Chemofuckingtherapy · Distractions · Recovery

Red Blood Cells are Awesome

As chemotherapy and its immediate aftermath (colds, eye styes, holidays…) have gradually faded into a bad memory, I have felt like a coiled spring. Last year at this time the Wilderness Basics Class had started, and I was excited and gung-ho to get out there with my new friends and classmates. A few months later I was sidelined by all this bullshit. Now I’m back and rearing to go.

But then my body caught up with my brain, gasping for breath. My muscles screamed out: “No, we’re not ready yet!” This made me curious about the status of my red blood cell count, and I was looking forward to my next blood test.

 

Sure, the other blood counts are important, but the RBCs are responsible for delivering oxygen to your muscles. I know this is a vast oversimplification (and may even be completely wrong), but my sense was that if my RBC counts were still below normal, I could blame that for my muscle fatigue. But if my counts were back to normal, it was all on me. Yes, I am aware that the end result is the same, I am not an idiot: either way I need to take it one step at a time, listen to my body, and proceed slowly. But still. I wanted to know.

I had my labs drawn on January 13, and the results are in (no, it didn’t take that long; it just took me this long to write it up). Lo and behold, my RBC count had shot up nicely, but was not yet back to pre-chemo levels, and still below the “target” range for my age/gender. It’s nice to have a possible explanation for my muscle fatigue. Of course I made a little chart of it.

That was almost two weeks ago now. I still have some muscle stiffness when I get up in the morning or get out of the car after my commute, but I’m able to walk up stairs or steep hills without getting too winded. Last weekend I hiked Cowles Mountain* with some friends and it was fine. Thank you, body, for cranking out those red blood cells!

*Interesting to note for my local friends that there was a spur trail off the Barker Way route that overlooked a waterfall. Yes, a real, actual waterfall, with flowing water. In San Diego!! I guess that’s what a little flooding will do…

blood-counts.jpg
The unit M/mcL is millions per microliter. RBCs are the most common type of blood cell in the human body and make up nearly half of the blood’s volume. Both platelets and white blood cells are measured in units of K/mcL (thousands per microliter). Yes I get interested in strange things like units of measure… 

 

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