Sunday, July 1, 2007

Personal Best, Personal Worst

I continue to feel energetic and stay active. In fact, I'd say that my energy level could rate a personal best.

Since my Thursday afternoon visit at CoH, I've buzzed about non-stop with preparations for the baby shower I hosted on Saturday, enjoyed a long lunch with drop-in friends at The Taco Spot, and scored at a clothing swap party on Friday night. I rose early on Saturday to put the finishing touches on the baby shower. The last guests left the party at nearly 4 pm, giving me just enough time to make it to CoH for my 4:30 blood draw appointment.

Mai Tais and Bloody Mary's
To my surprise, my blood counts had reached an all-time low - a personal worst for me. I was especially stunned to learn that my hemoglobin had dipped to a dire 7.9. I had spent the morning rushing up and down stairs and scurrying about, and didn't once feel winded or tired.

The platelet count came in at a dangerously low 5,000. To put this in perspective, my pre-chemo count was 250,000; low normal is 150,000 and my previous low was 13,000.

It's no wonder that I was having nose bleeds, was covered in bruises and sported the tell-tale red-dot rash, a sign of internal hemorrhaging. A tiny itch on the leg resulted in spots of blood the size of silver dollar pancakes on my slacks. I woke up on Saturday morning with my T-shirt drizzled in blood from a small scratch on my neck.

If my blood counts took this kind of pummelling after a chemo round with "pulled punches" (lower intensity, shorter duration), I shudder to think what would have happened if I had taken the full punch.

But I didn't stay down for the count. After knocking back a bag of mai tais (platelets) and bloody Mary's (red blood cells), my counts climbed out of the danger zone

A Night in the ER
Saturday appointments at CoH are handled in the Evaluation and Treatment Center (ETC). Instead of the convivial, pull-up-a-Lazy Boy atmosphere of the transfusion room, I sat isolated in my own glass-partitioned cubicle.

I can see why they do this. The other patients are just a little, well, scary. I took a pole stroll to the restroom and passed one of my fellow inmates, a young man wearing a hoodie pulled up over his head. His eyes were sunken and his skin was a translucent, bluish white. The words "ghostly pallor" came immediately to mind.

The EMC staff are professional and attentive, but unusually playful. Disco was their music of choice for the evening. When a new tune came up, we took turns shouting out the artist. "Sylvester!" "Abba!" "Village Boys, err People!" "Gloria Gaynor!" We all pleaded with Nurse George, whose biggest regret is that he was too young to experience the Studio 54 phenomenon, to show us a few of his disco steps. Next time I'll bring my feather boas.

Between the entertaining staff and a good book, the five+ hours went quickly. Not the way I would ordinarily choose to spend a Saturday night, but I'm grateful that Dr. Forman had the foresight to book a weekend appointment so that I could pull my counts out of the toilet.


denise said...

I'm so glad you're feeling better. It seems your body is soft-spoken when it comes to telling you how it feels. In between all your fun and social flutter, plesae, please step out and take a good listen just to check in. Don't mean to preach, lecture or scold, just said out of love.

It always amazes me how much you do and how much you put into it. I couldn't keep up with a full platlete count :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Susan - hang in there - thinking of you -

Lisa C.

Paula Johnson said...

Nothing like a Blue Platelet Special to help things along, but, 5,000? Internal hemorrhaging?

Crap, now you're officially freaking me out.

The only plus is that chemo is all done, right?

What's the target date for starting your month-long vacation in Duarte? More importantly, how many Manhattans are you allowed to toss back night before?

Susan Carrier said...

I know, I know - it's the "same ol', same ol.'" I feel great and then I find out my counts are in the toilet.

With the low platelets I at least have physical signs to warn me, but I've become so good at "adapting" that I haven't a clue about the low hemoglobin.

I did find I was tired (but the good tired, not chemo exhausted tired) on Sunday and took it easy for most of the day.

I was hoping to still be able to do at least one more round, but I see that's not realistic.

At this point, I hesitate to even speculate when I'll be a month-long guest at Hotel Hope.

Karen said...

It sure was a good thing you went in Saturday night. If you were my child, and you started bleeding so much from simply scratching an itch, I'd say stop sratching yourself -- scratch the party instead, and pay a little visit to the ER. But, then, I'm super anxious in the best of times. No doubt the the middle way is the best. But I know how hard it can be to find that middle way. (If it were easy, we'd all be there!) I'm glad you're doing better now, and I'm sending as many good vibes your way as I can.

Much love,
Mrs. Duck