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No chemo today. Whew.

September 4, 2009

This is my “off” Friday. No chemo today, which is good because the past three weeks really made me tired. Now all I have to do is work on getting my red blood cell counts up to normal before they poison me again.

The last thing I want is a blood transfusion to boost my red cells. That’s an utterly miserable experience. You’re already feeling terrible, then they sit you in yet another blue recliner, pump you full of Benadryl so you don’t react to the foreign blood, hang a giant red bag of blood in front of your face, and slowly drip it and more Benadryl for six hours. If you’ve actually lost blood, they can feed it into you quickly, but if you haven’t lost blood then they have to drip it slowly so they don’t overwhelm your kidneys. Anyway, I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone I know, including me.

The other last thing I want is a Procrit shot to boost red blood cells. Doctors are always thrilled if they can just give you a shot to solve a problem like low red counts, but Procrit  has some problems of its own (high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke…). All that to say — pray that the iron-rich foods the naturopath has suggested do the trick.The naturopath is also going to do a blood test to see if I am susceptible to anemia in general (I am… but she has to check) and she thinks in that case an iron supplement along with B-12 will help. Again, I’ll run this by my oncologist before I put any supplements in my mouth. I have always wondered, though, why they don’t just give you iron supplements when they know they’re going to destroy your red blood cells. Another mystery.

I’m also experiencing an odd symptom, or at least one that I think is odd. That is that occasionally I just plain old stop breathing. I’ll be sitting down and realize that I haven’t breathed for an extended period of time. So I have to concentrate on breathing for a while. Maybe the doctors would just call this “slow respiration,” but it’s a strange experience to have to command yourself to breathe.

I know that low red blood cell counts can cause what they call “shortness of breath” because the red cells carry oxygen and when you don’t have them, you don’t have has much oxygen in your system. This kind of shortness of breath is hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it. It’s not the kind where you get short of breath from hard exercise, it’s the kind where you start gasping if you pick up a dish off the table — it’s miserable and just plain wrong on so many levels.

So, this breathing thing could be related to the low reds, or it could be related to the tumor in my lung, or possibly could be some other tumor in my brain pressing on the wrong spot. Let’s pray it’s just the low red cell count. Deal? I tend to think it is because I was struggling to breathe much more a couple of days after the last chemo, and now it’s just happening occasionally.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Annette permalink
    September 4, 2009 1:52 pm

    I have experienced that anemia-related shortness of breath – and I know exactly what you mean. I can remember walking down the hall to the bathroom at work leaning against the wall, because I was afraid if I didn’t lean on the wall I’d literally fall flat on my face. You’re not gasping. You’re just so tired your eyes are about crossing. And the slightest exertion makes you just want to weep.

    I know it’s the anemia dear. Hang tough.

  2. Jill permalink
    September 4, 2009 6:12 pm

    Thanks, Annette. I think you’re right.

  3. Mina permalink
    September 4, 2009 7:00 pm

    Sending happy, virtual red blood cells your way! Your strength is admirable. Much blessings to you.

  4. September 4, 2009 9:55 pm

    There was a time when I was broke enough that I spent 2 afternoons a week at the local blood bank donating plasma. They put us in big black recliners, hung the bags, punched our arms, and we sat (and studied) while they syphoned off the blood, centrifuged the plasma out, then gave us back our red blood cells [they always asked if that was my signature on the bag…I always hoped no one had swapped the tags] in a freezingly cold saline salution. When I get bone-chilling cold now, it’s still those black chairs I remember.

    So you have my every sympathy.

    • Jill permalink
      September 5, 2009 7:07 am

      Oh yes…. freezing cold saline. Hate that stuff.

  5. September 5, 2009 7:49 am

    I probably have a few extra red blood cells if you need them 😀

    BTW, if you take B-12 you gotta take folic acid with it or it does not get absorbed in you intestines (or you could take the injection form, yay more holes) I have had the B-12 injection a couple times and it’s a really big pick-me-up, it’s not cheap though and insurance won’t pay for it.

    The reason they do not recommend iron supliments is it’s really easy to overdose on them and you’ll get very very sick, just buck up and eat lots of liver!

    • Debbie permalink*
      September 6, 2009 5:00 pm

      I have some blood you can have too. The blood bank is at work at least once a month – sometimes twice. I can always donate in your name. That should definitely cut down on the Benadryl. Any other organ you need that I can survive w/o is also available.

