Monthly Archives: February 2018

Seven Long Nights

Just when I posted my last post on how great things were going after my fourth chemo cycle… I got b!tch slapped upside the head with neutropenic fever. After spending seven nights in the hospital, with most of those having zero energy and sleeping less than 4 hours a night, I am so glad to be home.

What is Neutropenic Fever?

To put it simply, neutropenic fever is when a person (in this case, me) with abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell (neutrophils) gets a fever. Cancer patients can become neutropenic as part of the side effects of chemotherapy and thus lack the immune system to fight viruses and infections healthy person could typically overcome. Because of this, I have been extremely cautious about trying to not get sick. I have probably given this little spiel a dozen times now. I’m sure a lot of people are like “yeah, uh huh, can’t get you sick, got it”.

We are making personal sacrifices to avoid getting sick. I work from home, don’t go to public places except the doctor, wash and sanitize my hands constantly, wear a face mask, change Camila’s clothes everyday before she comes home from school, sanitize our dishes in the dishwasher, use Clorox and Lysol on everything in our house, anyone entering my house must remove their shoes and wash their hands, the list could go on. I didn’t know if we were going overboard with these precautions or not, but last week we found out we were doing the best we could.

Small Cold, Big Impact

Both Roberto and Camila caught a very minor cold. They had runny noses and a bit of a cough, but no fever. Eventually, I caught this from them on a Friday. It seemed like a minor cold to me too. I had a clear runny nose and no fever. I hoped that I could fight it as my recent lab work showed my white blood cell counts to still be okay. By Monday, I had a fever and my lab work showed i was severely neutropenic. I needed to get to the ER right away because with my neutrophils that low, there was no way I could fight it on my own.

To get my neutrophil counts up, I got Neupogen injections daily until my counts were high enough. In a regular chemo cycle, I get 2 days of Neupogen injections to help me improve my neutrophil counts prior to my next chemo treatment. Usually these 2 days do tire me out and give me a low grade fever. I just need to sleep and rest and I’ll be okay in a day.

This time, I needed 6 days of Neupogen and at a higher dose. This is very taxing on the body as my bone marrow is working overtime to create more white blood cells. I had no energy for a good 5 days, accompanied with fever, chills, night sweats, and just overall lethargy. Add that in with well meaning hospital staff coming into your room every other hour for just a few hours of sleep a night. Maybe this is preparing me for a newborn. But after 7 long nights at the hospital, my counts were finally back up and I was fever free.

Stay Healthy!

I hate to sound preachy, but the point of my story is… if you are feeling sick, stay home. I am responsible for my own health, but don’t go out and spread your germs. Protect yourself by washing your hands and using good hygiene like covering your cough. Don’t expect people to go to work or do things if they are sick. Let them rest. It’s not about just my health, but for everyone out there, even healthy people. Everyone knows how dangerous this flu season is. Healthy people are dying from the flu. Let’s let each other prioritize our health!

Also, this is what I originally pictured cancer to be like. I thought I was going to be feeling sick, no energy, and in bed all day. It’s actually been quite the opposite for me and days like this are extreme and rare. So I’m happy that most of my days are pretty normal and I’ve only ran into a handful of these rough days.

What’s Ahead

I only have ONE week until I am scheduled to deliver the baby at 36 weeks. From now until then, I’m trying to stay as healthy as possible to be ready for delivery. Even though I am delivering a month early, baby boy is growing and stretching by belly skin to no end. I’ve only gained 15 lbs with this pregnancy (granted it could be more, since my mass shrunk), but this baby is in the 82nd percentile in growth and already over 6 lbs at 35 weeks pregnant! One more week to go!

Four Down and Baby Comes Next!

I had my fourth chemo treatment on February 8th. This is my last chemo treatment before delivering! After I deliver, I will then complete 2 more chemo treatments. There are a lot of changes coming up for my family and I.

Treatment #4

Things went pretty smoothly for my fourth treatment. I had no immediate side effects from the chemo and I felt like back to ‘normal’ after I left the hospital. In a way, each treatment is kind of unknown how I’ll be. Maybe I’ll be tired, maybe not. So far I’ve made it this far with only a handful of days feeling fatigued, so I’m grateful for this success. You really wouldn’t know I had cancer if it wasn’t for my bald head!

I think what I hate the most about chemo treatment is getting poked with the huge IV needles. Even though I’ve done it a bunch of times, I still cringe at the thought of it each time the needle goes in. This really isn’t much to be upset about in the grand scheme of things.

Here Comes Baby

As of now, the plan is to deliver the baby at 36 weeks, on or around the week of March 4th. It’s hard to believe we only have a couple more weeks as a family of three. Once the new baby is here, our family dynamics and routines will definitely change. I’m certain I’ve totally forgotten how to take care of a newborn and I’ll have to figure it out all over again. I’m currently in full on nesting mode and making Roberto move furniture and get things out of storage.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to maintain my same energy level I’ve had throughout my cancer treatment and I won’t be hit with fatigue or other side effects with the upcoming chemo treatments. My doctor is considering changing my chemotherapy regimen after I deliver (from R-CHOP to R-EPOCH). This is the preferred regimen for my diagnosis and is more intense. It wasn’t an option for me to do while I was pregnant. I’ll find out once I do a PET scan after I deliver.

