Bone Marrow Biopsies Are No Walk in the Park
Last updated: April 2023
Acronyms are a short way to describing something but it’s usually rare to have one that has two totally different meanings like this. The BMX I speak of is a far different experience than riding a BMX bike. Many of those with multiple myeloma and other blood cancers know all too well the plight of yearly bone marrow biopsies (or aspirations). Bone marrow biopsy is often abbreviated to BMX.
The National Cancer Institute describes a bone marrow biopsy as "a procedure in which a small sample of bone with bone marrow inside it is removed, usually from the hip bone."1
Unsettling and stressful
During my first unexpected experience with this unknown procedure, I could be heard screaming all the way in the reception area. The experience was/is unsettling and stressful. I always say that with technology and the advancement of medicine, it still blows me away how some procedures still seem so very barbaric. Though I understand the need to extract these specific marrow plasma cells mostly from the back hip bone (iliac crest)... well, let’s just say it’s a hard pill to swallow during the process!
Hopeful for a better future
There was a buzz for the last few years about improvements to liquid BMX. It seems we still have a way to go, but it’s clear that these samples are pertinent in telling us about our cancers. From my research, the developments seem to point to how a patient can better tolerate the process, not having options or better ways to test and obtain samples. Perhaps in the future, there will be a day when we can get what we need with precision through something like simple blood work... I hope!
What does a bone marrow biopsy feel like?
For the many patients who’ve become familiar with the process and other procedures of multiple myeloma, there's something about the BMX that we have to mentally prepare to handle. If someone who doesn't know what this was all about asked how this procedure feels, it's a different experience for everyone. For me, a BMX feels like a churning suction cup installed in your bone. The pressure is unbearable. It’s really a discomfort more than it is a pain. But because you know what has taken place, it feels so unreal and invasive that it makes the whole experience daunting. Many of us have our battle wounds, but no matter how many years with myeloma, this is an experience that's hard to get past.
I recall looking online at exactly what is entailed with a BMXC procedure because, quite frankly, I always close my eyes and hold on to my husband (and sometimes the nurse's) hand. I’ve never had my eyes open fully to see exactly how they go about it. I know this is a sterile procedure and there are a few needles involved to numb the area (may I add the numbing needle is painful, as well). Anyway, I was about to watch a video but I couldn’t go through seeing what was happening. Why see that when I’m living it for myself, right? Many people I’ve spoken with can’t handle the steps and ask to be sedated, which is not openly suggested. I try to take on and get through the whole process with toughness like the many of you.
BMX vs. BMX
Perhaps the two BMX acronyms are slightly comparable. When we think about BMX racing, it involves speed, jumping, a perfect spot to run the course, and a finish line. Well, with a bone marrow biopsy/aspiration, the perfect spot for the incision is inspected. There’s no room for jumping in this reference because any slight movement is a very bad thing and this whole process can take anywhere from 40- 60 minutes including prepping, so speed isn't there either. But, we also have a finish line. We made it, sore and all, but we get through this every time.
The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile….when you feel like it
How do you feel about your support system?