New Year’s Eve was my liver scan, and yesterday was the spinal biopsy. The last (and only) I’ve ever had was on my breast tissue, to determine that it was cancer – and that was not fun (one of the nurses I was talking to yesterday said she’d had to watch one, and she was nearly sick!) – not too bad at the time with the anaesthetic, but once it wore off, bruising for about a week afterwards. 2 weeks after that the tissue was lopped off anyway in a mastectomy.
The spinal journey:
- Last January something was spotted on my spine via MRI, they thought a benign hemangioma, and retested 3 months later. They were happy it hadn’t changed, but said they’d do another MRI scan 6 months later ‘just to be thorough’.
- That scan was in October, and indicated that the lump had shrunk… which sounds like a good thing, except that this then indicated that it had responded to the cancer drugs, and therefore could be cancerous.
- I then had a CT scan with contrast, which confirmed there was something that required further investigation.
- I then had a nuclear scan, which thankfully indicated no sign of cancer in the bones
- The surgeon then requested a spinal biopsy, so that we can identify what is on the spine once and for all.
So, on 15th January, if all the scans are back, I will find out the results of both liver scans and spinal biopsies. Obviously hoping and praying for ‘No Evidence of Disease‘ (formerly remission).
Spinal Biopsy: Waiting
It was a super-early start (with instructions not to eat after midnight, and drink nothing after 6am), to be on the ward by 8am (with post-cancer fatigue, waking at 9am is more normal):
Where it was time to hang out in the waiting room (never realised ‘waiting’ was going to be such a big thing in cancer):
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After the pre-op questions, ‘no, I’m definitely not pregnant’, wrapping various bands around my arm (like a bad festival):
Weirdly, I was then taken down to the CT suite in a wheelchair. I am still confused by that – I was perfectly capable of walking between the ward and the CT suite! But anyway, quite fun being steered through the corridors…
For the scan, I’m to be laid face down on this bed, head on the pillow, and I’ll be moved in/out of the CT scanner, as they adjust/find the spot on my back to take the sample from:
I met the surgeon, and unfortunately his first words were ‘I’m sorry, I’ve some bad news, your bloods aren’t up to date, so we can’t do the procedure today’. This was incredibly stressful, as I’m now pretty desperate for results (even if they’re bad, at least I’ll know). Fortunately for me, I’d had bloods done at the Christie just before Christmas, and they were prepared to share these with Stepping Hill – otherwise I would have to come back another day, so after a few minutes of staring at this door:
It was time for the next bit of joy – cannulation (‘only’ 3 attempts, and we were in):
The actual procedure only took around 35-40 minutes. It was a lovely, very calming team. I was given a sedative via the cannula, because I needed to keep super-still whilst they were working on my spine. Also given a local anaesthetic, and a pipe was shoved up one nostril giving me oxygen, plus heart rate monitor on my finger, and blood pressure on my arm throughout the procedure (unfortunately on my treatment arm, but they said they had no choice, and now it’s over 12 months..).
I felt various pressure points on my back as pen marks were made, and I slid in and out of the CT scanner several times (thankfully didn’t have to do any particular breathing), and various pulling and tugging as an incision was made on my back. It didn’t feel too long before they said ‘well done, it’s all done’, and then I had to shuffle across to another bed – and again went flying down the corridors.
To ensure that there’s no bleeding from the wound, I was then kept on bedrest – they said for 4 hours afterwards, then they said 5pm, but I was on the ward before noon – so managed to leave by 4.30pm (and miss some of the traffic):
Thanks to Hazel who accompanied me, as I lay there, having blood pressure and heart rate done frequently, and my back checked occasionally. We enjoyed some choc orange segment with the fizzy stuff in them, and the hospital hot drinks! I should remember if I have to do another one to download a film to my iPad and put that on, as quite dopey, but couldn’t sleep!
It’s actually a very small mark, and feel a bit like I’ve been punched in the back!:
I was in bed by 6, having had some food. I was looking forward to some TV, but halfway through an episode of Mrs Maisel, could feel myself drooping! I finished the episode and don’t remember a lot more, except for waking up 8.30, 11.30 and 4.30 for more pain relief, and slept for about 14 hours.
I had forgotten that anaesthetic left me (and others in my groups) feeling low, so that was a bit of a struggle this morning… in the afternoon, after a chat with colleague, I got enough to head out of bed, shower, and walk round the block (got to catch those Pokemon), before a Skype with my research mentor!
Really enjoying working with @Dr_Sally_Jones on ‘developing research excellence’ programme with @mmu_business. Submitted one paper before Christmas, and now about to get my head around autoethnography/cancer/social media. #Research #WIASN
— Dr Bex Lewis (@drbexl) January 8, 2019
Here’s to tomorrow feeling even better, and less pain! Back in the office on Thursday, so hopefully all good by then!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.