Every time they tell me I need a transfusion, I start to cry.
I understand why after the first one—after all, I made it through my first cycle without needing any. My hemoglobin and platelets dipped only a little below normal values. So I guess I thought I was superhuman or something. I don’t know.
Last Tuesday, the first week after my second chemo round, I got my blood drawn (every Tuesday and Friday, like clockwork). I was so sure my values would be fine that I told them to take out the temporary port access they place to draw blood. I had stuff to do! I didn’t have time to come back later after the results came back to get it removed.
But I got a call an hour later saying my hemoglobin was 8.7 (normal is 12) and my platelets were 26 (normal is 150). Come back for the transfusion, they said. But I didn’t want to come back! I had a whole plan for the day visiting my friends. I ran somewhere private—the bathroom I think—and started to cry. I didn’t want to go back, but I did, dutifully. It took over 7 hours to get the unit of platelets and 2 units of blood they said I needed.
On Friday, the same routine. I got my blood drawn in the morning, and didn’t make the mistake of asking them to take the port access out. But this day was important. I really needed not to have a transfusion. It was the second day of a 4-day seminar on teaching mindfulness that I had been looking forward to for months (part of a year-long program to receive a Certificate in Mindfulness Facilitation from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center).
I got my blood drawn and went to the seminar. A few hours later, 10 minutes before my scheduled “treatment,” I called to ask if I needed a transfusion. They told me my platelets were 13, lower than they were 3 days ago, even though I had gotten the transfusion.
I went back to my seminar to get my bag. I had to keep it together for a few minutes to tell the teacher where I was going. But when I did he was so kind to me, so understanding, that I could feel the tears start to well up in my eyes. I pulled myself away and told me close friend what was going on, but seeing the reaction on her face really made the waterworks start, so I ran out of the room, my hand covering my face because I just couldn’t deal with a bunch of strangers feeling pretend bad for me (“Aww…. I hope she’s ok”).
I’m going to tell you something, though. I knew I needed a platelet transfusion. My nose hadn’t stopped bleeding in days and the backs of my hands were covered in petechiae, the telltale sign of low platelets. But I wanted so badly not to miss my seminar that when they told me what I already knew I felt devastated, powerless, out of control.
Today is the following Tuesday, and right now I’m sitting in the treatment room, getting 2 units of blood. Driving to UCLA for my lab draw this morning I told my ride self-assuredly, “Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I won’t need a transfusion.”
I was in the resident’s library when I logged into the electronic medical record and opened my chart. Hemoglobin: 8.8. Type and cross ordered. Two units of blood ordered.
I was supposed to meet up with my friends for lunch. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to go back.
Photo by Zitona