warning – contains graphic details of my biopsy.
well, today was the biopsy. right now, in terms of medical procedures, i am up to:
1 x ultrasound (abdominal)
1 x CT scan
1 x endoscopy
2 x MRI (abdominal)
1 x biopsy (liver)
the last five have required cannulas to be dug into my arm. the endoscopy was full sedation, the biopsy partial.
though out of all of these the biopsy was the most frightening for me before going in, the worst have been overwhelmingly the MRIs. they are extremely alienating. they take a really long time, are exceptionally noisy, and there is a constant wheezing sound coming out of the machine from the moment you enter the reception area. the plastic top of the machine is inches from your faces, and there’s always a wait between the initial insertion of the contrast (by IV, whilst inside the machine) to the final contrast shot which varied between two hours and half an hour.
the colours of medical procedures interest me. today was green and blue. the biopsy was ‘guided’ by an ultrasound – meaning that they used the ultrasound ‘wand’ to identify where in the liver to take the cells from. so, it was not so much a procedure room/theatre, but done in a small ultrasound room, with charts of foetuses in various stages of development on the walls, and green cupboards and flicked white and green floor. the chairs the nurse and doctor sat on were blue, and the machinery was standard issue medical cream. i found this much better than grey, white, cream, which is the MRI experience – always in half light, always dim. there’s something deadly about grey, white and cream.
the procedure itself was without terror. i was only minimally frightened going in, due to my wise decision to take Mighty Seroquel the night before to ease the anxiety.* the nurses were as always, wonderful – one stood by me the whole time, holding my hand – it turns out she was on annual leave for her 60th birthday, but was called in for my procedure to help me through it. this is both incredibly moving, and more than a little bit scary, as things like this emphasise the seriousness with which people are taking the situation. the twilight anaesthetic was administered, as mentioned above, via a cannula in my left arm – my right arm has had 3 cannulas in my arm, and 1 in the back of my hand, as well as a blood test in the last two and a half weeks, so i thought it was my left arms turn. less experienced people tend to shy from that, as i’m tattooed over the main vein. more skilled ones have no issue, as needles should be inserted by ‘feel’ rather than by big veiny goodness.
the local anaesthetic was placed first in the surface – between two ribs into the muscle, and then into the sac surrounding my liver. this hurt slightly, but due to the sedation, i really couldn’t have cared less. it was an interesting, jolly experience. it was a weird sedation experience – i really, really hoped i would be completely out of it, but i needed to be quite coherent in order to hold my breath. the doctor then used the biopsy needle to get the sample out, asking me to hold my breath at various points in order to prevent, you know, stabbing the wrong bit of my liver. again, should have been terrifying, rather it was just a little gross, and made clicking sounds. i held the nurses hand tightly. two needles later, and the whole thing was over. the second biopsy hurt, but not severely – just mild discomfort, and not as bad as a flu shot.
everyone told me it was ok to feel afraid. the doctor told me he was terrified of the dentist, and the nurse told me about having severe anxiety before an operation once. they told me i did really well. i felt as though i was not being stupid, and that it was ok for me to feel how i did. this is an amazingly empowering thing in what is a deeply disempowering situation. this is why i prefer procedures like this, and the endoscopy – people are gentle and kind and close to you. i feel less isolated, less trapped in a loud, cold, dark fishtank with glass mirrors to make sure i’m not having an anxiety attack. a woman who should have been off enjoying her birthday held my hand, and a kind man looked deeply apologetic for causing me pain.
i know a part of the kindness is that they all know that i am being checked for a malignancy so rare that it’s probably not going to come up on a google search – and even the best case scenario isn’t great. i didn’t mention last time that the ‘good’ tumours are pre-malignancies which is why they need to be removed.
another interesting thing to note – apparently they are not ‘tumours’ but rather ‘lesions’. they are caused by some sort of damage to the liver. in the case of the oestrogen bastards, it’s from the oestrogen scarring the liver, and forming a mass around the scar. i’m not ready to google the difference, to be honest.
right now, some hours after the procedure, the pain is mild and entirely manageable. it’s a slight, dull ache that will probably make it hard to sleep comfortably, but that’s about the extent of it. in some ways, i feel like being tattooed is the best preparation i could have had to this whole bullshit nightmare – nothing hurts nearly as much as the day i had my full sleeve outlined, and my body went into shock from the pain and i almost passed out. i’ve also had Irritable Bowel for as long as i can remember, which comes with shattering stomach cramps that have caused me to both vomit and pass out from pain. pain isn’t always bad. it is a tool we can use, and manage, and that helps us know when something is wrong, or a response to a situation which might be good long term, but hard short term. pain is not comfortable, and not enjoyable – but sometimes, it’s important.
*seroquel, for those who don’t have an inbuilt medication encyclopedia, is an atypical antipsychotic which operates in a very odd way – its does changes what it does. so, at a low dose for your body size, it acts as a very effective sedative and anti-anxiety medication – a medium does, as an antidepressant – a high dose, a potent antipsychotic. i find it quite effective for psychosis at a lower level as well, but that’s not a current challenge for me, due to being on mood stabilisers as well.