Copious Bloodworkby Chris Battle, survivor on March 1, 2011
Note: This article is cross posted from The Kidney Cancer Chronicles.
Some people have their own hairstylists or nutritionists. A few have personal chefs and drivers. I have my own phlebotomist. His name is Robert. He does not pick up my laundry or watch my children. He doesn’t even iron my shirts. He is paid to stick me with needles, the bastard. He draws blood. He is a blood-drawer. He prefers “phlebotomist,” he tells me. Like he went to the Harvard School of Vein Puncturing.
“Phlebotomist, huh? Sadist is what you are,” I tell him. “A blood-draining sadist with a toolbox of pointy objects and biohazard stickers.”
Then he sticks me. Hard. I guess I was asking for it, but I tell him he just karate-gouged away part of his Christmas bonus.
“There’s no fainting around here,” he says dismissively.
Oh, touché, sir, touché.
To my credit, despite having enough blood drawn to fill a Big Gulp, I did not pass out. Dena had assured Robert that I would indeed go dark. She informs everybody of this. At every opportunity. Loudly, determinedly – like a carnival barker. “Careful, my husband passes out around blood.” She says it at the doctor’s office, she says it at the hospital, she says it at the infusion center, she says it at McDonald’s. And always with the authority of a physicist noting that gravity must always pull apples earthward. So now Robert, my personal phlebotomist, has the upper hand. He knows my weakness. He owns me.
There is a surprising amount of bloodwork with clinical trials. I had no idea. Copious amounts were removed from my circulatory system last Monday, to the point where I could barely stay awake once we got home. Yesterday, we made a special Saturday trip into Baltimore just for another draw. At the break of dawn tomorrow, I’ll have another, followed by a day of physical exams, awkward poking, intrusive questions and then more needling for my IV and hour-long infusion of MDX-1106. Then we’ll wrap up the evening with more needles and a final blood draw for the day, a kind of phlebotomistic after-dinner brandy.
My schedule for the week is a little spotty at the moment. I was informed that I would need to plan on a ten-hour day tomorrow. It will be the first day that they inject me with the drug, and a lot of anxious monitoring will occur. If my jugular is going to swell with an allergic reaction or should I begin speaking in tongues, it’s likely to occur tomorrow. My dad will be on hand with my iPhone to capture any cool video. If we get past that first day okay, then the rest of the week will be devoted largely to monitoring, exams and sucking dry whatever withered tributaries of blood I have left. Looking at the schedule, I have at least three more days devoted to the art of phlebotomizing over the course of the week.
Robert and I are going to become very good friends.