|The chemo-absorbing offerings at BurgerFi.|
I looked at the printout of my CBC bloodwork report with disgust. My platelet level was 63,000, down from 67,000 five days earlier when I was rejected from chemo. They were moving in the wrong direction.
My mom and I waited in the exam room to see what Dr. D would say, making our own hypotheses and tossing around scenarios as I tried not to cry in frustration. I was in bad pain that morning. It had come out of nowhere when I woke up. The pain was deep in my quad muscles and shooting through my pelvis. From the moment I got out of bed I was already cursing the steroids that cause intense muscle atrophy, my overzealous walking and water aerobics cockiness and the worry that the lymphoma was already trying to bust out of my bones again seeing as I’d only had one chemo infusion in a long time. Now, I was cursing my platelets’ performance: angry, teary and woozy from pain meds.
My heart rate was up – probably from the pain, Dr. D said. We talked things out thoroughly and thoughtfully, all three of us on the same page that I was between a rock and a hard place – or more accurately, cancer growth and death by bleed-out. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but everything seemed extreme Wednesday morning in that little room where the lights are too bright and the chair placement too awkward.
My platelets were technically too low to get another treatment. We learned from the first dose that they are very sensitive to the Gemzar, so if we whopped them again while they were down, we could only assume that they would be killed off even further. Very low platelets equal very high bleeding risk.
However, if I didn’t get chemo then we would really be falling off any kind of schedule and risk the chance that the infusions wouldn’t be effective. Here was my scientific theory: If we let so much time go in between infusions then are we just playing whack-a-mole? Let the cancer grow a bit, then come in and knock it back, then let it grow again, then come in and knock it back. Seems silly. The whole point of this little project I’ve gotten myself into is to abolish the lymphoma that’s rearing right now, knowing that the side effects might be rather harsh. Then, get me off of this when I start really feeling better and get back onto milder, more sustainable, lifelong treatments (or second transplant – eek.ugh.barf.scary.potential.).
Dr. D admitted that this was his worry as well. He wondered if we should push me a bit more. I looked at him with wet eyes and said that I was very disappointed in my platelets. We laughed a little and he assured me it wasn’t my fault and said he wanted to collaborate with Dr. O – see if he might agree that we should push a treatment. Would I mind waiting?
My mom and I took a place in the open infusion room, passing the time with a port flush and sed rate blood draw waiting for the NY and CT doctors to connect. We read and chatted, trying not to disturb the two older men filling chemo La-Z-Boys, one deep in sleep while receiving a Reiki treatment. I was so anxious. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted chemo so bad.
And, I got it. My two docs decided to hit me with a reduced dose of Gemzar as a compromise between not damaging my bone marrow too much and allowing the drug to keep working against the cancer. Fantastic plan! The chemo dripped over half-hour and we were out to enjoy the 70-degree weather and sun, both starving, me ferociously after the pre-chemo Decadron steroid.
Driven by my Decadron cravings, I was more than happy to introduce my mom to a new burger joint not far from the Avon Cancer Center. We sat on the patio in the sun and indulged in the high-calorie deliciousness of a cheeseburger, Parmesan herb French fries and custard milkshakes. The food absorbed the drugs within me and I immediately felt more stable. The pain began to subside as an added benefit of the steroid. We further balanced the unpleasantness of the morning with a trip to HomeGoods to poke around and search for curtains for our newly redone dining room. The day such a positive turnaround with good company, food, and shop therapy.
The continued “Special Karin Regimen” seems to have worked as well. I have been feeling great since Wednesday’s infusion. I even skipped much of the requisite chemo wooziness I most always feel for a few days after receiving any drug. I think we may have found my magic dosing. Sure, I’m tired and a little achey, but I’ve been up for lots of social events, seeing friends, taking Sam Dog for walks, and writing on our porch in this ridiculously nice weather. Yesterday’s bloodwork revealed my platelets climbed to 77,000! Hopefully that trend will continue and my bone marrow will be up for another Wednesday dose.