Bald 'n Sassy

Life is for the living. Live simply. Expect less.

Archive for the tag “anemic”

Ding ding, round 8 of chemotherapy

Oh boy, it has been a while since my last post.  Oct was a very busy month for me. It was mostly spending time with my family.  For the first time in over 10 years, all my siblings and their kids plus my mum were in the same city.  I must say it was great to have everyone together once again albeit for a few weeks.  As you can imagine, my sister’s apartment was rather crowded.  Anyway, I am digressing from the main subject about my last chemo.

Round 8 of my chemo was on 21 October.  I decided this round to be the last chemo I would want to do.  I am looking to alternative medicine as my choice of treatment.  My reason for stopping chemo is to give my body a chance to be back to normal.  The chemo drugs literally “kills” all the good cells in the body.  While I am under treatment, my white cells are low and producing minimal red blood cells.  The former is expected but having low white blood cells can be dangerous.  It means that I am more susceptible to catching any sickness and have a harder time to recover from the ailment.  I am learning that now with the ongoing cough that has prolonged for almost 2 weeks. With low red blood cells, my haemoglobin levels are low and classified as anaemic.

On the Friday morning of treatment, the usual routine of drawing blood but it was done by my favourite nurse.  I was rather anxious about the results this time. After seeing a decrease in the previous round, I was hoping the downward trend will continue.  When the results were back, there were 2 other patients ahead of me.  When it was my turn, I sat down and my oncologist smiled.  She showed me the results and the cancer markers dropped by 50%.  I was so deliriously happy. I shared with my oncologist that I wanted to stop treatment after this round and try alternative treatment.  She had no violent objections to that idea.  I need not do any more chemo on the premise that my cancer markers are around the same levels.  My oncologist and I are crossing our fingers and toes that it stays the same.  With the usual physical check up over, it was time to start the chemo session.

The nurse placed the hot pack on my right hand to help my veins come alive so the hunt and inserting the needle is much easier.  I took a good look at my hand and the needle marks from previous sessions are still there.  You could literally join the dots and form some sort of shape.  My poor veins has used and abused. I soldiered on for the next 4.5 hours.

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Time to hide under the covers.  Wish me luck for the next blood test! I will post another blog about the results.

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Lucky number 7

Well not sure it is lucky or not but it was round 7 of chemo a fortnight ago.  Oh boy, the side effects post chemo was tough at times.  The worst side effects was the body aches and the bad headaches. The body aches I felt was right through the bones.  It made it difficult for me to fall asleep and sit up right for too long.  I laid in bed for most of the day trying to get some rest.  Even falling asleep at night was a challenge.  The aches prolonged that falling asleep was hard.  Once I do, I would be tossing and turning throughout the night and wake up feeling more tired in the morning.  Cat naps was indeed in my recovery plan.  Having headaches didn’t help either.  I felt that I was supporting a bowling ball with my neck coupled with the slight nausea was not a great mix. Taking strong Panadol didn’t make it go away.

Coming back to my treatment day.  When I walked into the clinic, my favourite nurse from the pathology lab was sitting in the waiting area.  Whether it was coincidence that she was there or she just finished taking blood from another patient.  I like to think she was there for me.  Like previous experience, it was a painless experience when she poked the needle for the blood test.  A good start to that day.

Time for the review the blood test.  It was a rather a busy Friday at the clinic.  I had to wait for my turn to see the oncologist.  The doctor had a smile on her face when she opened her door greeting me to enter her office.  As soon as I sat down, the first news she shared was the cancer markers has decreased to 56.5 from 66.3 – FINALLY!  What a relief!  I could say it is definitely lucky number 7. The other components in the blood test indicated that I am still slightly anemic and white blood cells to be low.  Even though it is low, it was acceptable to go ahead with the next round of chemo.

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It has been a while since I had the company of other patients in the treatment rooms. Sharon, a young nurse working at the clinic shared that one woman was rejected treatment by another oncologist for the simple reason that her cancer has advanced cancer that chemo would be futile.  However, she didn’t give up hope and sought a second opinion my oncologist.  Our oncologist took her case and prescribed a treatment schedule buying her more time.  There are two school of thoughts here.  One doctors’ are taught to save lives and convince patient’s to consider all possible medical solutions.  This would mean more financial impact for the patient. On the side of the spectrum some doctor’s may tell you the prognosis and enjoy whatever time that you have left.  Of course some person would not accept the news and look towards alternative medicines to prolong their life. What would you do if you are placed in this situation?

