Today is officially my 21st day in the hospital and I probably have at least another 2 weeks to go. Bleurgh.
This is the problem with blood cancers: the chemo is supposed to kill your immune system. No immune system means you can't fight off any infection and you are susceptible to everything. So the doctors keep you in the hospital while the immune system is down to keep you from catching whatever crazy virus is running around the community. That translates to about a month in the hospital per chemo session. I already had two weeks in the hospital under my belt before I started chemo, and now I'm one more week down, meaning I have two to three weeks left in here.
Anyone else ready to scream yet?
I had five days of chemo last week, finished on Friday evening. Chemotherapy kills fast-dividing cells, specifically cancer cells, but along the way it also kills off the mucosal linings of your mouth and gut, hair, etc. Right now the chemo is going to work and killing my healthy bone marrow cells and hopefully all those rogue leukemia cells in my gut. Not sure if this round is going to make me bald or not, some chemotherapy drugs are more hair-toxic than others. I know that one drug I got will not make my hair fall out because my hair grew back the last time I had it (yeah, I've done some hard drugs in my day). We aren't sure about the second drug I got, so I will just be surprised in a few days as to what happens. Hair generally falls out Day 14-21 after chemo. If it doesn't fall out this time around, it will definitely come out eventually, it's just a matter of when I get which drug.
Another fun side effect is that everything tastes funny. Everything. Try finding something to eat when nothing appeals to you, and even if you do want to eat something it doesn't taste like it should. Popsicles are my secret weapon. Icy goodness is always refreshing no matter what it tastes like.
Right now I am in the middle of what we call the "nadir," when I literally have no white blood cell count. I'm not even kidding, the lab this morning said I had about 100 WBCs per mm3. A normal person should have 4-10 thousand WBCs per mm3. So imagine you, as a normal person, and how easily you get sick with a normal white count. Now imagine if you didn't have any immune system at all! That is why they keep me in the hospital during this time, and they will let me out again when my white count is on the upswing and I have enough WBCs to protect me from the common cold. The bone marrow is amazingly resilient and will grow back after all the crazy chemo. I just have to be patient and wait for it to get moving and hope I have a boring couple of weeks without any infections.
Sorry for the two boring posts in a row. It's weird blogging for a group of people who are new to how the chemo works. My friends and family who have already been through Rounds 1 and 2 with me know how the chemo cycle works, that it's a short burst of chemo and then a whole lot of waiting around for things to happen, but of course most of you I'm sure have no experience with treatment for AML. The advantage is that I get short little bursts of chemotherapy with generally a pretty immediate response.
OK, ground work is laid, now we all know something about treatment for AML (acute myeloid leukemia - there are several different types of leukemia and no, I do not have "childhood leukemia," that is a different type). More interesting posts coming up, promise!