The CDC recommends for expecting mothers to get the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect the against whooping cough. The mother is able to pass on the antibodies to the baby. I wasn’t sure if the Tdap was okay for me to get because I’m immunocompromised. I learned that the Tdap can be given to cancer patients, but wasn’t sure about pregnant cancer patients, if it made a difference. After consulting with my doctors, I learned that there isn’t enough research out there to show that the Tdap will act the same way for me and pass antibodies on to the baby like it would for a healthy pregnant mother. However, they said getting the Tdap wouldn’t hurt me. So I decided to move forward and get the Tdap in hopes it will benefit the baby.

Unexpected News

My doctor gave me some unexpected news that I will likely need radiation after the 6 chemo cycles are done. I don’t view this as a bad thing, but yes, it does make my cancer “to do” list longer. I’m hoping the radiation can all be done while I’m on maternity leave. Although I heard radiation can be painful and leave you fatigued, I am looking forward to not dealing with chemo side effects anymore. Hopefully, my hair can start to grow back and I won’t have to worry so much about a weakened immune system.

Cold & Flu Season

Everyone knows how bad the flu is this year. This is the worst time of year when it comes to getting sick. I’m continuing to have to be extra cautious not to get sick from being around people or touching things in public. I wash or use hand sanitizer on my hands probably well over 20 times a day. I wear a face mask when around people. I don’t know if I’m being super paranoid, but I can’t risk getting sick with a weakened immune system. I can’t wait for the cold and flu season to be over already! And as a PSA: please wash you hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you feel sick symptoms!

Ongoing Support

My coworkers extended my meal train so we have food through the month of March. I’m so grateful for this because it makes things way less stressful each day when we’re done with work and don’t have to worry about cooking or meal planning.

I’ve also gotten so many supportive cards from people, ranging from friends, family, acquaintances, to even total strangers. It’s very kind of people to think of me during this time and I’m still so humbled by all the support. Here’s a giant card my family made me:

My next update will be as a mama of two! Stay tuned for the much anticipated announcement of baby boy’s birth! He’s estimated to be about 6 lbs when I deliver at 36 weeks so he will he will be a decent size!

My Caregiver

Behind every cancer patient is a caregiver that is supporting them throughout the entire journey. To me, this role is just as challenging as going through cancer! The caregiver has several responsibilities ranging from medical, financial, legal and household.

My caregiver is my husband, Roberto. For those that know Roberto, he is more reserved and doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. He would probably not even want me writing a post entirely dedicated to him! He is one of the reasons why I’m able to remain strong through all this. He cheers me up when I’m feeling sad and reminds me of all the progress I have made.

About Roberto

Roberto came to the US by himself from El Salvador when he was 16 years old, not knowing any English. He learned English, got a job, got his own car and place to live, put himself through college with no student loans while working full-time, and constantly works hard to achieve his dreams for a better life for him and our family.

Roberto and I have been together for 9 years, married for 4 years. When we made our marriage vows, I never thought just a few years later I would witness him by my side living up to those vows, caring for me while I fight a serious health condition. He has selflessly put his needs aside to make sure Camila and I are his priorities.

Being Mom and Dad

Roberto has shouldered much of the parenting since my diagnosis. He has taken on a lot of the parenting responsibilities I used to do because I temporarily cannot do them. He does every diaper change, day care drop off and pickup, and bath time, and chases after her. I know there are days he’s physically tired and mentally overloaded, but he doesn’t complain. In turn, Camila is deeply attached to her papá. She loves him so much and enjoys all the time they spend together.

The Other Unsung Heroes

Roberto isn’t doing it all alone. We have several friends and family members who have stepped in to help Roberto and I during this time. We’ve had countless delicious meals sent to us so we don’t have to worry about cooking, offers to babysit Camila, and just an outpouring of love and prayers.

My parents have, without hesitation, continuously helped us with Camila. They take care of her when I’m getting my treatment so Roberto can stay with me in the hospital. They watch her if I’m not feeling well or if she’s sick and we need to isolate her from me. They’ve made sacrifices in their lives to accommodate Camila and I. I’m so grateful to have them nearby. Camila loves to spend time with her grandparents too.

My Caregiver, My Hero

People tell me I’m strong and positive. I feel weird accepting that compliment because I’m able to be strong and positive because of all the people that surround me with love and support. Roberto is by my side everyday, reassuring me that everything will be okay, telling me I’m beautiful while I stare at my patchy hair in the mirror, and helping make sure Camila is happy. I owe him big time and have promised him he can get recessed lighting installed and we can go on a cruise when this is all over! 😉