Here’s something, looking back I wish I’d covered more of in the book. Thus, it goes into the category of “Oh, and…” Oh, the importance of understanding chemo labs~
While I was in treatment I had my blood drawn weekly and understood the basics of it from being a department coordinator at a hospital for many years and having a nurse for a mom. She actually had me volunteering from the time I was about 12 until I was old enough to get a job. It was her way of keeping me out of trouble and I must admit it did just that.
When it came to looking at the results of my own weekly labs drawn at the cancer center though, I must admit I was stumped by just about everything except the smiley face (which the nurse drew on when the results were considered good). That, and I knew the weekly blood draw was to ensure that my body could handle the next chemo cycle.
I got some clarification yesterday from Dr. P. on it to pass on to you. The most important thing for you to look at is the White Blood Cell Count (WBC). The lower it gets, the lower your immune system. I’d added a couple images from my labs to give you some insight (see, nice smiley face :). This was after I went off the happy pills. I remember being really teary eyed and so someone wrote that on there to remind me I was in a good place. The “reference range” means normal range and I was below it (of course). I think I’d just started round 2 (FYI there were 6 cycles in a round for me. 1 week on, 1 week off = 1 cycle, etc then 3 months to recover then 1 week on, 1 week off) when this blood drawn was done. When I started chemo my WBC was I think 3.9. I know it was below normal which kind of scared me until they explained it was ok. Once it drops to 1.0 (which it did) then, the doctor would decide if you should start booster shots or wait until it drops to 0.9, at which point you definitely get booster shots.
In this case, there were two options available: option 1 was Neupogen. This was a series of daily shots for 5 consecutive days. Totally felt like a bee sting, fkn pissed me off each time I had to get them and why? Because a: I totally fkn haaaate needles~ and #2: it usually ran over the weekend and the cancer center in Encinitas isn’t open on the weekends so I had to go (way) out to the one in Vista to get my shots then and the only good thing about it was the nurse who drew it (Jackie) was ultra gentle. Superbly so. That, and there was a shopping mall on the exit with most of my favorite shops so shopping therapy would follow of course. The other reason it pissed me off was because there’s another shot called Neulasta and that one you only have to get once. It wasn’t on my list of options because my insurance didn’t cover it, or so we thought. After doing a little digging we found out that it does, or does now. Insurances like to change the rules of coverage around quite a bit. If you don’t like an answer, be sure to keep asking around until it’s fully and utterly (like they’re gonna smack you if you ask one more time) confirmed.
So, here is another example of labs. This was three months after I finished my 3rd round of chemo. See, things were starting to look up :-). Hey, and this was just eight days before the book launched~
As far as the rest of the highlighted acronyms go, the HCT/HGB talk about Red Blood Cells and if they’re low then it’s a sign of anemia/weakness. I want to say that the Gran (granulocytes) and PLT (Platelet count) have something to do with your bone marrow being able to replenish itself, but I’m not 100% sure. So, this one’s on you. Go ask your doc and respond in the comment field below~ In the meantime, just keep focusing on the WBC if you want to be in the know on how the chemo is affecting your immune system. It’s also a nice reminder of the importance of heeding Chapter 9…