Monday, July 12, 2010

5th Chemo

Whew! This was a really rough week! The hardest yet thru this ordeal.

Tuesday, last, was my 5th chemo session at the poison palace. As usual, it went just fine. And another of my very sweet girlfriends had arrived in town to look after me, just in case.

Wednesday was the shot from hell - the Neulasta - also known as pegfilgrastim - that supposedly keeps me healthy. As you may recall, this is the stuff that is used to treat neutropenia, a lack of certain white blood cells caused by chemotherapy. Neutropenia (agranulocytosis) means a failure of the bone marrow to make enough white blood cells, and that translates to not enough infection fighting white blood cells. Since infection is one of the bigger fears during chemo, having a strong immune system is vital!

And overall, it really is working. I received another gold star on my blood work that's taken each day prior to the chemo session. My white blood count is superb - the best so far! Normal range appears to be 4,500-10,000 per microliter (I may be missing a zero or two in the translation!), and mine this time was 12,330. I'm healthy! And my neutrophils, the little suckers that eat the bad guys, are also excellent - 11,460 when the norm is 4,500-10,000, again the highest yet.

All that is wonderful news for a body filled with poison. BUT, I seem to be slipping into an anemic stage, also normal for someone going thru chemo. My red blood platelets have slipped to 10,500. Again the norm tops out at 10,000, but if my count drops below that point, they'll postpone the next chemo until the count climbs up higher. NO!! Please, let's get this over with!

Anemia - OK, what can we do about that? Not much of anything, I'm told.
Anemia is defined as "a pathologic deficiency in the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the red blood cells." It is a common problem for cancer patients and often results from the therapies used to suppress or control tumors. Anemia is associated with fatigue - a feeling of weakness or diminished physical and mental capacity unrelieved by rest. Additional symptoms include diminished ability to perform daily functions and possibly impaired cognitive function, headache, dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath, nausea, depression and occasionally pain. These symptoms are often complicated by coexisting disease(s). Anemia is also associated with a poorer prognosis and increased mortality.

That's certainly cheery info! And right on target - I have been feeling more exhausted than usual, sleeping more and feeling less rested, not performing my word games and puzzles as well as usual, more headaches, light-headed when I stand up, more feeling sorry for myself (which I absolutely hate to acknowledge!!). So what can I do? The nurses say there really isn't anything. Taking iron supplements doesn't help. But I see in reading about anemia that B-12 supplements (and shellfish, poultry, eggs and milk) and folic acid supplements (and fruits, green leafy veggies, peanuts and beans) might be helpful. I can do that! And for sure I'll be eating more meat and liverwurst too, which I love, anyway!

So - after the last few sessions, the Neulasta shot effects have started to kick in by Wednesday evening - major muscle aches, headaches, just general 'feel like shit' complaints. Thursday is usually the worst day (been hit by a truck and left on the side of the road to fry in the heat kind of feeling), Friday is bad but by Friday evening I start to recover. This week, the damned shot knocked me on my ass for four days. I barely made it out of bed on Thursday or Friday, struggled around on Saturday and finally, Sunday evening, started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If Lizzie hadn't been here looking after me, I probably wouldn't even have eaten anything! For those who know me, that is simply unheard of!! Plus I even had to resort to the anti-nausea pills a couple times - the first need for those in this ordeal.

I'm choosing to blame the red blood platelets for the struggle to beat the shot this time - no idea if that's true or not.

In the meantime, I've noticed the now regular progression of symptoms. About three-four days after the poison infusion, my pee changes from normal color to a dark yellow/orange. This lasts about two days. I'm guessing, again, but I think this is when my system starts dumping the poison and it's 'by-products'. That's about the time the 'runs' hit hard (soft??) too.

And again about four days out, my nose starts running uncontrollably, and for the next couple days, the skin around my nose just peels and peels. Liz suggested it's a typical nose-candy reaction - the chemicals screw with the delicate tissues and they try to heal in the only way they know how. I do need to add that is from observation only, not personal experience on her part!!

Today, I'm feeling almost 'normal' for this first time. Normal, of course, is still a relative term. I ache all over, but it's tolerable. I can speak an almost understandable sentence, usually. :o) At least little Misha acts as though she understands me (Liz had to head home yesterday)! My nose is still running like a faucet, my mouth/tongue have a bunch of the nasty little ulcers what I'm working on with the Miracle Magic Mouthwash, and everything still tastes like the bottom of a birdcage (fascinating phrase - who in their right mind would taste the bottom of a birdcage??). I won my first Spider Solitaire game on the computer this morning, always a good start to the day. Misha and I took our longest walk in the cool of the morning (5:45 am and 77 degrees - almost winter temperatures!! :o) in almost a week. And I'm back on the computer, which I hardly touched for the last week - simply no energy - also unheard of!!

Other than all that joyous stuff, life rolls on in the desert! My air conditioners are working overtime, but keeping us cool. No monsoons for us yet, though we saw a great downpour south of us last evening.

Oh, and since it would be boring if something else didn't go wrong, apparently that power surge that screwed so many other things up in my little box on wheels also hit my refrigerator. It has died. I've been living out of an ice chest since shortly after I moved home from the last trauma, while we try to find a replacement or parts. Never a dull moment.

Yeah, yeah, keep the spirit! I'm trying. And I feel so much better this morning, that I think I'll make it thru another week or two, remembering there is only one more of these bloody treatments left.

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