Yesterday, I began to notice that I was bruising rather easily. So easily, in fact, that I wouldn’t even feel it — I’d just look down and there it’d be — a big, ugly, purple spot on the top of my right hand. On my forearm. Two on my leg. A huge one on my left heel.
Then, later on in the day, my bff Elaine Schultz noticed three lipstick-pink dots on the left side of my neck, making their way down to my shoulder. I’d been carrying a bag with a strap on that side, so at first, we chalked it up to that.
But it really did start me thinking. I have to be extra careful and hyper-aware these days. The tiniest sign can mean something is going on inside my body that could quickly become a very serious situation. A matter of a few hours can make all the difference. That’s what happened in July and it prolonged my horrible hospital stay in isolation. I don’t want to be doing that again.
So, this morning, when I woke up with the bruising AND extreme fatigue — all my extremities felt like lead and I couldn’t get up off the couch — I knew what I had to do. Go directly to the Emergency Room. Do not pass go.
Don was with Theo and, as we are trying to keep Theo’s life as even keel as possible, we decided to see if Don could stay home with him and a friend could take me to the ER.
I walked over to my neighbor’s house. There she was, Kathy “K-Rod” Rodriguez, mowing the lawn. She cut the engine and when I told her what I needed, she flew into motion. Into her car and down the road we went.
Blood tests in the ER showed that it was even worse than I suspected. My platelets were dangerously low at 16,000 — thus the bruising. Normal range is 150,000 – 400,000. At 16,000, a fall or other hard knock could cause internal bleeding. Those tiny, lipstick pink dots? Turns out they are called Petechiae and they are a sign of low platelets.
My white cells were also low, at a count of 1. Ditto for my hemoglobin, which registered in the low-normal range, but had dropped significantly since my blood had last been tested just two weeks ago.
All of this meant I’d be staying. Admitted. I’ve grown to hate that word.
But good news on that front. While at first the doctors thought I would have to stay a few days, they reevaluated and decided that I could go into the “Short Stay” unit, get my blood transfusions, and, if subsequent blood tests show I’m rebounding, I can GO HOME TOMORROW! That’s the goal. And there’s a pretty good chance it’ll happen. Please pray it does.
Meanwhile, I’m getting new platelets right now. They look like a tangerine slushy in the bag hanging from my IV pole. Next, two to three units of blood. These transfusions will take most of the night. But, by morning, once my doc comes by during rounds, I can go home if all checks out.
One final word on all of this. Actually, FOUR: It’s Not My Fault!
Every time I wind up in the hospital, or with low blood counts, or something else goes medically amiss, someone who loves me — or many someones — calls, emails, texts or otherwise contacts me to YELL at me.
STOP doing this, or that, or the other thing. You’re causing these terrible things to happen, they say. I know it comes from a place of love, but it hurts.
Just for the record, that’s NOT TRUE. With K-Rod as my witness, I had this discussion with my doctor yet again today.
Is this my fault? Was it the trip to Chicago that did me in?
The answer is NO.
There’s a certain period in the cyclical nature of chemotherapy treatments when my blood counts are most likely to plummet, if they’re going to during that particular chemo round. That period is the Wednesday through Sunday before the next round of chemo is to begin. For this past round of chemo, that would have been last Wednesday, as in three days ago. It was Thursday that I began to feel some fatigue, Friday that the bruising started.
This, my doctor told me, is unfortunately the nature of long-term chemotherapy. There will be bumps in the road, like the tranfusion I needed in mid-April, the psuedomonas infection that hospitalized me in mid-July, the low platelet count that has me in the joint overnight. It’s all a part of it. That’s what I’ve learned.
But it won’t always be. Because someday, not so far down the road, I’ll be done with chemotherapy. I’ll be in remission. My body — the amazing machine that it is — will recover, rebuild, rejuvenate. And I will have even more energy to go out into the world and use my gifts to do the work God intended for me to do.
I’m looking forward to that day.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson