(16-04-01) Update on Chemo Session #6

Today was kind of an exciting day.  Funny how the meaning of “exciting” has so drastically changed.  I was on the phone with a friend this afternoon, and she told me Dinah Shore was this weekend.

… Dinah Shore was the kind of thing that i used to get excited about.

Now, I get excited as i sit directly across from an oncologist who is reaching out to hug me because i made it to the 6th and final session of my chemotherapy treatment.  On time.  Still walking.  Never hospitalized from side effects.  This was exciting to me.  Today, i got to see my white blood cell count go back up, and a big grin on my oncologist’s face, and tears well up in my roommate’s eyes, and it was an exciting moment for all of us … because this first major victory is proof of something that we all desperately want to believe in: I am on my way to beating this.

Dr. Curley did mention that my red blood cell count is significantly low: 9.0.  The report’s specific word choice was “alert.”  When Dr. Curley made a side comment about how a blood transfusion wouldn’t be necessary, my heart jumped.  Why did he say that?  I knew if I asked him, he would answer carefully; he’s constantly working to ease my anxiety during these office visits (regardless of whether i even appear anxious).  Later, during my chemo treatment, i looked online to find out how low someone’s red blood cell count needed to be before a blood transfusion would be necessary.  Imagine my dismay to come across a 2012 U.S. News & World Report article that mentioned how physicians used to consider a 9-10 RBC count anemic enough to require a blood transfusion!  To be fair, that requirement has changed after over 60 years of research analysis; these days, people don’t get blood transfusions unless their RBC count is 7-8 grams.  Still, it’s my latest worry: When my hemoglobins drop these next couple of weeks from chemo, will they dip low enough to require a transfusion???

I learned another (more positive) thing about my red blood cells, something that helped me better understand one of my biggest side effects.  Lately, i have felt burning in my muscles whenever doing simple tasks: walking from one building to the next at work, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the litter boxes, or picking up a few items at Target.  The burning feels like i have just hiked several miles up a steep mountain incline, under Arizona’s hot summer sun, with only lukewarm water in my CamelBak.  I have felt increasingly weak and more fatigued every week since chemo started back in December, but this burning hits me a little harder (and the dozens of hot flashes i get throughout the day don’t exactly help with the burning).  Dr. Curley explained something i probably was taught in middle school science class but clearly wasn’t interested in learning about: red blood cells serve as transportation to the body.  Specifically, one of the things that it transfers is oxygen.  However, chemotherapy depletes my oxygen levels AND my red blood cells – more and more with each session i have.  So by now, my limited amount of red blood cells are trying to chauffeur an insufficient amount of oxygen to my muscles, but they slow and weak in doing so.  My muscles, when i try to use them even for simple tasks, are essentially screaming out for oxygen; that’s the burning i feel.  He told me that i will start to feel less burning in about 5 weeks, and in four months it should be basically gone.  5-24 weeks.  I can do that.

Author: breastcancerat35

I was diagnosed with Stage 3C Invasive Breast Cancer in October/November, 2015. This blog is my way to process my experience and allow my loved ones to have ongoing updates about my journey.

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