Friday, February 29, 2008

The word for the day: Neutropenia...

"Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. The absolute neutrophil count is commonly called the ANC. Neutrophils are key components in the system of defense against infection. An absence or scarcity of neutrophils (a condition called neutropenia) makes a person vulnerable to infection. After chemotherapy, radiation, or a blood or marrow transplant, the ANC is usually depressed and then slowly rises, reflecting the fact that the bone marrow is recovering and new blood cells are beginning to grow and mature." (This definition was found on the internet.)

Okay- now that you all have had your biology lesson for the day, I will explain what this means to Michael. We went to Syracuse for his treatment today. He was supposed to go back to getting both drugs after 2 weeks of only receiving the one. The nurses accessed his port and drew a blood sample. While we waited for the blood tests to come back, they started giving Michael his pre-meds for nausea.

Then Dr. Kennedy came to tell us that although his overall white cell count looked to be in acceptable ranges, his neutrophils were too low to receive chemo this week. They should be over 1,000 and Michael's were 540. She also said if they go below 500 and Michael comes down with any sort of infection, he will have to be hospitalized. The good news is that this is not uncommon and his counts should come back up on their own by next week.

One of the people that reads this blog has experience with adult chemo patients and got a message to me that I should ask about the dangers of the long term antibiotic that Michael is on. (Thanks for the heads up!) Specifically - would it kill the "good" bacteria in his digestive system and cause all sorts of problems? I talked to Dr. Kennedy about that and she said that Michael is on a very low dose and shouldn't have any problems. But, if he starts to show some negative signs, she would have us give Michael active yeast cultures (like those found in yogurt). I asked her if it would be a good idea to try to get him to eat yogurt regularly now and she said "yes". So, that is what we are going to do.

Keep your fingers crossed that Michael doesn't come down with any infections and that his neutrophil count rises. I will keep everyone posted. In the meantime, please keep Michael in your thoughts and prayers, JoAnne

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