Saturday, December 01, 2007

neutropenia

As many of you know, my chemotherapy treatment schedule is currently administered in three-week cycles. Due to levels of chemicals, how long they take to kick in, how long they take to flush out, how much rest I get plus various other issues, I would describe the schedule in the following way:

Week 1- Sucks.
Week 2- Extremely sucks.
Week 3- Somewhat sucks.

And then the cycle repeats.

This has been the story of my life health-wise for about 48 weeks now. When close friends and family call and say, "how are you?", I can say, "I feel like my usual Week 1" and they know what I'm saying.

So, given this long-standing routine, it is notable that my last Week 3 (or in hospital parlance, Day 15) in-hospital intra-venous treatment was Nov. 7, almost one month ago. This is the longest I've gone "off treatment" in almost two years. The reason my next cycle has been postponed three times so far rains on my toxin-free parade.

The first thing they do when I go in for treatment is take a series of blood samples from which they assess the robustness of my health to make sure my body can withstand the chemo that week. The past 3 weeks, the lab has reported white blood cell counts too low to withstand chemotherapy. Since chemo attacks infant cells as they try to grow and multiply, they can't fight the potential cancer cells without harming my already low white blood cell count. (WBCs fight infection and are muy importante.)

What this means is two things. One, I am very tired, because it takes the body a lot of energy to produce these fighter cells. Think of yourself with a cold or the flu. Two, I need to be very careful about exposure to bacteria. That means avoiding a lot of things I'm already supposed to avoid such as crowded subways, sick/contagious people, raw foods- but actually doing it. But also, I'm not supposed to floss, to shave, or do anything that could lacerate the skin and let in those icky germs that would have a free-for-all while the immune system is out of town.

How and why is this happening? At first, the doctors shrugged and said without concern: "oh, this just happens sometimes when someone has been on chemotherapy for such a long time." The second week, when my counts actually continued to fall instead of rebounding as expected, the doctors began to integrate a second theory: Around the end of October, I, in a week-two-druggy-haze, accidentally loaded my pill cases incorrectly, dosing myself with twice the amount of 6MP per day than my weight allows. I felt terrible all that week, but didn't discover the mistake until Jaci figured it out. This was initially dismissed by the docs as rather inconsequential, but is now figuring more heavily into their hypotheses for my current neutropenia. [One doctor told me, "you know, this medicine is toxic stuff!". Well, NO SHIT, I wanted to say, who do you think you're telling that to? Have I not been questioning whether the treatment actually causes more harm than the disease since this whole disaster commenced?] When the 3rd week of low counts rolled around, it was decided that, if my counts did not display improvement by the following visit (this Wed, Dec.5), they would conduct a bone marrow biopsy to check for some other more serious malignancy.

I reeeeally don't want my bones drilled into this week. I've got finals coming up. I just don't have time for cancer (or whatever else my body is brewing) right now.

8 comments:

artineh said...

Hi Erica,
I just want to say I'm thinking of you and will think of you and send lots of love and hope on Wed.

take care of youself.
love,
art

JenSing said...

Hello Erica,

It was so great to see you in S.F. - you looked so wonderful! Sending you all the best on Wednesday - hang in there.

Love,

Jen

p.s. - I think I've lost count just how many times I've had to re-register for a Google account! ;D

sanjivan said...

Erica - Hope you find a match soon. I run a organ donation blog called http://www.sanjivan.com . Just wanted to check if I can include a link to your website in my blog. Thanks - Srini Raja, sanjivan.com

Anonymous said...

I have a NEW theory. (My theories are easy, I ain't sick.) ;)

Here's my theory: I think your cells needed a little time to grieve. Your poor little self only has so much to give, and was worried and then heartbroken about your Gina-Boo. I bet it just needs a good "cry" (or pause from meds) and then there will be space in your bod to be FILLED with all the love she had for you!
(I sound live a new-age-nut. But I think it's a WAY more fun theory than your bones are considering brewing something.)
Much love.
-gab

Anonymous said...

Erica, Sending you positive vibes this week. My prayers will be with you. Stay strong, your blog has been an inspiration to me.

--Sandra G. (redhead from Oxy--I was OCORE when you were O-team, I believe)

Anna said...

I am praying and visualizing a major rebound in white blood cells. I love you mamacita.

xoxoxoxoxo anai

Rachel said...

Erica,

I can't think of anything charming or thoughtful to say except that I am thinking of you - and will be sending you all of my positive energy/thoughts/prayers.

Oh, and a joke (the only one I know...sad but true):
Q: What kind of bees produce milk?
A: Boo-bees

I'm a classy lady ;-)

Warmly,
Rachel Laybourn

Joe.Karen said...

dear erica,

i just wanted you to know that you continue to be in my heart and in my prayers. i think that you're super cool.

love,
karen