Just when I posted my last post on how great things were going after my fourth chemo cycle… I got b!tch slapped upside the head with neutropenic fever. After spending seven nights in the hospital, with most of those having zero energy and sleeping less than 4 hours a night, I am so glad to be home.
What is Neutropenic Fever?
To put it simply, neutropenic fever is when a person (in this case, me) with abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell (neutrophils) gets a fever. Cancer patients can become neutropenic as part of the side effects of chemotherapy and thus lack the immune system to fight viruses and infections healthy person could typically overcome. Because of this, I have been extremely cautious about trying to not get sick. I have probably given this little spiel a dozen times now. I’m sure a lot of people are like “yeah, uh huh, can’t get you sick, got it”.
We are making personal sacrifices to avoid getting sick. I work from home, don’t go to public places except the doctor, wash and sanitize my hands constantly, wear a face mask, change Camila’s clothes everyday before she comes home from school, sanitize our dishes in the dishwasher, use Clorox and Lysol on everything in our house, anyone entering my house must remove their shoes and wash their hands, the list could go on. I didn’t know if we were going overboard with these precautions or not, but last week we found out we were doing the best we could.
Small Cold, Big Impact
Both Roberto and Camila caught a very minor cold. They had runny noses and a bit of a cough, but no fever. Eventually, I caught this from them on a Friday. It seemed like a minor cold to me too. I had a clear runny nose and no fever. I hoped that I could fight it as my recent lab work showed my white blood cell counts to still be okay. By Monday, I had a fever and my lab work showed i was severely neutropenic. I needed to get to the ER right away because with my neutrophils that low, there was no way I could fight it on my own.
To get my neutrophil counts up, I got Neupogen injections daily until my counts were high enough. In a regular chemo cycle, I get 2 days of Neupogen injections to help me improve my neutrophil counts prior to my next chemo treatment. Usually these 2 days do tire me out and give me a low grade fever. I just need to sleep and rest and I’ll be okay in a day.
This time, I needed 6 days of Neupogen and at a higher dose. This is very taxing on the body as my bone marrow is working overtime to create more white blood cells. I had no energy for a good 5 days, accompanied with fever, chills, night sweats, and just overall lethargy. Add that in with well meaning hospital staff coming into your room every other hour for just a few hours of sleep a night. Maybe this is preparing me for a newborn. But after 7 long nights at the hospital, my counts were finally back up and I was fever free.
I hate to sound preachy, but the point of my story is… if you are feeling sick, stay home. I am responsible for my own health, but don’t go out and spread your germs. Protect yourself by washing your hands and using good hygiene like covering your cough. Don’t expect people to go to work or do things if they are sick. Let them rest. It’s not about just my health, but for everyone out there, even healthy people. Everyone knows how dangerous this flu season is. Healthy people are dying from the flu. Let’s let each other prioritize our health!
Also, this is what I originally pictured cancer to be like. I thought I was going to be feeling sick, no energy, and in bed all day. It’s actually been quite the opposite for me and days like this are extreme and rare. So I’m happy that most of my days are pretty normal and I’ve only ran into a handful of these rough days.
I only have ONE week until I am scheduled to deliver the baby at 36 weeks. From now until then, I’m trying to stay as healthy as possible to be ready for delivery. Even though I am delivering a month early, baby boy is growing and stretching by belly skin to no end. I’ve only gained 15 lbs with this pregnancy (granted it could be more, since my mass shrunk), but this baby is in the 82nd percentile in growth and already over 6 lbs at 35 weeks pregnant! One more week to go!