Well, I’ve caught a cold. No fever, thankfully, but lots of congestion, sneezing and an overall feeling of fatigue. A cold is never fun and the timing isn’t great considering it is the “nadir period” for me, which is when my immune system is at its weakest. Today will be a day of rest in this house.
I thought I’d share a few things that I have learned throughout this journey that relate to immunity. I am, in no way, shape or form, a medical expert or anything close. This is my version of what I hear from the doctors after I wrap my head around it. 🙂
My understanding of the way chemo works, is that it attacks all of the rapidly reproducing cells in my body – that’s why it affects hair, nails, skin and stomach – as well as cancer. Since I am HER2 – NEU positive, I also receive a treatment that attacks my actual cancer cells directly. Since my immune system is built with rapidly reproducing cells, it’s also affected. Before beginning each treatment, my blood is drawn on site and a full workup is done, including my white / red blood cell counts and platelet levels to ensure that my body can handle the treatment.
The day after each treatment, I return to the treatment center for a hydration IV and an immune booster shot. This shot is a man-made protein and tells my bone marrow to start producing white blood cells. There is a possibility that I can feel pain in my bones from the sudden production of cells, so I take Claritin on chemo day and a few days after. (Random, right?!) I am beyond grateful for insurance because every one of these shots costs thousands of dollars.
Around days 7 – 11 after chemotherapy is the nadir period, which is when my white blood cell count is the lowest and I am most susceptible to infection. Extra precautions are recommended during this time, such as wearing a mask if I go out to a store or largely populated area. Lots and lots and lots of hand washing. Also, no fresh fruits or vegetables, even if they are thoroughly washed. Crazy, right?
It’s incredible to me just how amazing our bodies are and how they fight infection on a regular basis without us even thinking about it. Fighting the good fight while we go about our days! I’m off to rest.