With clinical trials, data are king. And to get that data, a bit of sacrifice by the patient—above and beyond the treatment—is necessary. Here are the 5 most invasive parts of my stem cell transplant....

5) Copious blood draws. This was mandatory and still is. Before, during and after the transplant you have to be stuck and restuck. Fortunately, much of my blood drawn when I was in the hospital was out of my CVC (the hole in my chest), so no pricks were necessary.

4) MRIs. These really weren't invasive per se, but my last MRI was 2 hours long, which included some special extra imaging. I got a leg cramp, which became excruciating. That, along with my crushed ears from the headset, made what is usually a cakewalk unbelievably challenging.

3) Lumbar puncture. Most of us MSers have gotten one and it's usually pretty quick. But for this study, they wanted to drain as much spinal fluid as possible, 10x what usually gets taken. So I was on the table for a full hour filling up vials. Fortunately it was a trick LP machine and a tiny needles, so I felt nothing and zero headaches afterward.

2) Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. This sounds bad, but that's about it. They give you enough local and (if you ask) a "fuzzy" pill to make you forget about the huge needle that is going into your hip. This procedure may be necessary for SCT patients with cancer, but I don't know if that would be true for MSers.

1) Central line placement. To harvest your own stem cells and to accept chemotherapy, it is far easier, quicker, and safer to do it through a central venous catheter (CVC)—basically a port in you chest near your collarbone. I was a wuss and got put under for the procedure, which was pie. The anesthesiologist was both a car nut and a huge supporter of the MS150. And right when the conversation got rolling, the Michael Jackson sleep drug kicked in and I was out. What seemed like seconds later I was back with the world and totally aware of everything with no grogginess.
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