By The Numbers

   I don’t speak medical-ese. I don’t understand it when I am told what drug I am receiving and how it will cause a reaction within my bloodstream causing a certain gland to create a certain bio-gene, etc., etc., etc. I don’t need to understand, that’s what the medical professionals are for. It is helpful that I at least have a general notion of what is happening and why I am receiving certain treatments, if nothing more so I can explain it to others that keep asking for information about my treatment.

As luck would have though, the medical-ese comes with a side notation, something I can understand. numbers. I speak numbers, and I understand numbers. The day after my transplant the nurse drew a small chart on the white-board in my room. On it she wrote, WBC (white blood count), Hgb (Hemoglobin, red blood count), Plt (platelets) and Day (Days post transplant). Beside that she wrote a number and explained that many patients liked to have their daily numbers put in so they could track their progress. These numbers come from the blood taken from me every morning. Regardless which nurse was giving me care that day, they dutifully filled in my numbers.

   The first numbers posted were WBC- 7.2, Hgb- 147, Plt- 264, Day +1, the starting point.  The white blood count is the one we all watch. It will tell us that the chemotherapy drug has done its thing, and has fully eradicated all, my viral-protecting and immunity-creating white blood cells, the ones full of cancer and the ones that are not. Bottom line is that they all need to go. WBC- 8.5 Hgb- 135 Plt- 264 Day- +2. WTF!!! The white blood cells are going up!!!

On Day +3, my WBC went to 9.9. I’m freaking out!! The only thing not dropping is my white blood cell number! I’m thinking the whole damn thing is a failure, that the chemo didn’t work, and all the pain, discomfort and nausea I have been going through for months, has all been for not. The whole things a bust!! I calmly voiced this concern to the staff around me, and was assured that this is quite normal. The transplant was creating extra stem cells that, should they become white blood cells once the exit my spine, will be squashed by the chemotherapy medicine coursing through my veins. It just takes a day or two and the number would drop, I was told. True to their words… 6.3 D- +4, 4.9 D- +5, 1.2 D- +6 and so on. I hit rock bottom on Day +8 WBC- 0.1 Hgb- 134 Plt- 6. This was also the day after the nausea ended and I actually started the vomiting.

   For the next two days nothing stayed in my stomach, including water. Everything my body needed, came in via an IV bag, and I was hooked up to a pole for the better part of the next 48 hours. At that precise time, I was cancer free. Not just in remission, but out and out, free of the cancer known as Multiple Myeloma. Whoopee… I guess? But based on how I felt at that moment, the cancer was easier to handle than the treatment. WBC- 0.2 Hgb- 135 Plt- 9 D- +10

On D- +10, a few things happened. The vomiting stopped and the nausea came back, which I now knew was better than the alternative. I started asking for my medication to be given orally. I figured as long as I wasn’t throwing it up, it was the way off this pole. I also knew that until I could take my medication in a pill form, I was never leaving this hospital room. It may a weird way to view an incentive, but finishing this treatment was all that mattered to me and this was a step. That day I started receiving and injection of the same drug that I injected myself with during the ‘harvest’. The one that my body loved! The one that created stem cells like a party popper full of confetti!! My body went into hyper-drive!! I could feel it!!

   WBC- 1.4 Hgb- 138 Plt- 13 D- +12. Impressive jump, they said. Over two days I had more than doubled my WBC number each day. The talk about getting released if I kept this rate of recovery up was starting to happen around me. I felt like crap but I was keeping my mouth shut. I could sense the door to the ward opening and all I wanted was out. Go, Go Gadget stem cells!!

They had said probably two more days. Then, as long as I was stomaching food and didn’t have anymore diarrhea (I spared you that), I could probably go home. The physician’s assistant that had said that had also been fool enough to dangle a carrot.  “If you feel really good and the numbers are there, maybe even tomorrow,” he had said. When they gave me my third gut-shot, I looked at my number chart and thought, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’!!

I could feel it happening. I knew something monumental was going on inside me. It’s impossible to explain. I woke the next day feeling better, but that’s not what I told them, I said I was “80%”. I even tried to stomach down the food, all in an effort to show a good attitude, and get myself out the door early. The carrot-dangler had told me that there a general staffing change was taking place, which meant I had a new attending medical staff. I needed to sell my overall health to each one of the hierarchy, if I was to succeed in getting myself out. It really wasn’t that hard to portray the positive attitude to the new nurse, and the assistants, selling myself was what I had done all my life. All that was required was for the number to be good and convince the hardest-sell, the attending physician, to sign my release. The general speculation, as we waited, was that the number would be a high 3 or a low 4. This would be good, but would probably keep me in the hospital for another day.

WBC- 7.3 Hgb- 138 Plt- 25 D- +12.

They let me go.

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment


  1. //

    YOU’RE HOME!!! CONGRATS!!!

    Enjoy your cigarette.

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