Clutch Onto Your Independence

Let me start this blog article with an update on my health. Yesterday (Wednesday, November 11th) was a Chemotherapy treatment. That’s a couple of hours in the chair and then I wear a baby bottle with a slop drip infusion until it is empty which is typically 42 hours.

Two days prior to every Chemo treatment, I have blood drawn to track of my levels. There are lots of tests done but the four important values are:

TestUnitsNormal ResultsNov 9th
Neutrophils (Neut)Billion/Litre2.00 – 7.501.49
White Blood Cells (WBC)Billion/Litre4.50 – 11.002.53
Hemoglobin (HGB)Grams/Litre140 – 18081
Platelets (PLT)Billion/Litre150 – 350117

Here is a brief explanation of those tests from

  • Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. In fact, most of the white blood cells that lead the immune system’s response are neutrophils. There are four other types of white blood cells. Neutrophils are the most plentiful type, making up 55 to 70 percent of your white blood cells. Reference
  • White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system. They help the body fight infection and other diseases. Reference
  • Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues and transports carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues back to your lungs. If a hemoglobin test reveals that your hemoglobin level is lower than normal, it means you have a low red blood cell count (anemia). Reference
  • Platelets are tiny blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding. If one of your blood vessels gets damaged, it sends out signals to the platelets. The platelets then rush to the site of damage. they form a plug (clot) to fix the damage. Reference

It comes as no surprise that my counts are down as that is expected for all Chemo patients.

  • The most problematic value is Hemoglobin. Should it drop below 80, I’ll be sent for a blood transfusion.
  • I’ve been noticing a number of small bruises on my skin. That is a result of the low platelets count. I must have bumped myself but so lightly it didn’t register as anything special. I can improve my platelets count through increased physical activity.

The irony is that I feel good, no more tired than normal, and am starting to become more physically active in everything I do.


This article might be as close to an op-ed as I get. The subject is my perspective on holding onto my independence as the side-effects of my chemotherapy negatively impacts on my quality of life.

I do not wish to create a dependency or become a burden on all those in my life who are proving to be important support pillars. It is wonderful to discover how many family and friends are in my corner and rooting for me. They know I can’t be cured, but if my aggressive chemotherapy treatment is successful, I potentially have years instead of months to enjoy my time on our blue dot called earth.

For the rest of my life, I will have an aggressive chemotherapy treatment every other Wednesday, wear a slow-drip baby bottle with additional chemo meds for about 42 hours, and self-inject a daily needle with a blood thinner to avoid any future blood clots. I understand it is normal to experience blood clots when you have cancer.

From when I first revealed my upcoming battle with cancer to family, then friends, and more publicly through this blog and social media, the outpouring of support was frankly overwhelming. The offer of help from people I knew well and some I’d never met, for anything I needed, whether a drive, a conversation, help with the boat, help when we moved from our house to an apartment, and so on was unbelievable. And it was unexpected.

The offers of help are appreciated and I suspect a time will come when I will have no choice but to accept all the offers. Earlier this year, friends looked after putting the boat in the water. At the time, I was still in the hospital and was in no condition to take charge of that task. Later, the same folks and a few others put the mast on the boat. I was there but still healing from surgery so I learned how to do it even though I was not strong enough to participate. It is through the generosity of those folks that I was able to sail this summer. A shout-out to all of you.

I think us with cancer, or any other disease for that matter, get many offers of help. And it’s okay to accept these offers when you are incapable of doing for yourself. However, I decided early on that I would tighten my grip on being independent as long as I’m able to do so.

It is my opinion that the effort we put into being self-sufficient is an important aspect of finding joy in the things we accomplish. Living with a terminal disease does not diminish the need to find joy in being alive in the present. I had a time when I felt sorry for myself and I am sure that is a natural reaction to learning your life will be shorter than expected but only you can decide to resist the temptation of staying in that dark state of mind.

There is something to be said for taking control of your own destiny. I don’t mean to suggest for a moment to ignore the help of others but it is your life, your body, your disease, and your future. Others can ease the burden but the more you do yourself, the more you’ll feel alive and I truly believe it increases your chances to survive longer. A strong positive attitude about what is possible as opposed to what is probable is good for the soul and takes your mindset about your future to the positive that surrounds us all.

Will tightly gripping my independence be a cure? No, but it will keep me in control longer that allowing myself to depend on others.

I do not begrudge the help others offer. In fact, it is gratifying that so many people wish to help. For now, all I really need is the knowledge that you are in my corner and I can call on you when the time comes.

I love you all for being at my side as support pillars. It is such a fine example of the best that humanity has to offer and with God at my side holding my hand, my future is secure.

Peace, Love and Laughter
Phil

5 Replies to “Clutch Onto Your Independence”

    1. Phil ,
      you are a pillar of life!!! thank you for sharing your journey. Nothing but prayers and light is being sent your way

      carol

  1. Hi Phil, I applaud you for sure. I too value my independence but am not afraid to ask for help when needed. It indeed is one day at a time. Take care and keep on keeping on.

  2. Phil – over the years I’ve known you I’ve observed and been impressed by your ability to find joy and to spread it to others – it just seems to surround you. I believe that inate joy provides the bedrock for the way you’re living your life to the fullest – articulating your joy and impacting others in such a natural, joyful way right now. Thank you, my friend – and I’m glad you have a big corner where we can join you on life’s current adventure. Big virtual hug!

  3. Experiencing grief can be somewhat the same. So many people, yourself included, have reached out to me during the past two months and I have slowly realized that it is not a sign of weakness to accept the offers of help but actually my way of acknowledging our shared love I support you in your battle/journey and will always be in your corner my friend.

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