      I actually learned how to cook liver so it’s palateable (sp?). Most people overcook it and it’s the texture of overcooked liver that’s nausea inducing rather than the flavor. With enough seasonings – it’s not bad (Ketchup also works wonders). It’s also one of the cheaper meats you can buy and it is really good for you – especially if your iron is low.

      • Jill permalink
        September 6, 2009 7:37 pm

        Well, if anyone could make liver taste good, you can. I’m forbidden from eating beef and organ meats by both the oncologist and naturopath.

  6. Lisa permalink
    September 5, 2009 8:28 am

    I was reading a study the other day on taking any anti-oxidants while having chemo. It highly recommended no, as it will counteract the killing off of the bad cells. I see though you are going to talk to your Dr. about it though, so no worries.

    Isn’t some of the cancer by your lungs as well? They figure that is why my Dad has had alot of out of breathe sensations the past year. While the cancer cells thrive there, then it makes it harder to breathe. And yes, you are right is the simplest of things – not long physical exertions that make the out of breath feeling occur.

    I am so very sorry to hear you are still tired. I will definitely keep good thoughts and prayers that a simple remedy and time will cause your ability to breathe and energy level’s to rise up!

    – Lisa

    • Jill permalink
      September 5, 2009 8:31 am

      Thanks, Lisa. Yes, it’s in the lung, but just one 9mm spot, so it never has cause symptoms. But maybe now it’s fighting back. Who knows?

      I’m going to get my heart rate up and help clean out the garage. Of course, I might just set up one of the camping cots that we’ll likely dig out and watch the guys clean….

    • Jill permalink
      September 5, 2009 9:09 am

      Oh, and the anti-oxidants and chemo. Yes, I’m watching for those. Chemo is an oxidizer and the theory is that you shouldn’t take anti-oxidants because they interfere with oxidizers. Makes sense.

      What most people don’t know is that there are only three anti-oxidant vitamins that you can take orally: E, C and beta carotene (a form of vitamin A). I’m not taking any of those and I watch for them carefully.

      One doctor warned me about not taking fish oil because it’s an anti-oxidant. I was pretty sure that wasn’t the case so I verified with several other doctors. Fish oil is an anti-inflammatory. The reason some doctors warn against it is that some fish oils have vitamin E in them either added or naturally (cod liver oil). I’m taking one without vitamin E.

      So, that’s just some general information for all — not necessarily just for you, Lisa. =)

  7. Jill permalink
    September 5, 2009 8:28 am

    Okay. If I need blood I’ll just pop by your house. Being that you’re my bro I might not even need the Benadryl. Do you have a couple of sharp needles and some extra garden hose?

    Ewww. Liver. I think I’ll just eat a lot of spinach.

    • Jill permalink
      September 5, 2009 8:29 am

      I meant to reply to Mark on that one!

  8. Cristina permalink
    September 5, 2009 9:56 am

    When I donated some stem cells a while ago, I found it fascinating to see the machine process my blood and have the cells accumulate in a bag. Maybe it was just my brain’s way to distract me from the discomfort and the needle sensation.
    After the first few minutes of chilly saline, I don’t recall the ‘return’ blood being cold though. A bit cool, but not uncomfortable. Different blood bank or maybe improved techniques made the difference? Mine was PSBC.
    The only side effect is that I hate needles in my elbow and wrist areas- hate it. Here’s hoping and praying that you never, ever get a defective needle…

  9. Lisa permalink
    September 5, 2009 1:09 pm

    Well Jill, I figured you would know more then I on the topic — I thought of you while reading the article though. Glad to hear you are right on top of it.

    And as you know I’m a huge proponent of the fish oil and seen amazing impacts on my son and I.

    Now I’m a Vitamin D junkie too, keep reading research about its impact and why most of us our deficient.

    I think at the rate I’m going this year, shortly I’ll be driving a hybrid car, eating only food I grow and alot more ‘green’ then I’ve been the past decade. I was before, but got burned out when I didn’t see much impact on P for all the time I invested.

