Monday, October 31, 2011

Chemo Flunkie and Kaia Update

Just a brief note today (I hope).

I was all set for part 2 of round 4 of chemo, but after the blood tests came back I was told that I wouldn't be having chemo today: my cell counts were too low. Specifically, my neutrophils (part of the white blood cell count) are about half of where they should be today. About 1500 is normal, mine are 700. 

Though this could seem alarming, its more of a "it was bound to happen eventually" kind of thing. We know that the chemo knocks you down, and low blood cell counts are an expected (though unfortunate) part of this.

What this means is that I'm more susceptible to disease than normal, and they gave me masks to wear when in large crowds (which I should avoid anyhow, these days). I should be extra good at hand-washing, avoid sick people, and -- by extension -- kids in general. This is common sense stuff on chemo, but I need to be really strict about it for the next week or so.

Other blood values were also off: my potassium was low, so they have put me (back) on potassium supplements. This can happen when a lot of fluid is being flushed through, which is what chemo and all the extra IV fluids do, plus I am supposed to drink about 80 ounces of water a day. When I lived at high altitude, it was common to have a potassium shortage since it was so dry.

Likewise, my hematocrit (HCT) is at 26, which is a far cry from my normal when I was at in Colorado, which was about 56. Red blood cells carry oxygen, and at high altitude we build more red blood cells to carry more oxygen. The low end of male human normal is 36, so I'm well below that. This could account for the lightheadedness I've been feeling of late.

Anyhow, the solution is to take potassium supplements, avoid sick people, rest up, drink water, and take the rest of the round of chemo off. I figured they'd push this treatment back a few days, but instead they've skipped it altogether and I'll start up again with round 5 in two weeks. The two weeks off will be nice, though the reason for the time off means that it may take the full two weeks until I feel better again.

This is the first week that I have not had acupuncture through my treatment. This could account for all of these values being off, as well as the persistent nausea that I've had all week. 


Also top my my mind this past week is that my dog Kaia is very sick with kidney issues. She's been in and out of the vet, has had multiple tests, and is on a handful of pills. I'm alternately hopeful and pessimistic about her prognosis. The vet knows now that that there is kidney damage from an unknown source, though they seem to have ruled out infection and leptospirosis. Humans can catch leptospirosis from dogs, so that would have been scary for both of us had it been the case.

Right now she's not feeling well and its a challenge to get her to eat and drink. She's under very close observation and I feel like we're doing everything that can be done, but the sad reality is that nothing may be able to be done. I rely on her heavily for daily support and I would miss her terribly, but I am not so selfish that I'd keep her around past the point where it is humane simply for my own comfort of her company. I've gone through this before many times and it doesn't get easier, except that when it is time -- if it is time -- it will be clear to both of us.

(Picture below was taken just this afternoon and depicts her sleeping soundly... which she does a lot of these days. Poor girl.)


Kevin said...

Here's hoping the both of you are feeling better soon.

raggers said...

What Kevin said.

John Slade said...

Enjoy the chemo holiday, spend the extra time doting on Kaia, and keep yourself healthy!

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