The Reality of Cancer Treatment Sets In
INTERESTING STUFF – 18 November 2017

A Cancer Surprise

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.

OHSUTram

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.

Comments

Oh Ronni! I’m sure none of us will mind your not responding emails.
We’re just happy that they fixed your blood and that the transfusion went fine. AND that you had enough energy to write this post!
I haven’t been commenting much here, although I do follow your posts eagerly. But my daughter gave birth to her third boy, my third grandchild (and grandson). I’m sending you as many good vibes and thoughts as I can and keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you. Lotts of love

Wonderful, Ronni!

Moving forward after a step backward and now moving on.

I can imagine the relief and dare-I-say joy? at the recovery from the transfusions and a return to your various parts working as before, following this latest boulder on your path.

Was that a worldwide collective sigh I experienced in the air a few minutes ago when this email was sent?

Sadly, I've had family members experience this same scenario. Why aren't patients and families forewarned more specifically? I know they warn of various side effects, but everyone is different in different settings. Each patient shouldn't have to learn what is too much fatigue on their own. Just venting, I guess, but my heart aches for you, and that helpless feeling is sometimes overwhelming. That you share so freely does matter. Thanks for that. We all learn from you, Ronni.

Yes, Simone, definitely a worldwide collective sigh ... of concern, relief, gratitude for the news and another epiphany relating to how much we care about Ronni.
Thank you, Ronni, for once again finding the energy to keep us informed ... but now please remember that the caretaker (you of us) can't keep taking care if she doesn't take care of herself first of all. YOU are the priority here. Much love, always

So happy to hear that this was a recoverable problem. Yes it IS a common side effect with chemo but that doesn't make it easy to go through as a patient. Your extended family sends white light for healing from California. Big hugs and take a nap....
Jayne

Oh Ronni, Only You could find it within you to take a picture of the tram - and find something interesting, even joyful, in that excursion! Joining all in appreciation of your spirit, in thanks for taking us along for the ride, and in loving hopes for rosier days ahead, Ann

I agree with all of the above. I am so glad your fatigue was fixable and hope it doesn't happen again. You did downplay your fatigue and I guess I didn't know what being weary was really like.

I am so amazed that you wrote a blog entry for us while being that exhausted. I admire you.''

Take very good care of yourself and get through this ordeal.

Glad you got help and are better. I agree they should warn their patients of signs. I don't do well with heights either but I hope the gorgeous view made it easier. Many hugs to you and don't look down.

I was so happy to read this post, and hear that you are in the 'pink' again! The medical system in the US is coming through for you, I'm glad to know. Especially intrigued to read about the tram—what an innovative way to care for patients!

Whew, you had me nervous there. Glad to hear it's "normal." And that you're home and feeling much better. My friend used the term "the new normal," for a life situation. There seems to be a good deal of that to old age. Some of it very delightful. Hope you experience some of that in the days to come.

What a relief to find out what you experienced was not uncommon! I'm wishing you what I have learned to aim for myself--a happy and productive day. Just. This. Friday.

Love to you, Ronni.

That's exactly the kind of fatigue I experienced, only mine was due to dehydration and I was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital for a night of saline infusions.

It's really disconcerting to go in for the usual infusion and find yourself being trundled off to the hospital instead, isn't it? Hope you had someone who could fetch whatever you needed from home. At least you got a tram ride. All I got was a very long wheelchair ride.

Glad you're home and feeling much better, thanks to a top notch medical team. It's reassuring to know you have them in your corner.

Like everyone else here, I'm very happy to hear you're doing better, and that they responded to the issue so promptly. Four units of blood is quite a bit, so no wonder you were more than just a little tired. Do you have one of those fingertip things that measures the oxygen in your blood? I used one when taking care of my mother-in-law a few years ago. They're simple and inexpensive and it might help you to track when a blood issue might be developing.

The tram ride actually looks like it might be fun, at least if you're feeling well enough when you take it to enjoy it. I'm not big on heights either, but when I'm totally enclosed, I can usually convince myself it's safe and enjoy it.

I hope you're having a restful weekend and just letting your body enjoy all that fresh blood.

Oh, Ronni, so sorry you are having to go through all this! Glad they could 'fix' this bit. May the end results make it all worth while!

I'm glad you're in good hands. Do you like sauteed chicken livers? Lots of iron in there.

Well, it's a good thing they found such a bad thing and even better that it could be fixed. My family rode the tram this summer during our stay in Portland and were so delighted with the conveyance. They all marveled that a medical center would build such a contraption.

If you're anything like me, you'll develop a "hmmm...wonder what interesting medical proceudure will be next for me?" attitude.
So glad to hear a transfusion fixed you for now.

Sounds like you have a top notch team.

Glad they got you in the hospital. Sounds like you really needed to be there.

Your doctors are the ultimate Olympic bobsledding team, no fooling around, simply winning that thing.

Keep on keeping on.

XO

Your Montreal Fan

Hi from the Friday Discussion Group. We missed you this morning & all want to wish you the best from the Adult Community Center. So glad to hear that you have weathered yet another challenge. We hope that continues and that you will be able to attend our next gathering. They pumped you up and you came back to life! Wonderful.

Your tram photo is great, such beautiful fall colors.

So glad you are living now and not a few decades ago when none of these treatments and procedures were available. I live with 36 other seniors in senior housing, and often in the elevator when they complain about health issues, I can't resist saying "Listen, do you realize we'd all be dead if we lived 100 years ago when there were no cures available for all these ailments? We're STILL HERE!" So, to my favorite editor and blogger--lots of love and healing wishes.

Regarding the tram photo...
That isn't mine. I found it online credited to OHSU. Unfortunately, our local fall colors are now past the high point in the photo.

You’re doing well, Ronni! Holding you in the light,

Glad to hear that the glitch in your recovery was just a glitch and taken care of with those transfusions. many of us, myself included, can be grateful for the advances in medical treatments over the years. You have described another sterling example.

about all I can do is continue to say, stay strong and enjoy life - every day of it!

We are all so grateful that you got the care you needed, Ronnie and lived to tell! Here is my concern, what about those who don't have good healthcare in this country and there are many and not to become political, yes to become political, what will happen to Americans in the future?Those of us on Medicare for instance? Would someone with less than good healthcare such as you have truly lived to tell? Or, simply, died? Well, I guess that is one way of reducing our healthcare expenses. Sigh. I am worried as one can tell...we are all grateful that you have the care you do. We need you to light the way, Ronnie. Please continue on.

Ronnie, this comment does not expect a response. Just know that your efforts to share this honest unadulterated account of your cancer journey is a priceless gift. Thank you for your generosity!

Oh, Ronnie, having cared for both my Dad and husband through this level of anemia, I understand what you've just been through, and it brings me to tears. Sending light and rays of love to buoy you up in your healing journey. You are a precious friend to thousands, me among them. Rest and recover dear one.

Deb in Calgary

This is great news! I,m so happy you are feeling better.

Rest and watch movies! You are an amazing woman. We all are with you!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)