Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Those darn neutrophils ...

Last Thursday, I came home from work and found a message on the answering machine from my oncologist. The numbers of neutrophils from my last blood draw (the Friday before) were very low and she instructed me to stop my chemo. Knowing that the oncologist is in the clinic as late as 7:00 p.m., I called to get her on the phone. Sure enough, she answered and told me I had 700 neutrophils, and to forget about any trips to Disneyland. She asked me to go to the lab the next day for another blood draw.

The low number didn't surprise me. I felt like I had been fighting off a virus for some time. The next morning, instead of sleeping in, I went to the lab for a blood draw. Four pokes later and they had the blood they needed. The order was STAT, so I expected if it was worrisome, I would hear from the doctor ASAP. Remember, anything below 500 neutrophils and I have to be hospitalized.

The weekend came and went without any urgent calls about my numbers, and finally today I got word that everything was back to normal and I could start chemo again. I am scheduled to start ATRA (vitamin A) this week, so I expect to be a bit more fatigued toward the end of the week as I will be on three chemo meds for the next 15 days. Ironically, I was talking to my parents this afternoon, and told them how I had stopped chemo because of the low neutrophils. My Mom was surprised that I could stop and start so quickly, so I explained that it wasn't a medication that required weaning. When she asked me if I was tired, I realized that since stopping chemo last Thursday, I had been battling a little bit of insomnia. I suppose those extra days off chemo will help me this week, and hopefully my sleep patterns will get back to normal.

Cancer seems to be looming all around us lately. Two friends of ours were recently diagnosed with various forms of cancer and a third has entered hospice. A blog friend of mine donated her hair to Locks of Love and said I inspired her. I also had the opportunity to meet a wonderful little boy from our Little League who has been fighting Leukemia (ALL). He has been having a rough time of late, but really wanted to be in the team photo with his team this year. He sat there in a uniform on top of a container of baseballs with bandaged hands and a hat covering his bald head. As I introduced myself, he remembered hearing about me last year. I could tell (from experience) that he was using all of his energy to be apart of the activity of photo day. He looked tired, but he was a fighter; I could see it in his eyes.

And with that, I am reminded that cancer comes in all forms, and does not discriminate against age, sex or race. The experiences are similar, and yet different for each person. And even with the differences, for those who survive the answer is the same; life is so very precious.

This week, my firm has been selling daffodils for The American Cancer Society. With the deadline to order fast approaching, I read the e-mail with the description of each donation. For a small donation, you could purchase daffodils with or without a vase, or for a larger donation, daffodils to be given anonymously to a cancer patient. You could also purchase a teddy bear for a child with cancer. And then I remembered going through out patient chemo last March - how The American Cancer Society had a table of daffodils that they handed to each patient in the oncology waiting room. So, it is true... you can anonymously donate flowers to a cancer patient, and as I can attest, they will get into the hands of a cancer patient.

I decided to make a donation for a teddy bear to be delivered to a child with cancer. I am confident that my bear will make it to a child like the one I met on Saturday. And like the flowers, I hope it fills that child with strength to survive the battle and revel in the reward of precious life.

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