To be infected, or not to be infected

I had a near-miss with being admitted into hospital again yesterday. I was having flu-like symptoms which can be a side effect of the immune system booster GCSF injections I’ve been prescribed. I took paracetamol to deal with the shivery feelings and it made me feel short of breath so I wanted to get an alternative painkiller. The problem is that once you call the hospital for anything during this critical time when you could become neutropenic, the observer effect kicks in. As with atoms that start behaving differently depending on how you’re watching them, the nurse starts to make you neutropenic with her questions. The next step is admission into A&E and pumped full of antibiotics, no sleep, constant observation. The whole process then has the added observer effect of making you feel much worse than you would have been at home and then there’s the risk of getting an infection while in hospital itself. I understand why they act this way, the stakes are high. If I did have an infection, it could polish me off in 24 hours. It’s all a tricky balance of costs and benefits and having all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Ironically the whole thing was made blurry by the fact that the GCSF injections have the same side effects as the symptoms of an infection would have. It’s all down to an immune system response rather than the actual effects that a virus or bacteria has. The fevery, chills, aches, fatigue are ways that my body is showing that the GCSF injections are working. Like the stereotype of a stoic Londoner during the Blitz, even the most compromised immune system can at least muster up a wee fever. My bones ache in the pelvis and lower back because that’s where my bone marrow is busily creating white blood cells. It feels how I imagine an astronaut would if suddenly they came down from the Moon’s low gravity to Earth’s. If I get up too fast, my bones are still on the sofa and there’s this strange moment of readjustment. But with pain. So it is very difficult to make the judgement call of whether it’s an deadly infection or just my body doing its thing. This time we made the right call.


5 thoughts on “To be infected, or not to be infected

  1. Sophie

    Better be safe than sorry. Eventhough hospitals aren’t the best place to be when you try to avoid infections, they are full of very competent doctors who can try to fight those infections. Since you’re not competent to judge whether it’s the side effects or an infection, you’ve totally made the right call.

  2. Georgie

    Your strength is inspiring. Take care, Heidi, and tell those white blood cells to get to work!

  3. Karen

    Such a tricky dilemma, love. Well done for navigating it calmly and weighing up both sides. We had that situation a lot when dad had his lung problems, when trying to work out if he had a lung infection or not – and whether to go to hospital and be pumped full of antibiotics (possibly essential ones), or to sit it out and avoid hospital bugs and the stress, and hope it was ok. Sometimes it was crucial to go to hospital, and sometimes it was right not to. But it’s a tough thing for you and your family to have to decide, because you never know fully. But if you’re monitoring yourself closely, and being neither too stubborn, nor too nervous about it, then I think you and Adam will know when you need to do what.

    1. Heidi

      thanks Karen. that was really reassuring and helpful to hear that you guys went through the same dilemmas. the docs are experts of course but in a smaller way I think we all become experts on our own bodies and illnesses. xxx

  4. Sokari

    Yes, it is tricky knowing what to do. I remember the two consistent effects of chemo being insomnia for the first few days which I guess was the steroid and feeling so very cold, the kind of cold that heating doesn’t help like its inside of you which I think is what you might be experiencing. Mind you I feel cold at 50F so doesn’t take too much, I know the British are far more hardy than us equatorials when it comes to cold LOL! I mean 50 is T-shirt beach weather. Seriously, I hope the next few days get better as you move into the second week or mid chemo week. Probably best to fall on the side of caution though!!!!!

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