Like many of you, the thought of a SPINAL TAP completely freaked me out. We’ve all heard horror stories, we all know the cultural stigma (like a root canal, but so much worse that people don’t even joke about it), and we’ve all heard Ween’s drippingly creepy “Spinal Meningitis.” Well, we probably all haven’t heard that song because it’s completely insane and obscure (which is how I like my musics to be). If you didn’t take the time to listen to it, or just couldn’t get through it because you’re a wimp, it’s sung from the perspective of a little kid who is experiencing the fear of an impending spinal tap.
Why they wanna see my spine mommy?
Why they wanna see my spine?
It’s gonna hurt again mommy
Much worse than last time
Am I gonna see God, mommy?
Am I gonna die?
It really hurts mommy!
Am I gonna die?
I’m feelin’ greasy mommyPlease don’t let me die
Stinky vaseline mommy!
Please don’t let me die
Fucked up, right? Well thankfully I only have leukemia and not spinal meningitis. That sounds way worse, to be honest.
Anyway, that song basically sums up all of my previous assumptions about spinal taps…but I’m happy to report that my experience was more like listening to Hotel California: mildly annoying. It was so painless, actually, that I have to throw away my joke about the pain going “up to eleven.” (Get it? Do you get the joke? Because…you know, the movie…do you get it?)
My spinal tap doctor has the reputation of being the fucking pro of pros in his field. He absolutely lived up to his reputation of being minimally invasive, gentle and straight up good at his job. I picked his brain about why the culture is so afraid of his craft, and he explained that he uses way smaller needles than other doctors, has an insane amount of experience during which he picked up some pain saving secrets, and the people who experience pain from a tap are the people whose spines are unhealthy to begin with. So it’s not the procedure that hurts, it’s the doctor or your previously fucked up spine that hurts you. This was all great news to be because I’m supposed to have a few more of these babies in the next couple of weeks.
The only pain I felt during the procedure was the local anesthetic shot he gave me. Then he removed some fluid, which I didn’t feel at all. After that he injected chemo directly into my spine, which I definitely felt. It wasn’t painful as much as it was a mild pressure. I could feel my spine being “filled up” with something and had a dull feeling in my tailbone, then at the very last minute my left leg tingled and it was over. Who knows, maybe I’m just #leuky.
I had been kvetching to my doctors and nurses about the tap for the previous few days. I went so far as to demand that they pump me so full of anti anxiety meds that I were to be barely awake during the procedure. Now I feel like an absolute baby for being so concerned. It was the part of this whole cancer ordeal that I was most afraid of, but it turns out I was afraid of the fear, and not of the reality.*