Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chemo cycle 5b cancelled, another week delayed

First, I want to thank everyone for their prayers and positive thoughts that were put out for me. I know that the prayers worked because my WBC count went up from 1.4 to 2.3 by the time I arrived to resume treatment yesterday. Unfortunately, while my WBC count was rising, my platelet count was plummeting. The week before I was at 119, yesterday I was down to 26! In order to resume treatment, platelets need to be above 100. So, I was delayed another week. I was so disappointed and upset. The doctor and nurses are so wonderful though and they pointed out some very positive things before sending me home. First, my tumor marker - a protein in the blood that helps doctors evaluate the existence and levels of cancer - is low. It's at 14 when anything under 50 in a normal person without a history of cancer is considered normal and under 35 for someone who has had cancer. I would love to cling to this with glee but I know better than that...and I have internet access haha - so I know that there are false highs (and presumably false lows) with this measurement and that is why it's not used routinely in healthy people to detect cancer. I'm not saying I don't believe it - just that I am cautiously optimistic.

Another point made by Dr.B is that he thinks that the low WBC and platelet counts are evidence that we're "kicking the crap out of the cancer cells (and healthy ones too)" - and that's GREAT but it's also a concern (the healthy cell part) since we need for me to complete treatment and avoid complications as much as possible. So, what he said we will do is lower the dose of the chemo meds and switch me to Neupogen (the daily shot for raising WBC production) beginning next week. We're going to skip the "part b" of cycle 5 which would have been a "boost" dose of Gemzar (the secondary chemo drug I'm getting), and when I go back next week they will instead start me on cycle 6 if my platelet and WBC counts are considered reasonable for treatment. This will keep me "on schedule" and they're not concerned about me not getting "part b" since "part a" hit me (and presumably the cancer cells) so hard. *sigh of relief* Another discovery from my blood work yesterday is that I'm now anemic - right at the line anyway. The first blood draw they did had me at 9.8 for my hemoglobin (under 10 is anemic) but when they saw my platelet count of 26 they were convinced it couldn't be right and they took another blood draw from my arm, hoping that there was perhaps something strange going on at my port site. They just had the blood analysis machine calibrated so they knew the issue wasn't there. Well, the second draw hemoglobin came back at 10.1. Since it was over 10 they couldn't proceed yet with an injection that would address that but since I was 9.8 and 10.1 I was close enough that they are going to initiate the approval process with insurance to prepare for next week since I'll probably need it for sure by then. I'm not really sure what the injection is of so I'll be asking my friend Michelle (who is my chemo nurse and neighbor - love her :)) this week to remind me of the name so I can look into it a bit more. So that's where I'm at with treatment. Another rain delay haha. On one hand I'm really disappointed because I had hoped and prayed that I'd sail through this regimen the way I did the first series and stay on schedule. But on the other hand I'm glad to have a brief break now that I know how much harder these drugs are on me. I'm incredibly tired all the time. I'm short of breath going up/down the stairs or on my short walks that have tiny hills. I'm seeing the side effects of the low platelet count now when every time I bump into something I get a nasty bruise and now I'm paranoid about cooking (cutting mainly) since if I were to cut myself I wouldn't be able to stop the bleeding since my blood won't clot normally at this level. And I finally have the all over body aches and pains that tend to catch up to you when you have been on chemo for a while. It feels like soreness after running a race or working out really hard but all over, not just in select muscles that were worked out. But if I'm sitting still, in a safe place haha, I feel good (well, until a hot flash hits me but that's another story haha). Still tired, but good. I returned to work, part-time, last Friday. My team and management have been so wonderful. I'm so incredibly grateful for their support and flexibility so that I can continue focusing on my health but have something different than cancer to distract me and even make me feel useful and productive again. Certainly it's going to be a challenge sometimes with the fatigue, but I know I can manage it as long as things continue to go well with treatment in spite of these little bumps in the road. Thank you for your ongoing prayers and encouragement. I told Bob yesterday that with him being away so much, the connections I have with my family, friends and neighbors are so critical to keeping me going right now - keeping my spirits up and keeping me from falling into that dark scared place that follows me/us (anyone facing cancer) looking for a chance to take advantage of our vulnerability. But knowing that there are so many people rooting for me, praying for me, and reaching out to me encouraging me, that helps me be positive and be the tough bitch you all know and love haha :) Right? :) Because...


  1. We care about you - don't forget you have the entire internet community rooting for you! Being anemic (your low hemoglobin) feels like someone stole your "get up and go". Have they discussed platelet and RBC transfusions if your counts remain low?

  2. Dear God, WHY? WHY this cancer crap? Please place your healing hands on Julie. Give her strength and encouragement. Help her to keep her spirits up; help her out of those dark places. You said we can count on you to heal--please heal Julie.

    Julie, I think about your struggle everyday. I DO care about you and I wish this wasn't happening to you. I can't imagine what you are going through...I'm just so sorry. You seem to be carrying yourself so well, though...I've said it before, but you are just amazing.

  3. I came across you site today thanks to Goggle. My nice Shanda was recently diagnosed with appendiceal cancer. You can check out her progress on her blog: