
I’m just going to spend the next 24 hours or so horizontal on a water-and-caffeine diet. As much fun as the Oxycodone pills are, I’m going to try to avoid them if I can. But if I can’t…expect more fun posts.