The day we check in, staff is running late. We go exploring down Charles Street and around the neighborhood, come back to MGH and run into a construction worker looking out a picture frame window at excavating being done between buildings. I ask him for a verbal tour of all the hospital buildings we were looking at. He ends with the stately original structure, topped by the Ether Dome and small museum. Paul’s ears perk up at the word MUSEUM, as there has not a been a museum in this wide world that he is not interested in exploring (just ask our kids!)

In the old days surgeries were “performed” if you will, before live audiences, in small amphitheaters. Apparently, it was a sellout crowd in October, 1846 when Dentist William T.G. Morton proffered ether to patient Edward G. Abbott, and surgeon John Collins Warren, MD, removed a tumor from the jaw of Mr. Abbott who did not flinch or yell out and awoke to report he felt and recalled nothing. Thus ushered in the era of anesthesia, a monumental miracle in medicine, where most of us by a certain age have had some procedure for diagnostic or treatment purposes, or routine dental care done with little to no pain. The Ether Dome is a tribute to this inaugural event.

It is not lost on me today, as I have my first spinal tap to both remove samples of spinal fluid to look for trouble maker cells and to administer chemotherapy through to the area, in case any such cells are trying to set up shop in my central nervous system.

I had three glorious unmedicated home births, so an epidural type procedure is not in my wheelhouse. The worry before the procedure is much worse than the actual event, which takes place in an interventionist radiology suite, with Bonnie Raitt soothing my nerves and the kindest, most capable team of doctor, nurses and other support people to help. Local anesthetic is used and I do not feel much.

I lean into my meditation practice when, lying prone with the area of my back cleaned and the needle aspirating. There is a normal flow to cerebrospinal fluid but nonetheless, the top part of the gurney is tilted up a bit to encourage the movement, kind of like tipping a ketchup bottle to get migration started, without the smack to the bottom, thank you!

I was asked to breathe deeply and do a Valsalva for three seconds then exhale for four seconds for the 20 minutes or so it took to retrieve the vials of my blessed cerebrospinal fluid. My mantras beyond the breathwork were: “I’m breathing in peace and healing; I’m breathing out stress and worry.” And intermittently, “I can do hard things.” When all done, I am asked to lie flat on my back for an hour, which I am doing right now, resting while Paul ensures I stay hydrated and nourished.

While sitting in the ether dome a few days back, I realize it has spectacular acoustics. I sang in there for a half an hour with my Voice Record App open, singing harmony to songs I love. Some of you know that each year on our wedding anniversary, I write a song for Paul that mentions the year number we’ve reached. Here is a snip of Sophia singing harmony like no one else can do from year #thirty, seven years back. In the ether dome I worked to lay down a third line of harmony, which is unrecorded but at least to my ear, sounded pretty good.

Listen here:

Hallelujah for advances in science. Hallelujah for reaching another day. Hallelujah for all that harmonizes in our lives. May we each go from strength to strength.

Love & Light from Fifty-Five Fruit Street
#EtherDome #harmony #leukemia #survivor #thriver