Column: Some good news

My chemotherapy nurse had good news for me at my latest treatment: my hemoglobin numbers dropped only from 7.7 to 7.6. I’m still anemic, but that slight drop is not enough to warrant a blood transfusion just yet. My doctor said to do a transfusion if my hemoglobin number dropped below a 7.
After all that stress and fear. After asking my social media friends for prayers and positive thoughts so that I wouldn’t be a complete wuss, I didn’t need to be brave for a blood transfusion after all. The nurse and I were both relieved, but I doubt I can get by too much longer without it dropping below a 7.
I’ve accepted that I’ll probably be getting a blood transfusion at some point before treatment ends. I have four rounds of chemotherapy left to go. Logic says that every treatment increases the possibility.
Little things like walking or even standing for too long sometimes tire me out. I’m looking forward to healing — whether that’s with a blood transfusion or finishing chemo treatment so my body can heal on its own. A former cancer patient told me not to worry about getting the transfusion. “You’ll feel like climbing a tree when it’s done,” he said.
By this time next month I’ll be past chemo and getting ready to face radiation therapy. The end of chemotherapy can’t come fast enough.
The nurse who draws my blood for labs tests every week is prepared for me now when I come to her office. She’s always got some little cups of fruit juice ready to go in case I get sick or light-headed. She hands me a little battery-operated fan that I turn on while she’s working. The airflow helps. Thank goodness for good nurses. I’m not sure how I would make it through without their care.
I read an article in Outside magazine recently about new exercise recommendations for people undergoing cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society, the American College of Sports Medicine and other medical organizations now recommend cancer patients get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity three times per week, plus two weekly strength-training sessions. They note that exercise boosts physical and mental health and that physical activity can help in treating and preventing cancer.
My own exercise levels have not been consistent through treatment. Before treatment started, I was running. Now, some days I feel well enough to get up before work starts and go for a walk. Some days I’m on the couch or my bed all day. The good news is that brisk walking counts as a moderate exercise, so when I do exercise I’m at least following their recommendations.
Being anemic for the time being only complicates any attempt at exercising. A nurse friend told me she’s surprised I can function at all with a hemoglobin level of 7. She told me I shouldn’t exercise because I could pass out if I overdid it. I promised someone else that I wouldn’t go out walking alone anymore.
I’m looking forward to the day when I can go back to running and not have to worry about all this. I have a feeling that getting back into running shape after treatment is over is going to take some time. But I’m lucky to have that time.

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