Round number 4 – checked

Is it me or is timing flying past much faster.  It is exactly one week ago that I successfully completed my 4th chemo treatment.  Phew!  Overall the treatment well but there is a possibility a change in plans.

So here is the story.  As you may have learnt from my earlier posts, there is a blood test that is carried out prior to start of each session to decide how I am responding to the treatment plus the results will raise any concerns in my blood.  For me the key indicators are the cancer markers and white blood cells that I am most worried about.  I like to see a downward trend for the cancer markers and for the white blood cells level increased to a higher level.  As soon as my oncologist sat down with me to review the results for round 4, I was taken aback to see cancer markers increased by 10% from 49.9 to 56.3.  She was just as surprised as I am.  There are two possibilities that could see the markers spike up.

  • Fighting a viral infection.
  • The cancer cells has learnt to adapt to resist drug and mutate to generate new cancer cells.

I have been physically fine and not fallen ill in between treatments. As for the second point, cancer cells are incredibly intelligent to regenerate new cells in a matter of days.  In round 3, I postponed the treatment by 5 days simply because my white blood cells were too low and anemic.  In that short space of time, it is an opportunistic time for the cancer cells to adapt and learn to be resistant. I haven’t researched into this myself nor can I prove it.   Moreover the chemo drugs has  “expiry” date in terms of effectiveness.  In my case, the drug, Campto last for about 17 days or so. Delaying any further could pose further risk and lower the effectiveness.

So what does the above mean for me.  My doctor explained the options available.  First option is to change the chemo drug to the Carboplatin/Taxotere combo used in my first volume of chemo last year.  This means back to one round every 3 weeks and I would need to completed at most 4 rounds.  My white blood cells levels with this drug didn’t drop below the normal range.  Second choice is to use a complete new drug that is prescribed on a weekly dosage.  I am not too keen on this option because my veins would not be able to cope with the weekly poking.  As it is now my veins are under so much stress each time I have chemo plus I only have less than 2 weeks to rest before it all happens again.  In the event I choose to have his intense program, she strongly recommended for me to insert a catheter near my collarbone for much smoother and painless administration.  Oh boy!  Decisions decisions.

If I had to compare the choices, I would opt for number 1. And from past treatments, my white blood cells did not take a huge beating from the drugs.  There is a fine balancing act right now of making sure the drugs are working and still be somewhat strong enough to fight off a cold.

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I am just wondering with the modern medicine today, how come pharmaceutical companies haven’t thought of a wonder pill for white blood cells.

TGIF.  Have a good weekend everyone!

Round 3 – this time it’s for real

Gosh where has the time gone.  One week has zoomed at a blink of an eye. After the wait and see approach and taking iron tablets to address my anemia, it was time to get another blood test done to decide if I am  medically fit to go ahead with round 3.  Aside from the haemoglobin the other key indicator the oncologist is hoping to see some improvements is my white blood cell count.  I kept my fingers crossed while I waited patiently for the results.  In the meantime, I fed my tummy with a nutella and banana sandwich for breakfast.

An hour and half later, the results are back.  There was good and bad news.  First, the good news is that in 5 days, my haemoglobin level increased and fall within the “normal” category.  I was no longer anemic.  The bad news is that my white blood cell count specifically the polymorph level has not changed from last week – this is also known as leukopenia. With low white blood cell count it means that my body is not as strong to fight off any infections. So what does this mean?  My doctor said that I have 2 options.

Option 1:  go ahead with the chemo session with the same dosage but I would have to inject myself with Neupogen, is a man-made form of a protein that stimulates the growth of white blood cells in your body.

Option 2: Wait for another week with the hope that the white blood cells improve.  I did ask if I could eat or do something to help.  Unfortunately, there is very little I can do in this case.  Should I wait a little longer to do chemo, there is a possibility that I may encounter some cramps in my stomach because the cancer cells are working their way into my guts.  Not a pretty picture and nor do I want to wait and see if the pain comes back.

With no other obvious symptoms such as pain or discomfort, there wasn’t anything to prevent me from continuing with the treatment.  Since I am not keen to have any stomach cramps, I chose the first option.  I would rather have the injections.

By now my body is attuned to receive the chemo and most of the common side effects are manageable.  One of my least side effects is the nauseous feeling.  Despite the anti-nauseous medications I am given prior to each chemo session, it still lingers around for 4 to 5 days.  I hate it!  It is having the hangover feelings without the alcohol.  Somehow, I fought the feeling and survived it.

I have officially completed a quarter of my treatment.  Hooray!

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