It's evening and I just woke up from a nap. The air is redolent of apple turnovers and freshly cut grass. My household is full of activity. Except for me. I'm sitting around like a lump of clay, taking turns gazing at a digital thermometer and the amazing flowers in my living room.
I couldn't go to my last big chemo treatment today. My white blood cell count was woefully low. The required baseline is at least 1400—mine is off the charts at 300. I didn't have a fever when the chemo nurse called to cancel, but lo and behold, an hour after walking on the beach with mom and hubby, my temperature shot to 100.6. It dropped to 100.3 later, just hovering below where I needed to either call the oncology nurse or haul my butt into emergency. Amazing what a couple of tenths can do. I'm in the blood count Olympics, trying to make the cut.
Low blood counts that don't bounce back generally indicates significant toxicity (from chemo). There's nothing I can do but wait it out, practice good handwashing, and stay away from crowds. I can't even get a flu shot—my body can't handle it. So I started reading this book:
I picked it up on a whim at a juice place during the info feeding-frenzy post-diagnosis. To my horror, I'd gone against its simple advice by drinking lots of juices (loaded with sugar) and occasionally indulging my big weakness, sweets. I'm ill—why shouldn't I eat a cookie once in awhile…for breakfast? I'd read of people beating their disease by going on macrobiotic diets. I'm not willing to commit to that (yet, Gwyneth)—I don't like brown rice or chickpeas. And It's not like I'm eating bacon and ice cream every day.
The salient point I honed in on was how damaging sugar is to one's immune system. It seems that ingesting 100 gram (3.5 oz) portions of carbohydrates as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, (that's pretty much all the sugar categories) or pasteurized orange juice all significantly reduces the ability of white blood cells (neutrophils) to engulf and destroy bacteria. These effects start within less than half an hour of ingestion and lasts for more than 5 hours. There's at least a 50% reduction in neutrophil activity 2 hours after ingestion. Since neutrophils constitute 60 – 70% of the total circulating white blood cells, impairment of their activity equals depressed immunity. Depressed immunity means I can't fight off a single, miniscule microbe, no matter how minor. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
Have your eyes rolled into the back of your head yet?
Long story short, Sugar is BAD! And I am reluctant to villify that which gives us joy, so let's go with "all things in moderation". Did I mention my mom just made apple turnovers from fresh apples? How little of one scrumptious pocket pie can I get away with? A forkful? Or should I just inhale the aroma and not succumb to what Buddhists call lust (food lust, in this case)?
So, I need to boost my white blood cell count by 1100 units by Monday. I'm supposed to eat lots of carotenes—dark greens, squash, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, red peppers & tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, cauliflower, berries, garlic, and Jerusalem artichoke. Sugar = 0.
Whoa baby! Hook me up to the power grid— the gas I unleash could power Alameda by the end of the decade! And it's renewable…
On a positive note, my last CT scan indicates I'm responding to chemo and my disease is considered stable. In other words, the large tumor in my lung is shrinking, hopefully meaning the "disease not showing up on the radar has been zapped". Supposedly this is the reason I feel pretty good despite such modest results.
"It's a long road, and you're hitting pothole after pothole. Don't suffer or put yourself at risk." The doctor's words. And he's right—I had allergic reactions to my first 2 chemo agents, I'm on my 3rd agent and I just want to get it over with. I have burn scars, vein flares, black fingernails. I am so ready for Halloween. I think I'll go as Uncle Fester.
As for those of you who have called and haven't received a return call, please be patient. It probably means I want to have a long conversation with you, and my hoarse throat just isn't up to it. But I'll call you eventually, I promise. Those of you out there eating all the things I love that I can't have right now (sushi, corned beef sandwiches, sweets, fancy coffee drinks, pearl drinks, alcohol, fried chicken–or anything fried for that matter, salad, etc)…think of me and enjoy it twice as much. Hopefully someday soon I can join you for one of those meals.
Q: How do we heal the soul without destroying the body?
A: Become a Buddhist. Desire is the cause of all suffering. The end of suffering is possible.
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