Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wasn't Expecting That!

On day 21 of consolidation treatment no. 1, I crashed, hard. I woke up on Sunday, January 24th feeling weak and full of aches in my legs and back. I called the weekend on-call doctor, who said to come in. Shortly after friends brought me to Englewood, I became quite sick and began treatment for an oral infection and a fever that signaled what soon blossomed into pneumonia. That began a very difficult week of incredibly strong antibiotics that kept me from eating for 5 days and gave me some pretty creepy hallucinations. It was a bad week. By the next weekend, I had turned the corner on the infection and pneumonia, but within a few days I gained 23 pounds in water weight, which was exceptionally painful for someone who had barely eaten and weighed 100 pounds when admitted. Medical knowledge of antibiotic side effects is still at the most elementary, experimental level. No one knows what causes what, especially when drugs are combined and are being switched out as treatment goes on.

The good news is that my bone marrow, which was totally empty when I crashed, recovered fairly quickly and I was able to come home last Tuesday. I've had a lot of muscle pain due to low potassium, so my recovery has been slow. But I'm getting better every day. Thankfully my cousin, Mary, came from Pittsburgh again to be my advocate, cat sitter, personal assistant and overall angel. She helped me get home and settled before going back to her busy life. Once again, everyone rallied for me and I believe this played a huge part in getting through this set back.

Dr. Forte said that there wasn't anything I could have done differently to avoid what happened. In spite of the carefully calculated dose of chemotherapy for my height and weight, the dose was just too much. Treatment no. 2 will be significantly less, which will give me a better chance of getting through the crash without another hospital admission. Although I had visited with some out of town friends in the days prior to getting sick, infections from a suppressed immune system don't usually come from other people -- they come from my body's inability to colonize white cells to defend against bacteria within my own body.

On the bright side, any lingering leukemia cells had to have taken a major hit with this last adventure. Dr. Forte said that my slides look perfectly healthy, and no one would be able to tell that I ever had leukemia. Looking at the big picture, he said, we're winning the fight for permanent remission. I can't ask for anything better than that.

When I go for treatment no. 2 depends on how quickly I recover. I'll know more on Thursday when I go in for a check up. Now I'm just looking forward to getting back on track and watching a good Super Bowl game tonight. I'll be routing for the underdog, the team whose city has been through hell and back. I guess that goes without saying.

Thank you, as always, for your love and support.



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