Who better to introduce a post about blood counts than everybody’s favourite counting count, Count von Count? Unfortunately we might end up having to leave him behind, though, as I’m not sure he ever got as far as decimals…
As you probably already know, the good news is that I’ve now finished this protocol and the chemo involved with it – for someone whose previous experience of chemo was dragged out over long periods, it seems a little strange to come to the end so soon. Not that I’m complaining.
Now, however, the slide in my blood counts (which had already started) will begin to take me into the charmingly named but generally not-very-charming world of neutropaenia.
This is where my neutrophils (which usually make up most of the white blood cell count and are a vital part of the natural immune system) are below 1.0 (x10 to the power of 9, or something big like that, per litre) – normal levels are between 2.0 and 7.5. Currently they’re at 1.1, so although I’m not neutropaenic yet, I will be soon.
In fact, part of the reason Dr Willis thought something might be up before bringing me in was that my neutrophils were around 1.8/1.9. This may well have been because of the lymphoblasts (the baddies: immature white cells released into the bloodstream before they can be useful for anything; a bit like Cambridge graduates) taking the place of the neutrophils in my blood.
White blood cells
The general white blood cell count is another level we look at, because when there are lots of lymphoblasts filling up my blood it goes up, and when there aren’t so many it goes down (and when they’re only halfway up, it is neither up nor down?). The neutrophil count is of course closely linked to the white cell count. I’m not sure what mine is at the moment, but the G-CSF will have been pushing it up while the chemo will have been pushing it down.
I mentioned this in reference to getting a blood transfusion, and energy; apparently today it is around 93g per litre (some say 9.3g per 100ml). Normal levels for a man are 130-180, so you can see why I’m not necessarily bouncing off the walls. Haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body, so as this falls, I expect I’ll be having a few more blood transfusions…
The other number the doctors will be paying particular attention to is the platelets level; platelets help clot the blood, so when their level is low, bleeding and bruising can be very dangerous. Again I’m not sure what level I’m at on this front (thank God I’m not a journalist – I’d be hopeless).
So it’s great that the chemo has finished, but as it continues to spread its chemical payload, lowering my blood counts further, my day-to-day health and wellbeing will be hit (I say day-to-day, as that’s the best way to deal with these things). Out of the frying pan (mmmmm, bacon) and into the fire! Of course, lowering my white cell count is the natural consequence of the chemo as it aims to knock out the nasty little lymphoblasts filling up my blood. It doesn’t make it any nicer, though.
Meanwhile, Harriet has become the second of the original Norton clan to arrive after Tom came in on Sunday; she flew over from Malaysia with twins in her belly so she’ll have enough time to spend with me and get back to KL in time to give birth! Her next trip will be with two very little ones… Mariacristina’s time with me has been restricted by a sniffly nose, but I feel her with me all the time anyway and the wonders of technology mean nobody’s ever that far away.