Thank you all for your concern and suggestions on Wednesday's post about my fatigue. I wrote that post late on Tuesday anticipating my regular chemo session the next afternoon. It did not go exactly as planned.
First, you would not be wrong to say that I underplayed my fatigue in Wednesday's story. For two or three days I had been unable to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, a distance of about 20 feet, without stopping halfway to catch my breath, nor could I carry the trash to the bin or do much of anything else that involved walking even on flat surfaces.
In addition, I had noticed for several days that my face had a white, almost waxy look. Dead might be an apt description - no pinkness at all.
Usually, the chemo clinic staff draws my blood, sends it off to the lab to analyze and prepare my infusion and then we get on with it. This time, they drew blood a second time because my red blood cell count was so low they believed there must have been an error.
But no. The count was way below normal and further, way below the point where they would order a transfusion.
With hardly a how-de-doo, they canceled the chemo and checked me into the hospital. The upside of this is that I finally got a trip on the OHSU tram that travels between the campus down by the river where the chemo clinic is to the the campus up on the hill where the medical school and several hospitals are.
I'm not crazy about heights like that but it was kind of fun too.
The downside to the hospital stay is that I spent the next 12 hours overnight plugged into a variety of sensors and, before it was over, received four units of blood. If you're new to this procedure – as I was – here's how it goes.
It takes about two hours to infuse one unit of blood after which the empty bag is disconnected and another attached. In between, the nurse stops by three or four times to check blood pressure, body temperature, pulse, etc.
You can see that sleep is not a priority to any of the medical staff but strangely, in those many short increments, I slept more deeply than I usually do and easily fell back asleep after each interruption.
In the morning, my red blood cell count was way up (I've forgotten numbers) and pronounced to be “great.” My face was a normal pinkish color again
This drop in red blood cells is caused by chemotherapy, it is not an uncommon occurrence and there are no promises that transfusions won't be necessary again. But I am sure happy to know it is something that doctors and nurses are accustomed to dealing with. For me, cancer treatment is scary enough; I sure don't want anything to happen that the caregivers are unfamiliar with.
I'm tired now (on Thursday afternoon) but not fatigued. I can walk normally without need to stop to catch my breath and I have developed a growing appreciation for all the things that can and might go wrong. Or, perhaps, go right.
NOTE: I returned home to somewhere between 300 or 400 emails and even after deleting the spam and unimportant detritus, I don't think I'll be able to respond to all of you who emailed. My apologies.