This too shall pass

By | Wed July 16, 2014

Started at about 5pm last night, I felt these pulsing pains up my spine. By 8pm last night, they were excruciating whenever I was in a seated position. I was lucky that Mom was with me at support group, as she was able to drive me home. I could not imagine having to drive with this happening. I was able to be in the passenger seat with the seat partially reclined, so that I could navigate as mom got her first experience with California driving.

I had been warned about what might happened during the Saturday support group, when one of the ladies explained it. I’m at my blood count low as well (nadir), so I’m also tired. The bone pain is caused by the neulasta, which is a white blood cell booster. What is happening is that as the chemo leaves my system, my bones start reproducing blood cells. My counts should rebound to almost normal in the next day or two. But the white blood cell booster means that my body is also suddenly producing an excess of white blood cells all at once. So the bones go from not producing new blood cells (or producing them slowly) to having a sudden growth spirt, and with that comes pain.

The pain I have now is when I’m sitting (ironic, as I usually cannot work while standing as my arthritis gets in the way, and now I can only work while standing). I may also try going out for a walk, although it is a rather warm day out. I wish I could swim, but with my blood counts low, that is not recommended. I am also in pain if I lay down in the wrong position. So I need to be in just the right position in order to sleep. I’ve asked my oncologist for some good pain meds until this passes – just waiting to hear back. Unfortunately, Wednesday is not the best day to contact them, as my oncologists’ nurse doesn’t work Wednesday (there is someone that covers for her) and my doctor is on vacation this week, so the Wednesday nurse needs to track down the backup oncologist (who doesn’t know me) in order to get that prescription.

If this happens next cycle, I shall be prepared for it! They actually don’t give you much other than anti-nausea meds for the first cycle, and they wait for you call. The idea is that everyone experiences chemo differently, so they don’t know what you will need. They wait until they find out what you need then prescribe it. At this point, it is all about managing the symptoms. Unless the problem is life threatening (more life threatening than the cancer), the goal is to keep with the chemo regime on schedule through to the end.

One thing that I’ve learned though is that although neulasta is required for the AC regime I’m on, many women opt to not take it. The clinical evidence is that it reduces hospitalization by 20% – however if you are someone whose white blood cell count doesn’t dip too low, then it is an unnecessary precaution. In essence this is a medication that manages a side-effect of the chemo, and the side effects of the neulasta can be worse than the chemo itself. So it all becomes about deciding which is worse. What the neulasta allows me to do is be more active. If I didn’t take it, then I’d need to be a lot more careful about interacting with people during my low days, as my white blood cells might be a fair bit lower, and therefore my risk of infection higher. Since I need to interactions with people for my mental health, it probably makes more sense for me to deal with the neulasta side effects than it does for me to not take it.

So my motto for day it, ‘this too shall pass’ … although I’m also hoping the nurse calls back soon to tell me they have sent a prescription into the drug store for me!

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