Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spinal tap headache hell

UGH, I've been in spinal tap headache hell all all weekend. No, I haven't been listening to the band Spinal Tap too much, or turning things up to 11. Let me explain.

Last Friday I had a spinal tap, or LP (lumbar puncture), to make sure I have no leukemic cells in my spinal cord and central nervous system. If I did, we'd have to do what's called intrathecal chemo which is basically where they do another spinal tap to administer the chemo drugs directly into your spinal cord. A spinal tap itself consists of sticking a 4" long very thin needle into your spinal cord. The clear spinal fluid drips out of the needle and can then be collected in a small vial. Compared with a bone marrow biopsy where they literally take a core sample of your bone using a corkscrew-like device (they did a biopsy on me just after the spinal tap), a spinal tap is relatively painless. Johanna was there taking pictures, which pleased the doctors and nurses to no end, since how often do they get to see pictures of themselves at work? It's not like they can say to the other nurses, "hey man, can you, uh, take a picture of me doing this spinal tap thing so that I can show my friends?". Seems like it would be kind of embarrassing. So when they saw Johanna bust out the iPhone camera they all got big smiles on their faces and even moved aside to let Johanna get better pictures. The nurse doing the spinal tap gave me her email address, and after I emailed her the photos she sent a nice response back.

Anyway, the spinal tap was a breeze, less painful and less sore than a bone marrow biopsy, but holy cow the side-effects are a major PAIN IN THE ASS. They warned me of something called a spinal tap headache, which is caused by the body compensating for the spinal fluid that was taken during the spinal tap (3 small vials). So they said load up on caffeine as much as possible. Easy enough I thought. I'm good at that. So Friday afternoon I loaded up on lots of coffee and felt great. Saturday morning I lounged around and watched TV. But by Saturday afternoon I felt the headache coming on, and it came on HARD. By then it was too late, the headache was so bad I couldn't keep anything down and was curled up in a ball on the couch and praying to the porcelain gods all evening. Around 11pm we finally called the nurse and she recommended dissolving an anti-nausea pill under my tongue since I couldn't keep water down, then taking tylenol a half-hour later. That seemed to help enough so that I could get some sleep. But I've been struggling with this stupid headache for the last few days now no matter how much coffee I drink. What a pain. The only way to make it go away is to lie flat on my back, but that's not very fun for very long.

Yesterday we got the results of the spinal tap back and it showed no signs of leukemia in the central nervous system, so that's great news.

Here are some pictures from the spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy so you can get a taste of things from the front-line. I hid them behind links for those of you that get squeamish (they really aren't so bad).

Collecting spinal fluid into a vial
Collecting liquid bone marrow


Anonymous said...

You will get thru this. You both are in our thoughts and prayers. Keep your spirits up and try to find a way to laugh as often and hard as you can whenever you can.

Our Hoss (120#chocolate lab retriever) and I were horsing around today and the brute tackled me (58 y/o coot). At first I thought oh oh here comes the pain, all I could do was laugh, because Hoss had the most shocked expresssion on his kisser, like what's your problem ya' old fool" I got up dusted myself on and went on. So far no pain.
Uncle Leon

Nic said...

Well, the head aches sound like no fun indeed but I'm glad to hear the no-no news in the nervous system... hang in there my man.

lynda said...

ugh, sorry to hear about your headaches, that sounds awful. i hope they're getting better. btw, you're a terrific writer, and i miss seeing you at your desk! :)

George said...

It looks like from that first picture they have all sorts of your fluids. Maybe that was the problem, they said they were taking 3 vials and ended up taking 23??

Headaches just suck so bad. I get migraines every once in a while. Lying in a dark room usually helps too.

(btw I have 10 mo Chocolate lab too and he knocked me down the stairs. He felt so bad after he did it. He waited by me until I could catch my breath... I couldn't lift anything for a week :) )