Archive for September 3rd, 2009

The First Complications

I’ve been wanting to post an update for a couple of days now, but I simply have not had the energy to sit at the computer long enough to get it done!  I have five or six half-drafted entries that each got started at some point along this journey, but then when the ebb in energy came I lost the momentum to finish and get them posted. (Uh, this could even be another one!)

I’ve been feeling progressively worse this week.  Tuesday night, I noticed a my throat was getting scratchy and sore.  I immediately took a zinc tablet.  I started sneezing and was rapidly getting congested.  I drank a homemade brew of garlic, lemon juice, molasses and water.  I was beginning to feel achy and feverish and my throat was getting worse.  I gargled with salt water.  I knew my immune system was likely getting more depleted with each cancer treatment, but I was determined not to let something like a cold or flu creep in and take over, so I pulled out all my home remedies and put a bunch of energy into kicking it.  I slept fitfully that night, but awoke feeling like the bug was gone, thank goodness.

I had to be at the Cancer Center at 8:30 that morning for my third long chemo treatment.  Just as I was ready to head out the door, a bout of diarrhea came on.  I called them from my cell phone in the bathroom to say I would be running just a little late…

They start each Wednesday by drawing blood (from the port) and sending it to the lab.  The results are back within half-an-hour and a chemo nurse calls Dr. Fekrazad with the info.  Once they know the blood work looks good, they begin the first of six bags of drip that make up the overall chemo treatment.  Yesterday, everybody was thrilled with my blood work: good hemoglobin, WBC (white blood count) perfect, platelets good…

In the midst of my third big chemo treatment (half way through a total of six!), I also had my 11th radiation treatment (just a smidge past 1/3 of the way through a total of 30).  All that and they managed to get me out of there by 3:00 PM this time.

By 5:00 I was shivering on the couch with a fever. One of their big warnings has repeatedly been that I must call if I have a fever that exceeds 100.5 (not 105 – by which time I’d likely be gone).  Apparently, it’s a sign of infection and things can get out of control fast.  I had purchased a digital thermometer at Walgreens a couple weeks ago, but hadn’t taken it out of the package yet.  I was so out-of-it on the couch having chills I couldn’t muster the energy to get to the bathroom where the thermometer was.  Thankfully, Tim came in to check on me and immediately went to get the thermometer.  It registered 100.4.

He helped me to bed.  I took a Tylenol and drank some water.  By about 8:00, I knew I would need to eat something so I could take my evening dose of Xeloda.  I set an alarm in case I fell asleep.  When the alarm went off, I took my temperature:  101.7.  Shit.

I knew I had to call.  I also knew that chances were good I’d end up talking to some doctor in Albuquerque who didn’t know me, who would simply say I should go to the Emergency Room.  But I dutifully called anyway.  The first answering service said they’d have a nurse call me back.  About 10 minutes later, I got that call.  She asked a ton of questions (insurance first, health second), and then said she’d try the doctor.  A little later, I was connected to the doctor-on-call’s answering service, who told me they’d have someone call me back.  A while later I indeed got a call from a doctor I’d never seen or heard of who told me I should go to the Emergency Room.

Meanwhile, though, with all the calls and waiting, my temperature was coming down.  It was still too high for them, but I made my case that I had just had a long day of chemo, I was exhausted and needed rest, and hanging out in the Emergency Room where I’d be exposed to tons of germs and other junk wasn’t going to do me any good.  I told the doctor if the fever got worse I’d go.  But as long as it was slowly coming down, I was staying put in bed.  She didn’t like it, but agreed that it was up to me.  She also admitted she was obligated to give me the most conservative advice since she was doing this by phone and didn’t know me.

I wasn’t playing fast and loose with my health.  I just knew it wasn’t an infection.  It was most likely some residual from the bug I thought I’d kicked the night before.  After a full day of chemo, my immune system was depleted and the bug was taking advantage of it.  I also reasoned that if I’d had an infection the fever wouldn’t be coming down.

I survived the night.  My temperature was normal when I got up. I called the Cancer Center to give them an update on what had happened.  They said I should give them a urine sample when I came in later for my radiation treatment.  I took my morning dose of Xeloda, and soon began to feel nauseous.

One of the bags of drip on Wednesdays is Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.  I also have a bottle of Zofran pills at home in case I need them, but so far I hadn’t.  I decided it was time to open that bottle.  To add insult to injury, I’d been in the bathroom much of the morning with diarrhea.  I was also feeling shaky and weak.  I’ve been driving myself over to the radiation treatments each day with no difficulty, but today seemed like a good day to ask for help.  Thankfully, Tim was able to take me over there with only about 15 minutes notice.

Right after the radiation treatment (#12!), the oncology P.A. told me the urine sample was fine.  She said maybe I was just fending off a bug.  Hmmmm…

Once I got home, I pretty much just collapsed again.  It’s so distressing to feel so weak and ill that you can’t really do anything.  Somewhere along the line I had this imaginary scenario in which I would spend time sitting in my chair knitting or reading, or maybe working at the computer, or watching a movie.  But when I’m feeling really crummy, none of those things are possible.  The best I can do is find a place to lie down.  And try not to cry too much.

But, then, the wave eventually begins its climb back up again, and although I don’t feel top notch, I’m able to move about and do a few things once more. Like completing a post for the blog.

P.S. –  A big Thank You goes to Mary Anne for getting groceries and other goodies for me today, too.

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