27 December 2008

merry cristmaz

Thank you for your patience, faithful readers - I know this post is long overdue. I apologize to any of you who have been waiting by your computers like some lovestruck schoolgirl waiting for the phone to ring on a Saturday night. Who am I kidding? As if you've been sitting there this whole time...

really, i don't like roller coasters

Up. Down. Up. Down. This could describe my blood counts just as equally as it could describe my mood.

When I last reported, my counts were barely creeping up. In fact, way back on November 20, I expounded on the definition and cause of the nadir I thought I was living through. The week after that, I felt great and had loads of energy. I was sure my counts were up; if not in the normal range, then darn close to it. It had been 9 days since my last labs, and I had been knocking wood till my knuckles were raw. I had blood drawn in the morning, and then it was about an hour wait for results. When I got them, it was all I could do to not cry.

Some of my counts had gone up. My platelets were almost normal. My hemoglobin was still creeping up. But my white blood cell count had gone down a little. And more drastically, the all important ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count) had dropped almost in half. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that fights infection, and I had lost almost half of mine in just over a week. I was devastated. I had been hoping to find out that I could finally go to the grocery store without a mask on, or go back to work without having to isolate myself in my office, or eat an uncooked vegetable; but instead, I felt as if I was moving in reverse. THIS was my nadir.

The next day, I saw Dr M. He said that I seemed to be on track to what he expected and that even though it wasn't exactly normal for someone to hit their nadir so many weeks after treatment ended, it wasn't giving him any cause for concern. He even said that I could go to work if I felt up to it, but that I should still be careful to say away from sick people and wash my hands constantly and be extra careful. The next Monday, I was back at work.

Then I started to get fevers. And if you remember, fevers = emergency room = sad sad Linda. But this time was different. Since my treatment was over, I didn't have to rush to the emergency room when I hit 100.5°. Nurse J advised me to take 'something' and just keep an eye on things, which I did. She also called in a prescription for an antibiotic (thankfully NOT Levaquin). My fever would come back in the afternoons, but would go away before bedtime and be gone until the next afternoon. Nobody seemed very concerned about this. Since I wasn't in treatment any longer, the big danger was over.

I saw Dr F on Wednesday. He commented that I looked how he remembered me looking when I first became his patient. This was a good indicator to him that I was doing better, regardless of what the blood tests were saying. He also explained that most of the neutrophils are normally made in the bone marrow of the pelvic bones. But since mine had been radiated daily for almost 9 weeks, my pelvic bones weren't regenerating cells. Eventually, my body would catch on and switch neutrophil production to the long bones of my arms and legs. It would just take time.

The time came on Thursday, December 11. My counts had not just doubled - they more than tripled! This put me in the normal range!!! YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!! I was finally allowed to be around people! I was finally able to go to the movies! I was finally going to be able to eat salad! And cheese!

it's good to be me again

But old habits are hard to break. After steeling myself for having to be isolated and germ-free for the holidays, I didn't know what to think of my emancipation. It was a little confusing: when you've been worried for months about everything you touch and everyone you breathe around and what types of foods you eat, it's difficult to just let go of that. I'm still constantly washing my hands, and I'm still taking my temperature, and I'm still nervous about what I eat.

I went back to work the following Monday; and for the first time since August, worked the entire week! It tired me out, but it was a great feeling to get up every day and go to work. Mind you, I was late every day. And I can't promise you that I stayed focused the whole time. But I was there, and I got to be around people, and that felt great.

On Wednesday, I attended our office Christmas party and ate my first nibble of raw vegetables: my famous Veggie Squares! They were delicious, even though I found them a little saltier than I remembered. It was wonderful to be around all my co-workers and not be worried about standing too close to anyone :)

In the week that followed, I expanded my food intake even more: tuna salad with lettuce and tomato, an Olive Garden salad, sub sandwiches, french fries, chips and salsa.

The only things I'm really still staying away from are sodas, heavy cheeses, and spicy foods. But those will come in time.

a very merry christmas

For Christmas John and I got a really big surprise: my family! Very unexpectedly, I got a call on December 23 from Julie that her family and my mom were headed to my house for Christmas! It was exactly what I wanted :)

They arrived just after dark on Christmas Eve. They were instantly nicknamed Catherine and Eddie for the Griswold cousins from Christmas Vacation, since they were parking their RV on our front lawn. They didn't empty the shitter, but they did back over a neighbor's mailbox. Oops!

We had a nice Christmas Eve. Loads of finger foods: veggie squares, buffalo chicken dip, bruschetta dip, chicken wings. We opened presents with the family, and had a lot of laughs.

Christmas morning, John and I woke up early and opened presents with the kittens. I'm glad to say that I am using one of my presents to write this post: John gave me a new laptop! Wah-hoo! I'm no longer using an obsolete operating system on an eight-year old machine. Fabulosity! If you would like to Skype me, you can now! Just look for bonezrodriguez.

After opening our presents together, John and I invited the Griswolds to come on in. We ate, we played games, some of us napped, we ate some more. After dinner, we watched Christmas Vacation and played Christmas Vacation Bingo (my John won). At around 9 pm, there was a knock on the door. And who do you think it was? The rest of my family! Diane and her three sons had driven up so they'd get there before Christmas was over! I really did have my whole family there for Christmas! I was overwhelmed and overjoyed!

The next day, John had to go back to work. The Newtons headed off to Georgia. My mom and I went out to see MT Jeanne (the Danforths had spent the night there). We played games and talked and laughed for most of the day. The Danforths left around 4:30 and took my mom home with them. And I headed home right after.

So even though it was just for a short while, I had all my family with me for the holiday, and it was wonderful. It was great to see and hug them all!

Now, I'm recovering from all that food and all that visiting. Getting caught up on the laundry. Playing on my new laptop. Resting. Recuperating. Relaxing.

And if you don't hear from me again before then, I wish you all a most happy new year!