Tag Archives: white blood count

Surgery in three days . . .

4 Aug

Yesterday I had pre-op testing at Hoag and will be going back today for more (I am having a treadmill stress test to see how my heart is doing). Yesterday’s EKG was normal so hopefully today’s test will be normal as well.

I will be going to a support group as well. It has been helpful in the past. Today, however, I am bringing my Mom with me (or rather she is meeting me there – as I have the treadmill test before the support group meeting). I may have to be a bit late, depending upon when I get out of my test.

I hope it will be helpful to my Mom to go to the group today. There are women of all ages there (some going through treatment and some who have recovered and have made their way through cancer and some who have had recurrences). Hopefully it will be a positive experience for my Mom and for me as well. This whole experience has certainly taken its toll on my parents. That is probably the worst thing about this diagnosis for me . . . to see them have to suffer because of me.

I feel like each day is filled up with so much stuff and then the day passes and I have one less day to take care of things that I need to take care of before surgery. My dog needs a bath, my house needs to be cleaned, I still have to arrange care takers, I need to speak with my surgeons again (in particular about my release date from the hospital), I need to shop for food, I need to pay bills in advance so that I do not have to take care of that again until after I have recovered, I need to rest, I need to write thank you cards, I need to speak with someone at Hoag about my diet while I am in the hospital (I am on a pretty restricted diet – mostly self imposed – but encouraged by my primary care physician who is an MD who practices integrative medicine and to whom I give great credit for my pretty much normal blood counts – in spite of going through chemotherapy these past two and a half months), I need to pick up prescriptions, finish up paper work for hospital admission, get ready for not working for several weeks, if not a month or more (this means finishing up online course materials for my classes so that my assistant can enroll students in my absence and get them started on self study until I am back to work) and who knows what all else I need to do – this chemo brain is less and less reliable these days.

Oh, I know another thing I need to/want to do and that is to find something to work on, read or listen too that might help my brain function. Chemo brain is a real thing and can last for  some time. Studies have shown that exercises and learning new things (like studying a foreign language) can help rework those synapsis that are messed up with by the chemo.

I have trouble finding the correct words when I am speaking or writing. And, I have trouble spelling . . . something I really never had trouble with. It is very, very frustrating.

Every time I have trouble with speaking, coming up with the right word, it never fails that someone tells me that they know what I mean, that it happens to them all of the time. Well, I don’t think so. It is not the kind of thing where you just can’t remember the name of an actor or a movie or when you know something and it is “on the tip of your tongue”. Or, walking into a room and not remembering what you went into that room for.  We have all experienced those things. Chemo brain is different. It actually hurts my head when I am struggling to find a word or remember something that I was about to say. Words get jumbled, I can’t process more than one thing at a time. It is like an extreme overload on the brain. Examples, I say calendar instead of calculator (but, they are such similar words, right? Aaargh).

Fortunately my friends and family seem to speak chemo. Or, at least they are not letting on how much I don’t make sense some of the time. But, I know it is happening and I know that it will get better the further out I am from my last chemo. And, I know that as the stress of this disease lessens and I continue to improve and heal that my brain function will improve as well. Still, it is a very frustrating experience.

So, I think I need to get a hold of some foreign language CDs or MP3s. That might help. Maybe Italian would be good. I would love to go back to Italy. Of course Spanish would be far more practical.

Well, I am off soon for my stress test and then to meet my Mom at the support group and then home by the late afternoon to hopefully make some progress on my pre-surgery list.

Thank you to everyone who is saying prayers for me. A friend emailed me today to tell me that she was praying for me and that her sister had put me on a prayer chain at her church where over 800 people would be praying for my recovery. I so appreciate all of these prayers.

Say a prayer for my chemo brain too 🙂

Carmella, I am sorry I missed your call yesterday. I will try reaching you in the late afternoon today. Love to you and to everyone!

Gym or no gym

25 Jul

Lisa&AfricansThis was taken at Bower’s Museum a few weeks ago. The current exhibit is “Passages: Photographs in Africa”. I recommend checking it out. Admission to Bower’s Museum is free every first Sunday of the month. I have put a link to their website on my blog, check it out.

