The Lumbar Puncture Broke Me to Tears

When they went into my chest to shave a piece off Hercule, I felt some discomfort rather than pain.

Same when they bored into my hip to extract some bone marrow.

I was quite chipper during both procedures. During the chest biopsy, they gave me additional sedative. Possibly to shut me up.

But the lumbar puncture was a different story. It brought me to tears.

It's a necessary procedure to extract spinal fluid for analysis. They need to know whether the cancer has spread there. You lie on your side in the foetal position or bend over forwards, and someone inserts a needle into the gap between a couple of your vertebrae to draw out the fluid.

It doesn't hurt.

What hurts is if they nick a nerve with the needle. That hurts like absolute buggering fury.

Did you know there are 31 pairs of spinal nerves? It's like a neural motorway.

The oncologist dug into a nerve during the first three attempts at a lumbar puncture. Each time a hissing lava streak of screeching agony tore down my right leg.

The third strike reduced me to tears. I tried to hide it. Even encouraged the oncologist to give it another go. But she decided I'd reached my limit, especially as it was my second procedure that day. I went back to the ward a wreck.

What made it worse was knowing we'd have to try again.

Two days later, I brought a photograph of my daughter with me and gave it to the oncologist. I asked her to hand it to me when things got tough. I was frightened of the pain, but desperate to get the procedure done this time, no matter what.

I lay there, knowing the pain was coming, but not when.

But the pain didn't come.

The fourth attempt was flawless.

Hairless

Our dog moults like no animal on earth. With one exception. Me.

My hair is coming out at an annoying rate. Annoying, because it gets everywhere. In my eyes. In my mouth. In my food. Seriously, my moustache hairs just drop off into my dinner. I know it's a horrible image, but I'm reporting from the frontline here and you're not paying me to embellish the facts.

I've decided to shave it all off tonight.

My daughter is going to help me. We thought it would make the transition less daunting for her if she were involved. Quite frankly, she leapt at the idea. She recognises the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shave her dad bald. What teenager gets to do that? My mum and dad never let me shave them bald.

I reckon this just about makes me the coolest dad on the planet.

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The Vertical Headache

If you are ever offered a post-lumbar-puncture headache, politely decline. That's my advice.

They are a bit like being smacked on the front of your brain with a red-hot claw hammer.

They are caused by the drop in spinal fluid pressure after a lumbar puncture. And they happen when you are vertical. At least in my case.

Vertical: Hammer time!

Horizontal: kittens and rainbows.

So, I spent three days of my first spell out of hospital on my back in bed.

Going to the toilet became a battle of wills.

Bladder: I'm full. Let's go.

Brain: No way.

Bladder: Seriously, I'm straining here. We should do something about that.

Brain: Jesus! What are you, like the size of a walnut? We went five minutes ago.

Bladder: I'm not kidding. I will piss the bed.

Brain: Don't you fucking dare!

Bladder: Oh, look. I let a little bit out by accident.

Brain: What the...?!

Bladder: Plenty more where that came from.

Brain: Jesus! All right! We'll go!

Moral of the story: never get into a pissing contest with your bladder.


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Roger Overall