Chemo fever = hospital, do not pass go

Very few people get really sick during chemo anymore. And while I kicked the “red devil”’s ass, I’m sitting in the hospital for the second night, not sure if this will be a two or three or five night stay. (Side note: this week is spring break – can I rock the fun or what?!)

Yesterday I was just feeling off. Grouchy. Irritable. Just not myself. I’d been battling a stuffy nose and some chest congestion for a few days, and I didn’t sleep well the night before so I chalked it up to being tired from a crappy night’s sleep. My mom can keep the kids a bit longer (no school on Friday), and I’ll take a nap soon, I thought.

I had a follow-up ultrasound to see how the masses reacted to the initial chemo. Great news – while I don’t have the final report yet, it was very difficult to even FIND one of the masses and the other shrunk considerably. Super encouraging.

I had labs and waited for my results. My cell counts were LOW, especially my white count. My white count was 0.6 – as reference, 3.5 to 11 is normal. On “off” chemo weeks, my white count had been low, around 2, but never below 1. The nurse told me to stay away from sick people and sent me home.

I went home, had lunch, and felt really tired. I fell asleep on the couch for a couple of hours and woke up shivering. I couldn’t get warm – three blankets and a half-dozen pillows covering me, and still freezing. I knew I had a fever, but I didn’t even have the energy to walk across the room to the bathroom to get a thermometer. I fell asleep again.

I woke up a bit later, and finally had the energy to take my temperature. 101. With chemo, the docs are very clear that anything over 100 needs immediate attention. I took my temp a dozen or so times in the next half hour. All pretty consistent in the 101 range. Shit. Neutropenic fever.

A call to the triage nurse who called the oncologist, and I was told to go right to the ER – immediately. After a TON of blood tests, chest x-rays, and nasal swab tests, plus a fever that just wouldn’t go down, the ER doc, in consultation with my oncologist, decided to admit me. I was not prepared to be admitted, but it’s just one night, right?

Wrong. The doctor informed me that this is usually a couple of days, at least. They have to make sure my white count comes back. That any infection I might have is defeated. That there’s no fever.

So I’m at the hospital, night two, hoping to go home tomorrow. Unfortunately, my fever has other plans. The oncologist came by today and explained the process – they can’t identify where I have an infection, so they’re treating my respiratory symptoms with heavy-duty antibiotics. And it’s just watching my cell counts, watching them get back to the normal level. Since my chemo plan included a shot in the belly during the red devil to hyper charge my bone marrow, we’re just waiting for that shot to kick in. It usually takes seven days, but it can take as long as 10 days.

I don’t like waiting. And I don’t like having my ass hang out of a hospital gown.

5 thoughts on “Chemo fever = hospital, do not pass go

  1. The SAME EXACT THING happened to me. But this was right around the holidays and my son’s second birthday. I had a fever (101.8), shivers, aches…it was terrible. I was in the hospital for 3 days. I got released on my son’s birthday but we had to cancel all the festivities. It was after that that my whites tanked. It was awful but you will get through. They have to keep a careful eye on you, even though it sucks. Try to catch up on some movie watching while you’re there. And get better soon.

    • Thanks, Carrie. I’ve never been in the hospital this long and it sucks. I felt a lot better today. Did some work, watched movies, visited with family. I just feel cooped up. But I’m hoping I’ll be released tomorrow. I have full confidence in my medical team and understand the reasoning, but dang. Just not what I expected. Hope you’re doing well.

      • I just finished chemo so I’m pretty excited. I hope you are released tomorrow as well. I think what was hard for me is that the hospital staff made everything seem really scary and serious and it ended up being a silly virus. Not that it shouldn’t be taken seriously but they freaked me out. I hope that didn’t happen to you and that you can go home very soon. Get well!

  2. Ugh – being in the hospital with a fever sucks. That’s what put me there when I had my double-kidney infection. There’s a HORRIBLE device called a cooling blanket – I hope they don’t have to use that on you! One of the tricks my overnight nurse used to get my fever down: he put my IV line in a ice bath… and it worked IMMEDIATELY. Stopped my fever spikes. Glad you felt better today. Fingers crossed you’re headed home tomorrow!

    • Luckily, no medieval torture devices for fever – but I didn’t know it was humanly possible to pump so much fluids into a person! It’s sort of torture.

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