Well, no mile walk for today, at least not until it cools down. It was too hot at 7:30 am for me to do it. So now I am off to the office to pick up the fax of my blood work results so I can see where I am at count wise. I have only been anemic once and it was after the fifth chemo. I really felt it. But, I rebounded after about a week (just in time for the sixth chemo). So, I think I am pretty good right now. In three and a half months of chemotherapy I only became anemic for one week and in all that time I never once left the normal range for my white blood count.

I have decided to add a page here about the diet and exercise routine that I have followed. I am able to see what visitors search for on my blog (not who is searching, but what). I’ve noticed several searches with “HER2+” and “diet”.  So I am going to create a few pages here for cancer patients – sort of the things they never tell you about chemo and getting through it. In all fairness to my medical team, each patient reacts differently to chemo. But, still, there was so much that I had to find out on my own through my own research that really should, in my opinion, have been information that was provided.  The first thing I asked my doctor after being diagnosed was what I should do differently diet wise to prepare for chemo. He said to just follow a balanced diet. I switched doctors as soon as I could and found an MD who practices integrative/holistic medicine. And, I did a lot of research on diet and exercise to support chemotherapy.  I am so grateful for the doctor that I found (she is my primary care physician). And, I am also grateful for not listening to my first doctor.

I am just amazed at how apathetic the medical profession is on average. I was constantly met with this attitude that I just had to take it – accept that I would get anemic, weak, sick and be miserable throughout chemo. That with each round of chemo I would get worse and worse and just have to watch my body physically decline during treatment.

There is just this attitude out there that  “well, you have cancer you know, so don’t expect anything better than suffering and pain and anemia and constantly feeling sick.” Well, that is not how it has to be.

I know that the changes I made in my diet made a big difference in alleviating side affects of the chemo. Granted, it has been no walk in the park. But, it really wasn’t until the last two chemos that my body just started to say “Enough!”  I truly did recover from each chemo round and go back to my “normal” level of activity. I believe my diet and getting exercise has made all the difference for me in staying right side up more of the time than not. I also think that working full time (except for this past week) made a big difference. I know that if I just laid around all the time that it would not have been beneficial. That being said, there are clearly times when all you can do is lay around. But, I believe that moving as much as possible really helped me, even if it was the day the chemo hits and all I could do was a few blocks a few times a day, then that is what I would do.

Okay, well, I am off to go get my blood results and see if it is safe for me to go to the gym today! 🙂

Done with chemo!

25 Jul

10 Somewhere Over the Rainbow

This is me and my brother Steve – not long after he shaved his head. Do you see a resemblance? 🙂

Above is a link to my favorite version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Well it was quite a week. I have finally turned around after this last chemo. I believe I am pretty much over the effects of it. I went on three walks today. I think I walked over a mile today. I am not sure because I couldn’t walk my normal route all at once, but I may drive it tomorrow and see how far I actually walked today. What matters is that I got back out there. This morning I will walk a mile first thing. I need to do it early while it is still cool outside. I hope to go to the gym in the afternoon. But, I need to make sure my blood counts are good before I go. I feel like my counts are good, but I won’t know until I see it in print. My blood work was faxed to the office today, so I will go in tomorrow and get it. I really hope it is good.

I will have surgery in a week and six days. So there is a lot to do. I hope to get a lot done tomorrow and then Sunday I will have time to see friends and family and hear some live music. At least that is the plan.

I am so grateful to be able to exercise again. Considering how I felt a couple of days ago, it is really amazing.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and support. I really appreciate it.

Hard Day's Night . . .

23 Jul

This last round was by far the worst.  But, I am definitely on the other side of it now, thank God. I am tired, weak and worn out, but coming back.  

