And Then There Were None

…that TBC should’ve included another ellipsis or two, huh? Sorry for falling off the earth. I’ve actually spent the last three months traveling the netherworld with Dante, bouncing back and forth between his various circles of Hell. Not fun; repent while you can.

Worst moments happened shortly after my last post and involved several transfusions—two platelets and a sack of blood to be exact—and the screaming deaths of my angry, vindictive hair follicles. My white blood counts did end up dropping to 0 for several weeks and my platelets were down to to 4k. [That is VERY low. Depending on whom you ask, normal levels range between 150k–350k.]

Regarding the transfusions, I’ve learned a lot about typing and the like, so if you’re really desperate and dare to live on the wild side, I got you covered unless you’re O-. If you’re O-, you can give to everyone but only take from other O-‘s. All give, no take—blood is just as unfair as humans!

Fortunately you only need exact blood typing for RBC transfusions; there’s more flexibility with the platelets. Now I bet you’re thinking, “Crap, I don’t even know my blood type, what if I need some sort of transfusion??” Not to fret, you’re not alone. In a super scientific poll I conducted, no one could remember her blood type. Plus the hospital retypes you EVERY SINGLE TIME, so you could forget and forget and forget forever without being given the wrong blood. And nowadays the blood is screened, fried, zapped, and microwaved before it’s allowed in your body, so no need to worry about contracting a *known* disease [ha ha]. Glad I could assuage your sudden concern.

Now, about the hair: I wasn’t allowed to do anything that could potentially cause me to bleed, so razors were out until my platelet count rose. No problem, the hair just falls out, right? Wrong. Mine flat out refused to cooperate. Remember that short haircut I got right before starting? Nope! Not nearly short enough; I should have shaved my head completely, but vanity and the fact that I hadn’t lost it after the other three treatments (with the different drug) clouded my judgment. Apparently it doesn’t happen to everyone—not even the people in BMT [bone marrow transplant, i.e., PAs who should know everything about chemotherapy] knew what I was talking about—but a lot of people going through chemo have horrible dying-hair-follicle reactions. [I had to search online forums. Other patients tend to be so much more helpful than doctors.]

My individual strands are not thick, but cumulatively I have a ton of hair with a ton of tightly-packIMG_1896ed follicles. When the follicles got together for their last-hurrah bender of a death party, the pain became so bad that I couldn’t lean my head against a pillow without extreme discomfort. (Never in a million years could I have dreamed up this consequence.) Of course, my platelet levels stayed down for long enough that I wasn’t able to remove the offending strands with any great speed. Instead, I was forced to wake up every morning with a zillion tiny hairs in my hats and then see a zillion times a zillion still on my head.

IMG_1904The forums suggested a multitude of products to gain relief: 100% pure emu oil, raw African shea butter, a variety of numbing creams. I tried them all and was about to go for the pure Aloe Vera butter until I decided the creams weren’t doing anything other than greasing up my head and hats. Finally I stumbled upon the best idea of all, lint rollers! I was sick of standing by helplessly, so I took those lint rollers in hand and furiously went to town. [I even made “how to” videos to send my sisters, but they cut off midway through–tragic loss.] No idea how many sheets I had to use, but slowly (very slowly), the hair started to disappear from my head and leave super attractive tufts that hadn’t yet died. At my next appointment, my PA tooIMG_2011k one look at my head and started to get mad that I’d so flagrantly disobeyed him until I smugly told him the secret. Needless to say, the entire department thinks I’m totally insane (no argument here). My dad and I eventually took his electric razor to my head, and I proudly strutted around bald for a few weeks. Even though my blood levels continue to fluctuate (3 months out?!), the hair has started to grow back again, still somewhat patchily but thankfully not painfully!

All that background is the lead up to today, the day of my MRI and some supposed answers (which explains why I’m still awake at this hour). Yes, the title of this post is a reference to the famous Agatha Christie murder mystery, but only in title and certainly not in plot. [I read it too long ago, but the premise is one party guest being picked off after another. Also, it seems Dame Agatha was a downright racist as I believe the original title was changed not once, but twice, for insulting two different ethnic groups, something I most definitely do not condone. (At least someone had the sense to change the name somewhere along the way.)] I just like the dramatic feel of the title and am (superficially, no murders planned) referring to it since I have zero days left to employ my ignore and avoid tactics.

I offer a prize to anyone who takes the MRI in my stead! Then we can just scream MIRACLE! and move on with our lives. But seriously, if you read this post before 14:30 CST on 9/29/15, please send some positive vibes my way!!

The Aftermath: Sucker Punches and Other Side Effects

I’ve been out of the joint for almost a week and am enjoying my freedom! Translation: I’m lying in bed without an awkward IV pole to drag around and drugging myself on my own terms. The joys of liberation are relative.

The past few days have been unpredictable symptom-wise. I’ve experienced the usual suspects—nausea, upset stomach, exhaustion, breathlessness, weakness, body aches—but also some very unexpected reactions. Last Tuesday, for example, I woke up with extreme lower back pain, as though I’d been boxing with Tyson and he sucker-punched me in both kidneys multiple times.

Mo, my attack cat--look at that precious gleam in his eyes!

Mo, my attack cat—look at that precious gleam in his eyes!

(At first I wrote Ali, but then I decided to change to the ear-biting rapist because in my uneducated opinion Tyson would be way more likely to throw illegal kidney punches. And to further my digression, I love Ali. I named my African bush cat Mo in his honor after Mo punched me in the face the first night I had him, but I thought it best never to tell my Burkinabé friends his full name in case they were insulted. After all, it would be pretty disrespectful to name a cat Jesus. Then again, I don’t know any famous athletes or really anyone named Jesus other than the main man, Jesús Marías and other Spanish derivations aside. One to ponder.)

Back to sucker punches: the pain was so sharp that I convinced myself I was having acute renal failure and was already chilling on Death’s porch with a glass of sweet tea and some biscuits. The clinic wasn’t yet open, so I called the emergency number, which resulted in a short conversation with the on-call doctor whom I also managed to convince that I was 75% dead. [This influential quality has been very useful at times; not in this particular situation.] He told me either to go to the ER or wait the 20 or 30 minutes for the clinic to open. Obviously, I would have chosen death over another hospital trip, so I opted for the latter.

When the clinic opened, I left an urgent message for the PA (physician’s assistant) to get back to me ASAP. Of course, he wasn’t there that day, so I decided once again that death was preferable to clinic visits two days in a row. [I had pre-scheduled appointments with my PA for Wednesday.] At this point, my parents had rubbed Icy Hot all over my back and I was wearing Thermacare wraps. It was quite odd that my kidneys were recovering so quickly from muscular treatments. It produced a calming effect. Once I learned of the PA’s absence, I started backpedaling hard—“I think the kidneys are lower anyway” and “This level of joint and neck pain seems totally normal”—until I finally un-convinced the clinician that I needed to check in with her. She repeated several times with concern that I could go in whenever, and I told her the next day would be just fine. Man, these people are so dramatic.

The next day, I asked all pertinent questions and found out my symptoms were pretty much normal. The PA lectured me about the importance of seeing other PA’s when necessary. I told him no one else understood me. He responded that he didn’t think anyone understood me at all. My parents concurred. I felt much better.

Other than that delightful experience, I haven’t feared for my life. I feel pretty lousy in a to-be-expected way, particularly since my latest blood test showed that my white blood cells were down to 0.1. They could very well be at 0 by tomorrow.

I have a lot more to write, but I’m getting really tired. Plus, shorter posts are better for attention spans these days. So until next time…get excited for #curlyhairproblems…TBC