I haven’t been around much since the holidays. To be fair, I haven’t been around much in real life, either. But since people are starting to ask, I thought I’d give an update (because honestly, I’m fucking tired and I don’t respond to most calls or texts or messages with anything but “ok” right now). This post is not edited for grossness: feel free to stop here with the assurance that after round 4 I should be feeling more like a human AND be less dangerously immuno-compromised.
So I’ve been sick with some ridiculously stupid virus since December 12th. Normal people get a cold, maybe if they’re like me they get a little bronchitis afterward that hangs on an extra week or two, and move on. That is not what happened with me.
The current drug cocktail of chemo is the harsh sort: it attacks fast growing cells in the body. Let’s define fast growing cells: hair. Nails. White blood cells (the little army of infection and virus killers that float along with your blood). So…the super fun poisoning I’m voluntarily doing to my body is effectively killing off my immune system each round, and each round is progressively worse. What does that mean?
Normal people have a white blood cell count of about 11,000. My white blood cell count yesterday was 800. For reference, I have to have a count of 5400 or higher to have treatment. To be fair, this wouldn’t be something I’d notice other than being really fucking tired if they didn’t take my blood every time I go to an appointment at Oncology. They’re nice vampires, at least. Ultimately, this means 1) I can’t see anyone who has even been EXPOSED to any illness. All you folk with adorable little germ spreaders at home are off limits until I’m done with round 4. 2) A fever or chills sends me immediately to the emergency room, do not pass go, do not (as I discovered a couple of weeks ago when the UC nurse said OH NO, we aren’t handling that here, go to the ER right now) head to urgent care. 3) I’m tired. Like, nap after I take a shower because it takes too much energy tired, all the time.
By the weekend after chemo my body is at it’s lowest point immunity-wise. By the weekend before the next treatment (that’d be this coming Saturday/Sunday, for those of you keeping count) it’s back up to acceptable levels again, thanks to the Neulasta shot I get right along with chemo. Neulasta makes my bones go into PRODUCE ALL THE WHITE BLOOD CELLS RIGHT NOW overdrive, which makes my legs/hips/chest ache, but hey, bone marrow is a good thing. The weekend after chemo is the worst: I’m sick, exhausted, have no appetite, and generally just trying to get through the day. And my feet are sore, like standing on concrete for 15 hours each day sore, for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON AT ALL. It’s utterly ridiculous, and terribly annoying.
On top of all of this, MY cold turned into lying in bed for three days unable to move other than to the bathroom to be sick, followed by a super fun round of bronchitis which also makes me sick, followed most recently by a nasty sinus infection which ALSO makes me sick. Feel free to read sick as vomiting until I’d rather just die, thanks. Unfortunately, it’s not chemo-related and anti-nausea meds don’t work. A couple of weeks ago I went to the ER because I got so violently ill I scraped up my esophagus and was throwing up blood. FUN. Interestingly, walking into the ER and saying “I’m on chemo and I’m throwing up blood” gets you a room pretty much immediately. I don’t recommend. I’ve lost 30 pounds since December 16th when chemo started. I got a very soft-spoken reprimand from the nutritionist at Oncology today for not having enough calories and I’m told I’m not spoda lose any more weight, please, until treatment is over (1 more round of this, 12 weeks of the next drug…so May). I take more pills in the morning than Grandma right now, and thank all the gods for antibiotics that kill sinus infections.
Honestly, I’ve been LUCKY with all of this. I don’t have many of the most common awful side effects, and if I hadn’t had the death-cold that lasted all the way through I likely would’ve been mostly ok. But there you go: lost my hair (kept my eyebrows so far: WOOT!), spent the last month on the couch or in bed or throwing up and yell/crying FUCK YOU in the bathroom a lot, watched too much TV, hid from everyone (including my niece and nephews) because I’m now a bubble-girl germaphobe who does NOT want to end up in the hospital.
But I’m almost done: next Monday is round 4 of 4 for the AC, and then I have a three week break to get my shit together before I start the 12 weeklies. Rumor has it the Taxil is easier on the body overall than the AC I’m on now. I’m hoping I can go back to work in March when that treatment starts, because the side effects are WAY less harsh and I should be more energetic. Taxil also doesn’t kill off my immunity, which means I won’t be banned from public places or groups anymore…which means I’ll likely be more interested in visitors.
Cancer sucks. Intentionally poisoning my body now that the cancer’s gone in hopes it doesn’t come back also sucks. I’m supported where I need it, and if I don’t answer you directly please don’t take it personally. I’m probably napping again.