Yesterday was the day we planned to go to the beach — me, John, Joey, Danny, and my mom. We planned to relax, play on the beach, and dig in the sand. I didn’t feel well but I thought the break would be good for me. I wanted to clear my mind and return to Gainesville with a positive attitude about my next phase of chemotherapy.
I got my getaway — but I never made it to the beach. Instead I had a one-way trip to the hospital. I don’t know when my return trip will be.
So now I sit at a computer in a little room on the 4th floor of Shands Hospital. I have a mask over my mouth and nose and gloves on my hands. An IV pole sits next to me, with antibiotics and other fluids dripping into my port. I’m staying in a room with special air flow to minimize the chance of infection. I’m restricted from receiving flowers or eating foods grown in the ground. Every time I leave my room, I have to wear a mask and my kids are not permitted on this floor. All this because of low blood counts and a fever.
I never felt well following my last chemo treatment on March 4th. In addition to the crummy way the anti-nausea drugs made me feel, I began feeling generally unwell. I felt lightheaded and dizzy and could hardly stand up after my shower yesterday morning. So when my mom and I went to a genetic counseling meeting yesterday at 9:00 AM (prior to our beach departure), I told her I would have my blood drawn to see if my blood counts were okay. So I had my blood drawn, walked just around the corner for my counseling appointment and sat for an hour learning about a blood test that can determine if I have a breakdown in a gene that may have led to my breast cancer. After the appoinment, I was handed a mask and whisked into an exam room. I was told my white blood cells were low — they were 700 and should be between 4,000 and 10,000. With this and a fever of 100.4, I was considered “neutropenic.” This sometimes happens with chemotherapy. Cells are attacked and immune systems suffer. I never expected this to happen to me — the shots of Neulasta I receive the day after chemo are intended to prevent this — but I hear now that many women are hospitalized at least once during chemo. Antibiotics are the course of treatment, to break the fever, and IV antibiotics are the fastest method for addressing the problem. So I went to my usual infusion room for my first dose and then was transferred to the main hospital for the rest of my treatment and observation.
My fever is gone. And my white blood cells are up to 1,200. But these are still too low to go home. The doctors say I may go home tomorrow (Sunday) or maybe Monday. They are looking for a trend that I am steadily getting better. And while I really would like to be home in my own bed, I am okay here. My mom spends the day with me while John takes care of Joey and Danny. Then my mom gives the boys dinner and a bath while John joins me for dinner. I know I am safe and protected here — and I am going to get well.
This is a getaway, really. And it’s probably just what I needed. When I look back on the past week, I don’t know how I was surviving. I kept going because I thought I had no other choice. I went to playgroups and registered Joey for preschool. I played in the yard and washed and vacuumed my car. But things happen for a reason — and for some reason, I knew on Friday that someone needed to look at my blood. Thank goodness for that genetic counseling session that got me on the oncology floor that day. Had I not been going for the appointment, I may not have thought to stop by for a blood draw. Now I know when to turn myself in for a hospital getaway.
Now I also know that I must continue with my chemotherapy — only eight weeks remain — but I am going to slow down the process a bit. I am going to push my next treatment from this coming to Friday to the following Friday. I think I need an extra week to recover and to feel normal before my body gets blasted again. Hopefully it won’t get so bad this time — and if it does, I will have to conquer it. I now know that my best attack on this disease is the first attack so if I quit now, I can’t ever go back. So I’ll do it now. And somehow I will survive it.