So, I won’t be ringing any bells anywhere today.
Turns out my white cell count has dropped to a precipitously low level. Both radiation and chemotherapy devastate the immune system, mainly by suppressing white cell production. White cells are produced in the bone marrow and comprise about 1 percent of the blood. Their job is to attack disease-causing microorganisms as well as any foreign substance invaders. They’re the body’s National Guard, as it were, and so at this point my body is now ripe for invasion.
As a result, my last chemotherapy session, scheduled for today at 10am, has been postponed. I’ll have to get subcutaneous shots of Neupogen (generic: filgrastim) both today and tomorrow. Neopogen stimulates the bone marrow to produce more white cells. Acc’d’g to my infusion center nurse, Mike, these two doses ought to strengthen my immune system to the point where I’ll be able to get that third chemotherapy treatment Monday.
Which is ironic because Monday’s going to be my last day of radiation so I just may be able to ring bells at both places that day.
Another irony: Dr. Allerton, my medical oncologist, prescribed something called Neulasta to follow each of my chemotherapy sessions at the very beginning of this journey. Neupogen is an earlier generation of Neulasta but still works just as well to kick the bone marrow into high gear. Sadly, my health insurance carrier’s beancounters, an outfit called Medical Cost Management Corp., whose job it is to make sure the insurance co. pays out as little as possible, nixed the Neulasta for me, calling it an “experimental” treatment. Which it sort of is, when used in the prophylactic sense — meaning to prevent white cell insufficiency rather than rectify it.
Because MCM had denied me, The Loved One and I would have had to come up with about $16,000 out of pocket for the three doses of the drug. The docs and nurses all said that wouldn’t be necessary, seeing I wasn’t too old a coot and my overall health wasn’t that godawful bad.
So, I blithely said, “Screw it! Who needs Neulasta?”
Well, I do. Or, more precisely, its grandfather, Neupogen. Today and tomorrow.
To tell the truth, I’m sort of relieved. Yeah, I was eager to get this last chemotherapy thing out of the way but I certainly was not looking forward to the dog-sickness it’ll produce in me. This way, I’ll get a weekend respite from everything and then finish both treatment regimens in a grand finale Monday, the 21st.
Which, BTW, will be the first full day of Spring, 2016. Tra-la!
Man, I’m gonna celebrate — I’ll pump an extra 12-ounce bottle of Gatorade into my belly when I get back from the infusion center that day.