Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.
He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.
Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."
I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.
I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
How to Read Your labs
My counts are starting to go down. I can feel them. I’m tired and lethargic. I’m not feeling like my witty, amusing self today.
I think I’m going to lay in bed most the day, read, and watch movies. There are movies on demand at the hotel for the discount price of $14.00. I also don’t receive MTV, VH1, or HGTV. My smut television is not included in the standard package.
Today, I’m going to break down my labs for you. I think this is important for patients to understand. Patients need to be empowered with knowledge. There are some high lights in your CBC you should be aware of:
A CBC is a lab test that reviews the standing of your immune system. With chemotherapy, your goal, is to drop a lot of these numbers. This is how chemo is effective.
The White Blood Count (WBC) is the alpha number. This determines your immune systems fighting capacity. Normal is 3.8-9.2.
My number is 3. This is low. It is expected to be. It’s why I’m isolated.
Red Blood Cell Count (RBC) is also important, mostly for recognizing the function of your bone marrow. Decreased amounts result in fatigue or any effect similar to anemia.
I’m at 3.31. Normal is 3.8-5. I’m low. I’m lethargic.
More important are the hemoglobin and hematocrit. These two numbers, in conjunction, determine whether you will be getting a blood transfusion. I think 8 is a transfusable level for hemoglobin (at least that is the point where medicare will reimburse the cost) and 26 or 27 is a transfusable hematocrit.
These standards differ hospital to hospital. I’m just giving you a general idea.
Platelet counts are also important. Platelets cause clotting. Lack of platelets cause bleeding. With low platelets (below 150) I can not brush with a bristled tooth brush, floss my teeth, shave with a razor, etc., etc., etc. I can not do anything that would potentially make me bleed.
The rest of the counts are not so important to know.
My potassium and magnesium levels get checked frequently. There is a potential to lose these electrolytes with treatment.
If you want to know the potential dangers of playing with your potassium you can see “I’m a very bad patient.” Generally, a lack of potassium slows or stops the heart, but in my case, it went crazy.
I’m dyslexic, what can I say. The opposite of what is supposed to happen to me is what will.
Control your potassium or you will go into cardiac arrest. End of discussion. I know those pills are big. Request two 10 MeQ tablets to make swallowing them easier.
I confess, my last time around, I would take those horse pills and chuck them in the garbage when the nurse wasn’t looking.
Nurses, don’t leave patients alone with pills. I knew the ramifications of throwing out my K+ and I did it anyway. Intellect has nothing to do with that decision.
As for the rest of a Chem7, the BUN indicates fluid status. If the number is high, you need to drink. My number was high yesterday. I received a litter of normal saline to remedy it.
The creatinine indicates kidney function.
I skim the rest of the numbers, but the doctors can take care of analyzing those for you.
I also get “therapeutic levels” checked. This is for my prograf. The numbers indicate whether the medication is at a useful level or not. It’s not worth taking medications, especially ones as pricey as prograf, if they’re not working. The amount I take is determined by my levels.
I hope you leave my page more educated today. If I’ve failed to explain anything adequetly, I want to know. I need to know how to explain this to the best of my ability. It makes me happy.