Yesterday was a tour of Hoag facilities. Tuesday night I had been pretty dizzy and woke up feeling the same way yesterday morning. It seemed like it was from dehydration. But, I also I had a fever so that was a concern too. With chemotherapy, you can end up in what is called a neutropenic fever or shock. This is caused by low white blood count and is very dangerous. The trouble is, you never know whether the fever is just from an infection or if it is from your white count being so low that you are in a fever from that.  So I went in to the doctor yesterday. They decided to give me intravenous fluids, it took a couple of hours and well, it definitely seemed to do the trick (the dizziness went away, blood pressure came back up, it had been a little low).

So after a quick trip to Mother’s Market (it is next door to the Hoag Health Center) I went home and went back to bed.

Then I woke up with a fever and felt worse than before. The whole point of my going into the doctor’s yesterday was to avoid having to make a trip to the ER after hours in case I didn’t improve on my own. So, I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to save myself the ER trip. I tried to get my fever down last night, but wasn’t able to. So, I called my doctor and he made me go into the ER. It was the last thing that I wanted to do – be around all those germs when I am at my lowest point immune system wise. And the only reason why I had to do this was to get a simple blood test to confirm my white blood count. If it was normal, then my fever was simply from an infection and I would be put on an antibiotic. If it was low, then the fever was a dangerous one.

So I get to the ER and it is packed with people. The front desk person tells me that there are no beds in the ER (yet) and that there are no beds in the hospital – that there are 13 people in the ER waiting to be admitted to the hospital, but because there were no beds available, they were taking up space in the ER. So, it was going to be a long night. Meanwhile, I was told that I could wait outside (to avoid exposure) and they would come and get me when it was my turn.

I waited outside for a while and then decided (and I know my doctor would be mad at me, but) that I was going home. I did the math and figured by the time I would even have blood results and get care based upon those blood results that my own doctor’s office would almost be open. So, what was the point.

So I left (without signing the release of liability the hospital wanted me to sign). They were none too happy about that. I was just not going to stand around in germville any longer.

So I went home. And, to my delight, my fever went down to normal, I started taking a Z-Pack (antibiotics) and went to bed.  So glad that I decided to leave, it would have been a miserable night.  Besides, I was definitely not up for another IV in the same day.

Today I have a bit of a busy day medical wise. I have my Herceptin treatment this am. That usually takes about an hour and a half. I get this done in the same place where I HAD (woo-hoo) my chemos. And then I see my reconstruction surgeon this afternoon.  The key is to be alert enough for the afternoon appointment (I am on Benadryl during the Herceptin treatment and so that kind of wipes me out for a while). A friend of mine is taking me to my appointment and she will come in with me and take notes in case I am not so clear myself.

I feel SO much better, even in the last few minutes while writing this post. Wow. So glad. Thank you to everyone who has been helping me and praying for me and thinking of me. I now really, really feel like I am done with chemo!

Making the most of the weekend

31 May

My next chemo is scheduled for Thursday, June 4th. So, I am trying to make the most of this weekend (I always feel my best the weekend before chemo simply because I am further away from the last chemo). This week will be a busy one, lots of work to get done before Thursday. Today though, I got to see lots of friends which was great. I played miniature golf with three girlfriends today. And, this evening went out with another girlfriend to a movie. It was great to spend time with friends and to get out.

My only regret for the day is that I didn’t exercise – shame on me!  I know that exercise is playing a major role in my getting well so I really can not afford to skip it. So, tomorrow I will do it first thing in the morning. And, since my white blood count is good, I think I will go ahead and make a trip to the gym too (not supposed to do that if my counts are low because of the risk of getting sick).  But, I am doing well so no excuses. I just have to do it.

My red blood count was gradually getting lower with the first two chemos and was below the normal range. This would not be a good trend and would lead to anemia if it were to continue. But, as I have stepped up my exercise, my red blood cell count has gone up. Just one week after my last chemo (my third chemo), my red blood count was back within the normal range. I think this is unusual. In any case, it is definitely a good thing.

So exercise, the gym, cleaning my house and getting ready for the next chemo round, that’s tomorrow’s plan. Oh, and also just relaxing and being happy about the great MRI results! Still smiling about that 🙂