This leaves you at risk for several nasty side effects, one of the most concerning being a vulnerability to various types of infection. Without your white blood cells, an otherwise minor infection can become deadly.
So 24 hours after the chemo treatment, I had to go back to the infusion center to get another IV - in this case, a bag of saline (to make sure I was getting well hydrated) - and an injection of Neulasta. Neulasta forces your bone marrow to make white blood cells at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, it can't make the white blood cells travel out of the marrow at a greatly increased rate, so the packed-up cells do tend to cause bone pain in the most productive areas - the hips, the spine, the thigh bones, the breastbone and/or collarbone.
So, more side effects added to the ones from the chemo and the ones from the anti-emetics and the ones from the pain medications.
For the first 5-6 days, I had a fever, headaches, nausea, joint and bone pain, fatigue (sometimes sleepiness, sometimes weakness), shortness of breath, constipation and diarrhea (swinging back and forth, what fun!), intestinal bleeding, cough, a weird taste/feeling in my mouth, sinus pain, ringing/hissing in my ears (I am told this can be a sign of liver toxicity), poor quality sleep.
Hydration is essential - without it, mouth sores and more severe side effects are expected. I am told to drink at least two litres of water per day. I am a dehydrated creature by habit and preference, so drinking this much is a real challenge, and sometimes it's a very uncomfortable one. But I do it, because I suspect that I'd find the results of not doing so even less appealing.
I am also instructed to swish/gargle with saltwater and/or baking soda several times a day, and to avoid acidic things like tomatoes and dehydrating things like caffeine. Also no herbal things for several days, and no anti-oxidant supplements during the course of chemo (there is some controversy over this last item - the general advice is to follow your oncologist's directions).
The last couple days have been a bit better as far as side effects. The fever has dissipated, the nausea and headaches have lowered to a dull sort of background noise, and some of the bone pain has abated somewhat. Other side effects are still there to one degree or another. I am told that on or about Day 10 there can be a sort of Second Wave, when the blood cells are at their low point.
In the meantime, I am grateful for small mercies. Especially since we have another member of the family in health crisis mode, which has kept my mom hopping - and me to a lesser extent.
On Monday morning I will have the surgery to put in the port and catheter. On Thursday I am scheduled for my second round of chemo. I am told the side effects are accumulative in both range and intensity with each round. Can't say I'm looking forward to it. But I will try to look at it as an opportunity for this Intrepid Reporter to give you the straight scoop on chemo treatment.