Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Milestone Reached

Saturday I reached a milestone in my cancer journey, I completed my fourth of four scheduled rounds of chemotherapy and I was able to ring the bell to celebrate my exiting of the chemo ward and the completion of this leg of my battle.
I truly owe a great deal of thanks, more than I can ever express, to all my friends, family, members of my medical team and the countless others along the way that shared encouragement, thoughts, prayers and support. You are all what gave me the strength to carry on.
Of course my battle is far from over, in some ways it is just beginning. Within the next month I will be heading in for further appointments, some to monitor the lasting effects of some of the various chemotherapy side effects, most importantly though I will be having another series of scans to see what residual tumor masses remain and then discussing what surgical options will be necessary to remove them. They say chicks dig scars right? If the bald look didn't do it, this should definitely make me irresistible. I'll have to see what Ellon thinks about that theory.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cumulative Effects

Chemotherapy adds up. The recovery periods between rounds are not of a length to get one back to 100%, rather they are just long enough to get the body back to a point where it can handle another round being pumped in. The way that is done is by tracking thresholds, a measure of the minimal blood levels the doctors feel they can comfortably (safely) run another course of therapy.
Of course there is one hiccup in the process. As a course of chemotherapy is run, in my case over a five consecutive day period, blood levels drop. With each round they drop a little quicker based on the lingering effects of the previous rounds. Other than having blood drawn and scanned each morning (at 4 a.m.) to monitor for drops what does this mean? It means that occasionally a transfusion may be necessary, whether it be platelets, WBC's or RBC's.
While I have come close to being a candidate for a transfusion I had been lucky enough to avoid this, until round 3 day 4. My red blood cell level had dropped to a 7.2, with 7 being the target low where they transfuse at. However, since I was also experiencing periods of being light headed, along with some pretty major fatigue, that put me squarely in the parameters of someone who needed a blood boost, two units of packed red blood cells worth, which I was typed and matched for. I have given blood on many occasions, but it was a bit of a different experience being on the receiving end. But my donor blood did its job and my RBC's were back to a better level for the next mornings blood scan and I finished out my week. Now on with the recovery so I can get round 4 under my belt.