ALMOST THERE. So close I can taste it.
Actually, I can only taste chemo 70% of the time, so maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. Even explaining what chemo tastes like makes me feel nauseated, but the simplest way to describe it is to imagine tasting hospital, saline, chemicals, and hand sanitizer all at once – and then also smelling it so fiercely, it’s like you’re actually in the room. Getting chemo. All over again. I don’t love it, but alas, it is saving my life, so I guess it’s a decent enough tradeoff.
And when I say saving my life, I’m not being cute and hyperbolic.
BREAKING NEWS: my mid-way PET scan results showed that my body is responding beautifully to treatment! Which means, as of now, I have two more treatments left!!! That’s ONE cycle in cancer-speak. My doc is also really impressed that I’ve been able to stay on schedule because every single week my blood counts drop to new lows. The nurses and I call it “Sofia’s Limbo” and yes, the tagline is “how low can you go?!”
Quick blood count lesson.
- White Blood Cells (WBC) fight infection and destroy bacteria and germs
- Healthy range: 4.0 to 10.0
- Sofia BC (Before cancer) = 7.4
- Sofia now = 1.3
But the real trouble lies in a type of WBC. The one that makes up over half of the goods: neutrophils. They are our most important allies in the fight against infection. So here’s the roundup:
- Neutrophils are measured by a test called Absolute Neutrophil Count (ANC)
- Healthy ANC range: 2.5-6.0
- Sofia BC = 5.05
- Sofia now = 0.07
And that ladies and gentlemen, means I have 70 neutrophils left to battle anything and everything. It’s also what’s called being severely neutropenic, which means I’m past the orange level of scary and am sitting pretty in red. Sound the alarm, hun.
My doc is ALSO super impressed that I’ve managed to stay out of the hospital. Remember when she told me, “you can’t control cancer” and “things could change in a blink of an eye?” Well, I have manifested all that energy into being a super crazy person in regards to germs and am following my oncologist’s rules like they were chiseled by God onto a slab of stone. Aside from my diet, I can’t floss because our mouths are full of bacteria and if I bleed while I flossy floss, I could be dropping some nasty stuff into my blood stream. I can’t peel an orange because it may have pesticides. I shouldn’t hug people. I cannot, under any circumstance, get a manicure or pedicure. Even if I do it myself, I cannot use tools that may pierce my skin.
It’s annoying, sure, but the stakes are pretty high so I’d rather err on the side of full-blown insanity. It would be pretty annoying if I caught pneumonia because that could be fatal to me right now. And I mean…I’m successfully beating cancer.
And chemo is successfully kicking me right in the shins. Over and over and over again. Last Friday, aka St. Patrick’s Day, I was drunk on my 6th infusion and I kept thinking, “WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?” And not in a fun, “Oh em gee, my time with cancer has been so short and cute and lolz it’s almost over, like soooooo great, huh?!”
Oh, I know very well where it’s gone. And when I think about how quickly time has slipped through my fingers I get a wee bit upset at Mr. Hodgey McLymph because I start to catalog the many things I could have been doing with my life in the past 3+ months. And high on that list is eating sushi by the truckload. Or tacos with radishes and cilantro. OR A FREAKING SALAD. You don’t realize how much stuff you eat in its raw form until you’re wiping the guacamole off your tongue when your husband reminds you that the ER isn’t more fun than our couch.
But really, I’ve been learning to let myself experience anger. Like, yeah I wanted to see that Ali Wong show. Yes, I’m pissed off that I’m not allowed in a movie theater to see “Get Out.” Or go to a great friend’s dad’s funeral. Or my friend’s birthday party. Or enjoy LA like a tourist with my cousin. I’m so angry that I couldn’t do big things, like jump on a plane or little things, like drive 30 minutes to be with buds and all the wine.
And I get especially angry when I’m in pain for 8 consecutive days. Like, really? I know chemo is cumulative, but I thought I had a system down. Yes, another lesson in control, thank you, universe!
The pains in the past week have been pretty atrocious and have made it so I can barely sleep. Nothing is really helping and I can’t take pain relievers because those magic pills also suppress a fever, which is one of the only ways I know for sure that I have an infection (and need to get to the emergency room ASAP).
You know when you eat Dominos or Taco Bell for the first time in a long time and the next day your stomach reminds you that you were foolish and that actions have consequences? That’s how my stomach has felt for 8 days, but it also threw in a bonus feature: fire. My stomach has become the hottest depth of hell and also – it’s laughing at me. I wish I had menstrual cramps. WISH. I also wish I had my period, ’cause I really hope this chemo cocktail isn’t destroying my ability to have kids, but that’s a panicked conversation for a different day.
This is all compounded by the incessant body aches. My back, for example, recently celebrated its 84th birthday. My hot water bottle is working overtime to soothe the pain – and when I’m too fatigued to get up, I’m just wrapped up in a heating pad. I can barely hold a convo on these days (cue the apology for all unanswered emails/text). It’s either silence with a side of aromatherapy oils, or an afternoon of Netflix to forget that all the cells in my body are slowly dying.
However, it is ONLY just another month and change of this. Yesterday it would have been, “ARGH, ARE YOU @(*#&(@*& KIDDING? ANOTHER FREAKING MONTH?!?!?,” but it’s amazing what 12 hours can do to a gal.
I’m looking forward to this week. Once I start feeling better, I usually stay in that lush, magical forest until the night before chemo when I get mad or sad all over again. I’m going to take a nice drive along the beach, go to a support group or cancer yoga, and then promptly return home to collapse on the couch because I can only do one big thing a day before I’m hit with the tired stick. Which actually feels more like a tranquilizer gun.
This week will be short, though. I have to do chemo on Thursday because the center is closed on Friday for Cesar Chavez Day. So I have three days to get my money’s worth.
Oh wait…there’s that ugly feeling again: