Imagine if you will a room full of people waiting to go back to the chemo bay for their daily / weekly / monthly chemotherapy treatment. A nurse comes out and gets everyone to stand and says, “Everyone here for their chemotherapy take one step forward….NOT SO FAST MR. HAMBURGER!”
I went to the hospital today ready to get my 3rd week of treatment and instead I found out that my bloodwork was not going to cooperate! So let’s get to the numbers. First, my weight came up a bit (I gained back 4 of the pounds I lost). That’s the good news. The less than desirable, but not wholly unexpected news, is that my red and white blood cell and my platelet counts were low:
- White Blood Cell: 0.7 (Critical)
- Red Blood Cell: 3.05 (Low)
- Platelet count: 38,000 (Low)
What do these numbers mean and what do these cells do? White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are the cells that make up the immune system. This number should be between 3.6 and 11.1; 0.7, not so much! My white blood cell count is multiplied by something called my Preliminary Neutrophil percentage to determine my absolute neutrophil count, which is a measure of my bodies ability to fight off infection. The ANC in a healthy adult should be above 1800 or so; though, my doctors said they would not be terribly concerned if it were at least 1000. My ANC is 392; thus, I am currently considered immunosuppressed. As a result, I need to be careful to minimize my exposure to folks who are sniffing / sneezing / or might otherwise be sick. It also means that for the immediate future I actually have to <gasp> wash my hands.
The main job of someone’s red blood cells is to carry oxygen to the various parts of the body. The normal range for red blood cell count is 4.27 to 5.49. What does this mean for me? It means my blood is less effective in carrying oxygen and, thus, I’ll be more fatigued and might get light headed more easily. (Here, I thought I was just being a wimp when I had trouble climbing the 10 flights of stairs at the office today.)
One’s platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are involved with the bodies ability to form clots. Normal platelet counts are between 150,000 and 400,000. Besides preventing me from getting chemotherapy (I have to have a platelet count of at least 100,000), a low platelet count means that I have an increased prevalence for bruising and, if I get cut, my body may have trouble forming clots. The nurse today told me I should not let myself get cut; something I assured her I try to avoid normally (regardless of my ability to form clots).
None of this is unexpected. I would have preferred to have put it off for a month or three, but here we are. I want to avoid wearing a mask for as long as possible, but please be compassionate if you see me with one. In the end, I will work from home the next couple of days while my body recovers and rebuilds my blood cell and platelet counts. However, I still have permission to go camping this weekend with the cub scouts, but (as mentioned previously) I should avoid cutting myself or bumping into things (two of my FAVORITE camping activities, along with hatchet throwing and drinking unfiltered water).
At the moment, I just need to be vigilant to my own health. This too shall pass.