The biopsy went down well

The surgeon/radiologist was Dr. Gilman, the Associate Director of Thoracic Imaging and Intervention at MGH and someone already familiar with my lungs, having performed at least one (and possibly two) of my previous biopsies. He is kind, calm and possesses the sort of delicate and fine boned hands that seem entirely apt for the precise operations he performs.

Prior to the procedure, a needle core biopsy, Dr. Gilman explained that there were two feasible locations within my lung from which to extract a sample. One of them, which could be accessed through the side of my chest, posed a greater risk as it was uncomfortably near to my heart. The better choice was a region of consolidation that hugged my pleural lining. In order to maximize the area from which the sample(s) would be taken, it was necessary to approach vertically rather than horizontally. And that meant that the needle would have to first pass through my left breast.

An IV with twilight or a lightly sedating dose of anesthesia was started, with a bit of Xanax thrown in to stave off any possible nausea. My left side was propped up until I was lying at a vertiginous tilt, and I was securely strapped in place.

As they prepped the skin around my breast, I began to feel the effects of the sedation. Usually, I’m easy when it comes to anesthesia, however, I managed to hover on the edge of awareness for much of the procedure. I knew I was moving in and out of the CT scanner and also recall seeing the CT image displayed on a screen; the outline of my breast pierced by a long needle reaching into my lung. Surprisingly, I was also occasionally cognizant of pain, and even flinched once–not something you want to do when undergoing a needle biopsy. After that, I focused on holding still, and, perhaps because I was rather emotionally detached, found it easy to do.

At some point the nurse asked if I’d like additional Xanax–I believe I mumbled yes and then immediately nodded off. I stayed asleep until it was time to take me for the first post procedure x-ray. The next couple of hours were less comfortable, as I was now wide awake and needed to lie on my stomach without speaking. The orderly who brought me back from radiology had forgotten to hook up my call button and I really, really had to pee. David popped his head in and I whispered my urgent need. A bed pan was brought; a less than optimal solution under any circumstances. This one proved to be of inadequate volume, and a change of bedding was required. Oh, the indignity.

After one more chest x-ray around 3pm (checking for pneumo-thorax) I was given the all clear. Dr. Shaw had come around earlier to say the procedure had gone well, but as I couldn’t ask questions, I didn’t get a lot of information. However, Dr. Gilman stopped by before I checked out and explained that he had in fact been able to get numerous core samples–each a sliver of tissue but hopefully laden with cancer cells. He also said it hadn’t been easy as my breast tissue was exceptionally dense, something that I am well familiar with and that has posed a challenge at my yearly mammograms.

So home I went, groggy and sore of boob. Dr. Shaw called that evening and said that it appeared there would be enough tissue for gene sequencing and a mouse model as well—actual cells from my cancer would be implanted in live mice. Ethically, this causes me some pause. However, if a successful mouse model is established, potential therapies could be tested for efficacy before actually being administered to me, and that is hard to quarrel with.

Now, we await the results.

23 responses to “The biopsy went down well

  1. I too just had that same procedure done 2 days ago. I feel your pain, and now we wait.. Good luck!

  2. The animal testing issue has been on my brain lately too. I deemed it worthy of a post but unable to really find my position on the topic. I feel a big gap exists between beauty products and cancer fighting medication…but again, still working it out. (And still buying animal friendly beauty products.)

    What is gene sequencing?

    Glad the biopsy went as planned. 🙂

  3. That all sounds good, under the circumstances. Welcome home. FWIW, the mouse would be another trailblazer, helping find new and better ways to fight ALK-driven lung cancer, making a sacrifice no less than we are making in this battle. The name “Hero” comes to mind.

    • Craig, my friend Thao made the wry observation that we (those of us who have participated in clinical trials) have much in common with these lab mice. Still, I struggle, but not enough to interfere with what I hope will be a small contribution to the data bank. And, if all goes well, I may be able to make some withdrawals from that bank too 🙂


  4. Thanks for the update! Waiting with you.

  5. sharing a cup of coffee with you is always educational, thank you for sharing

  6. Wow! I’m SO glad all has gone as well as possible so far. Still praying diligently for your situation. May the Lord give you strength and draw you close to Him as you fight this battle!

  7. Had a port implanted on Wednesday and my first treatment (second round) with carboplatin and alimta on Thursday. I’m sitting here with crossed fingers (so will keep them crossed for you too!) My first round with these drugs went amazingly smoothly…apparently way less toxic than your previous experience with Chemo….and hopefully you’ll also have an easy time with them. They also worked well…two years of stability, so here’s hoping for us, both that they are tough on the cancer while being gentle with the rest of us.

    • Marj, I am hoping that this bears NO resemblance to my first chemo experience. And how interesting to learn that one can go back to the well again–I hope this time is as useful for (and gentle to) you as the first time. Sisters in chemo!


  8. thank you for update Linnea ~ I hope for good results only with results. I am sensitive to animal testing, but when it comes to things like this I have no qualms myself. sending love

  9. So glad things went well. Did you wear lucky Chinese red? Keep us all posted, don’t worry about the mice, sending lots of love, on and on and onward…

    • Joan, I wore colorful red and hot pink striped knee socks, so I guess I was covered. And you know, I have no issue with dispensing of the vermin (the wild counterparts to those mice in the lab) who invade our home–so go figure.

      love right back at ya….

  10. Linnea I have read all the comments and thought a lot about the ones with concerns about using the mice. This morning I came across this report of research done at the University of Toronto and recently released. If you haven’t seen it it, I thought some of you might be interested in the findings – with the help of mice.

  11. For clarification as to why I posted this – I should have added that I do understand his research is in colon cancer but if his findings can work on this cancer it is quite likely that the same dormant cells are at play in other cancers and could explain why tumors can reoccur.

    • Beryl, I read the article with great interest. Cancer is incredibly complex, with all sorts of ‘options’ or mechanisms for spread. I believe that even as we gain greater understanding, we will realize how much more there is to comprehend. And in the meantime, cancer will be rolling the dice, again and again. As a patient, it is daunting and frightening as well. For researchers, it poses one big endless challenge. I am so glad that there are great minds dedicated to cancer research—may more monies be channeled in their direction.


  12. I’m so glad all went well. You are in my prayers.

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