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Apr 28

Chemotherapy is weakening my immune system during the coronavirus pandemic – The Guardian

I was thrilled to find myself suddenly craving hot dogs. After more than a week of living off yogurt, pasta and green tea, it was a sign that I might be able to swallow something else and actually enjoy it. It felt like a breakthrough.

I found a pack in the refrigerator, but my heart sank when I couldnt find any buns. My husband, Eric, offered to drive the two minutes to the local store to pick some up.

No! I said, with an intensity I did not completely understand until after the word had left my mouth. Hot dog buns are not worth the kids lives or mine or yours, I said.

Seemingly trivial situations have taken on incredible meaning now that Im immunocompromised in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

I found out on Thursday. Your white platelet count is down, my chemotherapy doctor explained. It was just slightly below normal levels, but enough to indicate that the four weeks of radiation and chemotherapy Ive had for my stage two cervical cancer had weakened my immune system. He scheduled me for a shot the next day that would stimulate blood cell growth in my bone marrow.

The doctor also explained that my creatinine is a little high, which means my kidneys arent functioning the way they should be. To help protect my organs, they only gave me 75% of my normal dose of chemo treatment that day.

He assured me that these were normal side-effects at this stage of cancer treatment. But I felt like I had somehow done something wrong. Maybe if I had just drunk a little more water, or eaten a healthier diet, this wouldnt have happened, I thought to myself.

But the truth is even worse. These numbers have nothing to do with what I have or havent done, which means there is nothing I can do to ensure they dont get worse.

I like solutions. I like to be in control. But all I can do is keep moving forward with the treatment and hope my body is able to handle it.

With this news, my family has become even more vigilant. Each time we bring home groceries or get an Amazon package, we wipe them down with a mixture of water and bleach, and leave packing materials outside.

When the four of us go for a walk around the neighborhood, we create what I like to call a family bubble. When we pass someone, we move as close as possible to each other, so we can all keep our distance together. Michael, my 15-year-old son, does not always participate, however.

On Easter Sunday, rather than our usual barbecue with friends, two families we are close with visited. They stood in two separate clumps outside our yard, as Eric, my daughter James and I yelled to them from our patio.

We chatted about what everyone had been up to, and how I was doing a subject I have come to despise. Before we ended the evening, I was able to stand with my back facing everyone and cram the group into one very large selfie. For a second, I could almost pretend everything was normal.

---

A few days ago, I had my first hot flash. It was Tuesday evening and I was sitting around relaxing, when my heart started beating really fast. My cheeks flushed, and within seconds a volcanic heat was pulsing throughout my body. It felt like the heat was pushing up against my skin, trying to get out. And then as quickly as it had arrived, it disappeared.

I was expecting it, but it still surprised me. Im only 49 and easily could have gone years before having to go through menopause. But when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, one of the first things the doctors said was, this treatment is going to render you infertile.

Im not scared about no longer having periods or even not being able to have kids. Im happy to close that chapter of my life. But I am really nervous about the physical and mental symptoms. Ive read that its harder to lose weight and stay in shape, and your bone density can go down. Am I going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly be rage-filled and hormonal?

I try to remind myself that I have plenty more pressing things to worry about. My mantra has become, lets get rid of cancer and then well figure the rest of this out.

See the article here:
Chemotherapy is weakening my immune system during the coronavirus pandemic - The Guardian

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