Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lumbar Punctures at Teaching Hospitals

I had my lumbar puncture yesterday to see if there are any cancer cells in my spinal fluid and it went okay. It's an uncomfortable procedure, but easier when fluoroscopy-guided, so the doctors can see where they are sticking the needle and only do it once.

I am being treated at the University of Washington Medical Center, which is a teaching hospital. This means that during the lumbar puncture (LP, for those in the know!), a resident is doing the procedure with an attending doctor watching and giving advice. I've had at least five now with a rotation of different residents.

Now, all of the residents are really good and this is all part of their training. However, when you are the one on the table with a needle going into your spine, it can be difficult to relax and trust what they are doing. I normally grip the pillow pretty hard. I know that I left marks on my mom's hand when she was in there with me!

During my first LP, I had a little seizure getting up on the table, which I think was caused by nerves. The resident was describing how he was maneuvering the needle and it wasn't making sense, so the attending asked him to "use his words". What?!?! If the needle was not in my back, I would have run away! Thankfully, that resident learned his lesson because the next LP he gave me was the most pain-free. 

The second one caused me to feel like there was liquid running down my back and legs. The chemo they injected cost about $6000, so I had to ask if the chemo was leaking since I wasn't going to pay for it! Apparently that is just the sensation my nerves get, which of course is unusual.

If anything weird could happen, it'll happen to me. After my last LP, I developed chemical meningitis, which was the most painful experience I've had and of course, very unusual. My resident yesterday was excited to meet someone who actually had meningitis, but kinda disappointed when he found out it wasn't caused by infection, but by the chemo. Really?

So, I'll find out the results this week. Hopefully, the cancer cells will be gone. If not, my doctor has to come up with another plan...again! Thanks to everyone for your kind comments. I would appreciate more prayers this week! Thank you!


  1. Fingers are crossed for great results!!! Call me when you find out! xoxo Kelley

  2. Praying for wonderful results. I love reading your humorous spin on the situation. Not sure I could look at some of those LP in such a humorous light. Really "use your words" I would have hurt him.
    Love you Tiff and you are always in my prayers and my families as well.

  3. You're hilarious* I wouldn't pay for one drop that wasn't in my body either! That's so crazy with the resident Dr.'s , Thank God an Attending Dr. was there too!

  4. Tiffany, your blog has much humor in it this time. Although painful, going through this experience I am proud you shared a humorous side to your proceedure. Seeing the glass half full. I'm sorry you had to have residents take care of you... my wife was a resident once and now an attending physician for the past 9 year. I have to say well?... :) anyway thanks for sharing your story, Esmerelda and I are thankful to call you friend. Keep up the good work!!!

  5. Tiffany, your Dad gave me the information on your blog. Great job! He first let us know about your cancer last year while my husband was going through cancer treatments. We have had you in our hearts since.

    I wrote a blog during Salt's treatment, and a lot of his friends wanted to be a part of it. Actually writing the blog was so good for me. I could pour everything out on-line, and then edit and put a positive spin on everything.

    Anyway, we are thinking of you. We are sending love, prayers and energy to you. If you ever just need a place to go where you can read a good book and put your feet up, think of us. We are a house of laughter and have lots of books and snug places . . . and hot tea.