Let-me-down lymphocytes, negligent neutrophils…

It’s a glorious, warm, sunny spring Easter Monday in London.  And I’m feeling annoyed and frustrated with my body.  I know, I know….it’s brought me so far along the way to recovery from breast cancer and the awful months of treatment and really, the human body – mine included – is nothing short of a complete marvel.  But I’m still annoyed.

I’m quite competitive.  Not so much with other people; a few years ago I went to boot camp classes once or twice, but exercising in a group didn’t fire me up to get competitive – instead I found I felt bad about myself for always being the slow coach at the back.  I’m competitive with myself.  I’m my own worst critic and my own best cheerleader and coach.  Clearly those personalities clash with each other at times.  None more so than right now.  My lymphocytes are letting my down, my neutrophils are neglecting me!  And instead of a bit of self-compassion, I’m feeling pretty p’d off with myself!

You learn a new language when you have cancer.  Suddenly, you become preoccupied with haemoglobin, neutrophil and lymphocyte levels. The numbers on a blood count report have a way of determining how you feel and how you cope with what your body is going through.  During my months of chemotherapy treatment, I became fascinated with my bloods, insisting on having a copy of the report after every blood test (and you have a LOT of blood tests when going through chemo), and filing them away after poring over the stats and comparing last time’s with this time’s numbers.  I felt empowered knowing what the different things meant – low haemoglobin / red blood cells explained why I had no energy; low white blood cells (lymphocytes, neutrophils and various other ‘cytes’ and ‘phils’) meant my immune system was below par and that I needed to be careful about exposing myself to anyone infected with a cold or viral infection.  I’d congratulate myself when the numbers were slightly up on the previous time, and feel momentarily down when they weren’t.  I’d try and analyse what – apart from the obvious fact my body was taking a massive hit from a hideous, radioactive-looking set of chemo drugs on a regular basis – I’d done or could do to improve my numbers.  Eat more greens, sleep more, will myself to get stronger and feel better?  And for the most part, throughout treatment, I was on my side.  I looked after myself and surrendered myself to the bad days without feeling bad; I simply recognised that I had to listen to my poor body and give it the rest and kindness it needed.

But now, this is meant to be my up time. Treatment is over.  My hair is growing.  I look well, so everyone keeps telling me.  And, I’ve been feeling increasingly stronger.  My energy levels have been on the up and psychologically, I’ve been in such a positive space so far this year.  In the past six or eight weeks, I’ve been building up my fitness with brisk walks nearly every day, gradually increasing the distance.  And I’ve been increasing my hours at work.  Not by much, but still a small increase.

So, it’s perhaps no surprise that I came down with a nasty viral cough-cold thing about ten days ago. And have felt so rough as to have gone to bed for a couple of days last week. In the middle of this, I got back the results of a full blood count my GP took a few weeks back.  And guess what? my lymphocytes and neutrophils are still low.  Not by much, but low enough to reflect that my body is still recovering from chemotherapy and that my immune system is not back up to full whack.

So I need to give myself a break and quit the negative speak and feeling angry at my white cells for not being strong enough to fight infection right now.  But it’s easier said than done.  That inner cheerleader appears to be on Easter vacation right now…

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16 thoughts on “Let-me-down lymphocytes, negligent neutrophils…

  1. Ahh Zsa Zsa, be strong, patient and kind to yourself. I haven’t experienced what you are going through, however my mom went through a very tough year in 2011. My sister and I were her ‘back up’ plan and support team. It isn’t easy for anyone but what we learnt was patience and accepting the situation which helped us deal with the unfairness and frustrations… Take care and one day at a time. Hugs xx

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  2. Well done ZsaZsa for putting such an honest account down in words. It will be an eye opener for many and inspirational to others going through the same thing. You have a wonderful talent for writing. Sorry to hear about your parents – one of my fondest memories of Chisi days was our visit to your farm. I have some photos somewhere which I will publish when I get a chance ……lots of love Ali xxx. Chin up chick you have come so far already!

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    • Hi Ali. So good to hear from you and thank you for reading my blog, and for such kind comments. I recently came across some of those old photos too – good times! ~ZZx

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  3. So sorry you’re not feeling your best right now Zsa Zsa. Perhaps with the season change comes the colds and coughs? Hopefully with Spring on its way you’ll feel better soon. You know your body and are listening to what it needs so rest up, eat your greens and give it some time. Thinking of you xx

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  4. Dearest Zsazsa, you can still be kind to yourself but I so understand the frustration. We had different radium but mine basically cooked for 18 months even glowing on mri’s… In laymans English as I have also leared all sorts of new words is your imune system has been totally trashed… You pick up all the bugs and swallow an aweful lot of anti biotics. Just give yourself time as it gets better. With lots of love from an impatient person with a different ailment but a similar place… you have been the most amazing woman through all of this and you are a vital enlightenment to anyone coping with this fear or just learning. Thank you xx

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    • Thanks Sandi! I am doing alright in the grand scheme of things. As you say, got to just remember the old bod’ has taken a beating thanks to brutal chemo and radiotherapy. ~ZZx

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  5. Zsa-Zsa, I admire your strength and attitude to all your troubles, worries, pain & loss!! It can only take a very strong lady to keep on fighting and my goodness
    you are that. Lots of love as usual and always in my prayers!

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    • Hi Jenn. Thanks so much for your thoughts – I am much better now, thanks and back on the up. And a huge thank you for the Neat Blog Award – I am very touched. I will respond over the weekend – it’s a bank holiday weekend here next weekend, so I get four whole days in a row to do my own thing. Am hoping to get back to my blog as have not been able to write in recent weeks – no headspace as work has been crazy and I’ve needed all the rest I can get in between. ~ZZx

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  6. Brilliant, Zsa Zsa … Perhaps the cold/cough was just a reminder that you are still human 😛

    The vibe coming from you is fantastic … Remember also that just as you heal yourself, you heal others. The kindness with which you embrace yourself also envelops others.

    Keep up the NEW HABITS and as you rightly say … patience!

    Hugs,
    Martin

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