Traveling takes on a whole new meaning for cancer patients. Every sneeze and every cough on the airplane has the potential to spread unwanted infection. To most people, it’s just an annoyance, but when your immune system is compromised there is so much more of concern. I had the opportunity to fly recently in what is essentially the middle of my chemo treatment. I survived the debulking surgery in March, 25 radiations, and 4 chemos already, but would I survive the passenger on flight 898 who touched the seat-back tray with his germ filled hands on the previous flight. How thoroughly do airlines really clean those planes? What about the recirculated air from the 250 passengers all around me?
I traveled with the blessing of my doctor and my chemo nurses. Nurse Cindy said to me, “We do these treatments so that you will be able to enjoy your life.” That is my plan! I brought my bag full of drugs with me (wondering if TSA was going to wonder about a gallon Ziploc filled with prescription meds). I brought 3 bottles of hand sanitizer, three packs of Clorox travel wipes, and two cloth masks ordered from Amazon. (The only masks I had at home prior to this were from Home Depot made with the intention for home improvement projects.) Not only do the masks ward off germs, I’ve noticed most people subconsciously create a healthy personal zone around mask wearing travelers. Although rather hot and uncomfortable, they kept me insulated from all that swirled around me (even if it was only a mental protection). My Trip is still a work in progress, but a welcome break from cancer, treatments, and hospitals. When I return, I will be ready to pick up arms and begin the fight again…as my sister said…RFM…Relentless Forward Motion. I concur.
My chemo journey seems to bring me something new each week! One of my biggest challenges with the Gemzar has been keeping my white count high enough to even get chemo, and also to avoid bacterial infection. It seems vaguely humorous that you need drugs to treat the side effects of the drugs needed to fight cancer. It’s like the Inception (a dream within a dream) of cancer. My latest challenge is the need to generate healthy bone marrow. The best means of doing this appears to be Neulasta, a drug which stimulates bone marrow production.My cancer fighting chemotherapy is indiscriminate about which cells it kills, and it has been attacking my white blood cells. Those infection fighting white blood cells are developed in the bone marrow. We need to get the cell party started deep within my bone marrow. To say that my last experience with Neupogen (another bone marrow booster) did not go well, would be a huge understatement. The bone pain I felt from that was just excruciating. But here’s a fun fact: Evidently Claritin fights bone pain. Who knew? I always wonder who was the first person to figure out that taking something off label could help something else. I started the Claritin today and will continue for a 3 days post chemo. The current plan is chemotherapy on Friday morning, and then the dreaded Neulasta on Saturday (24 hours after chemo). Then, let the fun begin.
Maybe it would just be easier to take Skele-gro!
Remember that song from the Gin Blossoms called Hey Jealousy? That was rolling through my head when I failed my blood test today-low white count and low neutrophils. My body is forcing me to take a break. It’s bad when you’re jealous of the person sitting next to you getting chemo when you can’t. Pretty pathetic actually. My neutrophil count was too low to even think of getting chemo. Normal neutrophil numbers are 1.5-7.5. Last Friday I was at .4 and Monday .7. Today, I was sure the numbers would reach that magic 1.5, but no. The neutrophils are just barely .8. White Blood Count was 1.5 and normal range is 3.5-11.0. The white blood cells and neutrophils fight against infection. Simply put, I don’t have the defenses to fight against bacteria and infection. I’m a hugger, and there will be no hugs! You’ll have to get your hugs elsewhere this week. So what now? I wait until next Thursday and we try again. This is messing with the whole schedule in my brain and will most likely extend chemotherapy into October. But, as I was reminded, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. My husband observed last week that I am completely up to speed with the positive thoughts aspect of fighting cancer, but my body needs to get with the program and catch up to the mind. Time to listen and do what needs to be done. Rest and allow time for recovery. We will try again next Thursday. I wish it was like school and I could just study hard! I’m such a “head down and power through” type of person, so you can imagine my frustration with all of this. I need a zen moment.