Round 3…The Blood Rituals

So…when you’re going through chemo, you discover the true vampiric tendencies of the oncology staff. Every week (Tuesdays for me) they want more blood. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main checks are for anemia, low whites and platelets. Let’s start with anemia…

Anemia is defined as : A pathological deficiency in the oxygen-carrying component of the blood, measured in unit volume concentrations of hemoglobin, red blood cell volume, or red blood cell number. The result of having anemia or being anemic are that you’re tired as hell. I don’t mean tired like, “Oh, if I go catch a cat nap I’ll feel much better.” More like, “Geesh, if I don’t lie down right now and stay there all day, I’m going to fall over.” I’ve never, ever been that tired in my life, and my anemia has been fairly moderate. There are certain measures that can be taken when one finds oneself with a lack of red blood cells. Including more leafy green veggies in your diet is one of them…I’d have a hard time adding more right now. So I’ve been taking iron supplements in the form of a liquid called Floridex. I must say this is definitely a case of the cure being almost as bad as the cause..at least for the first few minutes. Liquid iron supplements smell and taste really, truly, profoundly bad. In a world that creates cherry flavoured cough syrup for children, you would think they could take a bit of the ick out of iron, but…there it is…

On to low white counts. White blood cells are used to fight infection in the body. Chemotherapy can (does) reduce the number of white blood cells available in your body; therefore, having a low white blood cell count (WBC) can significantly increase your chance of infection whether it be a cold or flu or a cut on your finger. The day after chemotherapy, most women get a shot of filgrastim (Neulasta, in my case). This helps increase WBC by causing your body to hop up production. Unfortunately this can also make you tired and often achy as your bone marrow tries to overproduce. It can also lead to long-term issues like osteoporosis. In my case, low WBC cause me to need to eat, constantly, for a couple of days. If I don’t keep up a high calorie, high protein intake every couple of hours, I get dizzy and nauseous. S’okay by me, but I have to make sure to have easy, quick meals on hand. The feeling can sneak up on me.

Platelets are the cells that help wounds to clot and heal correctly. If your platelet count drops, everyone gets really nervous. Blood blisters and unexplained bruising can be signs that your platelets have gotten too low. If this happens to you (even tiny blood blisters), your oncologist’s staff is going to wig out and send you in for blood work…right now! I found this out the hard way, having found a pin head sized blood blister on the inside of my cheek. By the time I found someone to sit with Cass and got over to the office to have my blood drawn the silly thing was gone. My platelets were fine. It’s something that you would just ignore in everyday life, but this is, in fact, the twilight zone of chemocare.

Having said all this..round three was okay. Recovery was a little protracted because Sam and I got a flu vaccination the day before and it extended the general ick period. And speaking of period, I’m now barreling into menopause. There’s nothing like having your least favorite ‘friend’ arrive every other week, with insomnia and hot flashes included. I’ll be 36 in about 2 weeks. Woohoo! Sam and I are going to lay low for Thanksgiving (since I’ll be stupid and have no taste buds), so the kids are going to go home with my mother for the big event. Have a piece of pie for me.

:)k

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