    Lately though I see the impact in all we do and I think of you and your ‘mineral’ make up comments often. At least it means we are all being pro-active, which gives some sense of control 😉

    I pray that a transfusion won’t be necessary and I ponder why no Iron supplements also. Afterall, many pregnant women are given them. I can’t tolerate them though. Iron is in the most suprising food items and a little creativity just might make it work. 🙂

    • Jill permalink
      September 5, 2009 2:20 pm

      Vitamin D — good stuff. I heard the other day that it’s not a vitamin, it’s a hormone. I have no idea if that’s right, it was just a passing thing I overheard on the radio while not paying much attention.

      There’s a lot of iron in sesame seeds, apparently. Who knew McDonalds was doing something good with their sesame seed buns? I’m sure everything else you eat with it cancels the goodness.

      I’m glad P is having some good responses from everything. He’s lucky to have a mom who is so persistent and watch out for him.

  10. mom permalink
    September 6, 2009 8:25 am

    Check out D3, better absorbed and better for you.

    • Jill permalink
      September 6, 2009 9:26 am

      Yes. I meant D3. I have the liquid drops which are apparently even better absorbed than the pill form.

  11. Lisa permalink
    September 6, 2009 9:02 am

    Jill, Your son is amazingly lucky too! Thank you.

    Yes, I read the D3 needs to be in the pill. I bought the one that had it 🙂 Your body makes Vitamin D, but the problem is most of us don’t make enough due to lack of sunshine in the northern winter months and use of SPF products. It seems to be the latest topic in the medical journals.

    Since I couldn’t recall here is a great list of iron rich foods:

    • Jill permalink
      September 6, 2009 9:28 am

      Thanks for those links.

      Yes, to absorb calcium you need to take it and D3 together. I take the liquid D3 and a separate calcium so the naturopath can vary the dosages over time and I don’t have to buy new pills/liquid.

  12. September 8, 2009 9:18 am

    About not breathing: When I had my right ovary removed in 1993, it had been quite a while since the last time I was given general anesthesia. The first time under general, I went into shock in the recovery room. Another couple of times, I was severely nauseous and did a lot of vomiting, which they did not want to have happen with the abdominal surgery. SOOOO, the anesthesiologist said, “no problem, I can fix it so you won’t be nauseous.” What I didn’t know was that he was going to give me a big dose of dramamine.

    Drugs generally work REALLY well on me, so if they give me enough for my size, it’s way too much. When I took dramamine for car sickness on the 3-day bus trip to Mexico in 1972, I could only take 1/4 pill, and even that little bit made me sleep for 12 hours straight. Benadryl does the same thing to me.

    Anyway, Bill was starting to worry a lot, because I was in recovery for at least an hour longer than expected after the ovary removal. I can’t remember how low my heart rate was, but I do remember my respirations were about 4-6 per minute. The nurse would wake me up and say, “BREATHE!” I didn’t know why she was saying that. I didn’t feel like I needed to take a breath. But I did as ordered, and then passed out again until she repeated the command. Obviously I recovered, because I’m typing this, but now I have to tell them not to use something that is sedating to help with nausea. I recovered pretty well (without nausea or over-sedation) after the stomach valve surgery in 2005, so I’m following your example of being very specific and demanding of doctors.

    About taking iron: Pernicious Anemia runs in the family. Mom has probably told you that. I’ve always been border-line anemic. I somewhat fixed that by increasing my red meat intake, but then my cholesterol went up, so I changed to more vegetable protein. Still doing pretty well on the anemia front. Anyway, I can’t take iron pills, and pretty much can’t take vitamins in general, because they make me burp (icky tasty burps), and give me some stomach pains at times. Iron also makes me SO constipated. You’d think that since I usually have the opposite problem, I’d welcome some constipation, but I don’t. Neither extreme is any good.

    Anyway, my two comments for the day, after being away for the long weekend and missing out on so much blogging!

    • Jill permalink
      September 8, 2009 11:46 am

      Thanks… adding the pernicious anemia to the list for the doctor.

      I have the same reaction to drugs that you do. I have no idea how much Benadryl they give me IV, but last time was pretty bad.

      The chemo is starting now to affect my hearing again. I never recovered quite a bit of it from last time. I have added that to the list too.

      I believe some of these side effects are simply the overdose problem you mention.

  13. September 22, 2009 12:37 am

    It’s your positive attitude that is obviously helping you along with your physicians and Naturopath – keep it up!!

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