Now around half way through cycle #7, I was booked in today for another bone marrow biopsy at Southampton General. Whilst the light chain levels measured from the blood samples that I give at the end of each cycle generally give a good indication of how things are progressing, ultimately it’s the proliferating monoclonal plasma cells in the bone marrow (i.e. the myeloma) that are the source of the excess light chain levels (leading to amyloidosis), so the consultants wanted to get another look at what’s going on at the cellular level in my bone marrow to get a fuller picture of how I’ve responded to the induction chemo so far.
The bone marrow biopsy really isn’t as bad as you might imagine. It’s done on the rear upper part of the pelvis (sort of lower back) with a local anaesthetic. Other than the needle pricks of the anaesthetic going in, there’s no real pain involved. There’s a certain amount of pushing and shoving behind you as you lie sideways on the bed, and quite a strange vibration-like sensation when I think the actual core sample was taken, but it’s over soon enough.
There are two main parts to it: an aspirate (a sample of semi-liquid bone marrow) and a trephine (a small solid piece of bone marrow). This is what part of the aspirate ends up looking like when put onto microscope slides:
The registrar who did the procedure explained that the red fluid is basically blood, but it’s the specks that you can see on the slides which are actually little bits of bone marrow. Perhaps looks a little gruesome spread out like that, but in fact that’s quite a small sample just spread out thinly over the slides.
After just a few minutes lying on the patch put over the site, I was given the all clear to go, so toddled off downstairs, hopped on my bike and cycled home…
Had a funny experience earlier this week when I had a large work project to work on in the office. The office temperature felt a little on the low side, and it’s my habit when a) it’s a bit cold and b) I have something chunky to concentrate on, to put a hat on to keep my head warm so that (I at least feel that) I can concentrate better on the task in hand.
I was making steady progress with the work, concentrating determinedly on the spread of papers across my desk, when there was a timid knock at the office door. A colleague quietly slipped in with a concerned look on his face, and asked how I was doing. “Yes, OK thanks,” I said and set off into my usual potted summary of where I am with the chemo and where it’s hoped that things will progress next. He then commented that he had seen me with my beanie hat on in the office, and had wondered if the chemo was starting to take it’s toll a little more heavily.
I had to laugh, as I explained my enhanced thinking technique and assured him that, at least at this stage of the chemo, I wasn’t expected to lose any hair and indeed haven’t done so far. But it did remind me that wearing a beanie indoors as a chemo patient might make some observers jump to some conclusions…
Never fear folks, still just as wild and curly on top for now 🙂